A heated discussion between Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera on Friday exemplifies two important points.
The first and most obvious is that the kind of discussion seen in the video segment which follows would rarely happen on Fox’s cable competitors — yet it’s Fox which the establishment press usually describes as biased to the right, while giving CNN and occassionally even MSNBC a pass. Second, Geraldo’s position on O’Reilly’s aggressive interview — which was, in essence, “How dare you!” — is a commonly held view on the left, whose representatives and reporters would never have had a problem with anyone using the same style with George W. Bush or any other Republican or conservative president. The video and key quotes from the segment follow the jump.
Rivera even went after O’Reilly for calling Obama a “community organizer.” But O’Reilly was referring back to Obama’s prior experience to set up a question about inner-city family disintegration, i.e., noting that the president perhaps has more awareness than the rest of us of the consequences of broken, impoverished families.
On the more petty side, Rivera even criticized the Fox host for “leaning into the President” during the interview (at the 1:35 mark), claimed that he “stripped him of his majesty,” and “de-minimized” Obama (that is the non-word he used; HT Mediaite; bolds are mine):
Partial transcript (starting at 1:54 mark):
RIVERA: You in many ways, I think, first of all, this was not a classic interview.
What you had here with you and President Obama was a a culture clash. It is almost as if you were two equals with opposite worldviews coming together for a confrontation. It was the President of Most of the White Guys in America – that’s you – and Barack Obama, the President of Almost Everybody Else. And the discussion was at that level. It wasn’t with the classic decorum and deference and respect you pay the office. There’s only been 44 men in the history of the country that are (sic) the president.
O’REILLY: I was very respectful.
RIVERA: … the offense (per Geraldo, calling Obama a “community organizer” using the present tense — Ed.) was profound, and to watch it was some ways unsettling to me … you really want to make sure that you accord him all the respect and dignity you would to George W. Bush or William Jefferson Clinton or George H.W. Bush.
O’REILLY: Here’s where you’re desperately wrong. It’s not my job to be a social scientist or to please you, Geraldo Rivera … My job is to get information. That’s my job. I got it. And I asked him the tough questions that nobody else — no one — has asked him. And the reaction all over world, because now we’re discussing all of this. This is what journalists do.
RIVERA: What you did was strip him of his, of his majesty, so to speak.
O’REILLY: I don’t believe a president has majesty.
RIVERA: But he does, Bill.
O’REILLY: He’s not a king.
RIVERA: (through O’Reilly attempts to interject — Ed.) He’s not the mayor of Hartford. He’s not a public service commisioner. He’s a direct descendant of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.
O’REILLY: And I respect the office. But here’s the deal. He’s accountable to the people. I’m the people’s voice. I have to ask the questions and I did in a polite way.
RIVERA: This was a dramatization of the divide in this country. You two represent two halves of America. I don’t in any way diminish the righteousness of your positions on these issues. You were right about the disnintegration of the inner-city family. But because you were right, it was obscured by the fact that you de-minimized him.
O’REILLY: No I didn’t.
… RIVERA: We have to be deferential to whomever occupies that office
O’REILLY: No, journalists have to get to the truth.
RIVERA: This is not — This was less journalism than it was a debate between coequals representing different worldviews.
O’REILLY: No, we got a lot of stuff on the record.
RIVERA: You and Barack Obama both know how to solve all the problems and neither of you have anything in common other than your height.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.