On the February 8 edition of MSNBC's "Last Word," left-wing comedian Bill Maher disparaged Bill O'Reilly as "unpatriotic" for the way in which the veteran Fox News anchor conducted his interview with President Barack Obama on Super Bowl Sunday.
"And Bill O'Reilly, who claims he's such a patriot, how unpatriotic in my view to treat a president that way," railed Maher. "How does that look to other countries when you're interrupting and belittling? I just find it astounding."
Moments earlier, anchor Lawrence O'Donnell praised Maher for being "a man who reaches across the political divide every week on his show." In O'Donnell's world, questioning another American's patriotism constitutes "reaching across the political divide."
While Maher slammed O'Reilly for "belittling" Obama, the host of HBO's "Real Time" had no qualms during the previous administration about smearing former President George W. Bush and others who disagree with him. Some highlights include:
"I think science has decided: Yes, George Bush is an idiot." [September 20, 2006]
"Failing to warn the citizens of a looming weapon of mass destruction – and that's what global warming is – in order to protect oil company profits, well that fits for me the definition of treason." [March 5, 2006]
“Sarah Palin screaming about death panels? You know what, Sarah, if we were killing off useless people, you'd be the first to know.” [April 1, 2010]
"Usually [Republicans are] doughy white men and I think they look on Michele Bachmann and, and Sarah Palin, as you know, M.I.L.Fs and I agree, they're Morons I'd Like to Forget." [April 14, 2010]
To answer Maher's question, yes, it is highly inappropriate for a late-night talk show host, or any American citizen, to call the President of the United States an "idiot" and a traitor for disagreeing with your worldview.
A transcript of the relevant portions of the segment can be found below:
February 8, 2011
8:03 p.m. EST
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Joining me now, a man who reaches across the political divide every week on his show, "Real Time with Bill Maher." Bill, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BILL MAHER, host of "Real Time": Thanks, Lawrence, I try.
O'DONNELL: Bill, you talk to Republicans more than Barack Obama does, every week on your show. Any advice for him on how to handle these guys tomorrow?
MAHER: Well, actually he tries so hard. I mean, this man, I saw him with Bill O`Reilly as I'm sure a lot of people did in this country before the Super Bowl. And all I could think of is – I would never be that way. I just do not have it in me to take that much. Really, that much guff, shall we call it, since I'm not on HBO.
MAHER: I just feel like the most difficult part of his job must be to quelch the rage that somewhere must be inside him to say, "I'm the president of the United States. You don't talk to me like this. I'm not some left – I'm not Al Sharpton, you know? I won this job." And Bill O'Reilly, who claims he's such a patriot, how unpatriotic in my view to treat a president that way. How does that look to other countries when you're interrupting and belittling? I saw what you did on your show last night, counting the number of times he was interrupted. I just find it astounding.
O'DONNELL: Well, you know, over 40, 42 interruptions in 15 minutes. I mean, you don't have to be the President of the United States to say, "hey, maybe you only interrupt me 15 times in 15 minutes. How about that? How about one a minute?"
MAHER: And John Boehner not attending any of these places that he's invited to by the president. I don`t remember this ever happening before with other presidents.
O'DONNELL: But they have decided to show up tomorrow. Boehner is going to show up there tomorrow. They're going to have lunch, pretend there's some way for them to go forward governing together, right after, you know, less than 24 hours after the president says we should do infrastructure spending in this country, try to catch up with the rest of the world on this sort of thing, and get some real rail service going in different places around the country. Republicans immediately say, "no, we`re not going to do that."
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.