Why the Smartest Thing President Obama Can Do is Go on “The Factor”

obama_oriellyAfter President Barack Obama spoke to a joint session about health care reform last night, Senior White House adviser David Axelrod appeared on “The O”Reilly Factor.” Bill O’Reilly asked Axelrod about a number of issues surrounding the debate, and finished by asking him to extend a welcome for Mr. Obama to come on “The Factor”. It’s a shame that Axelrod demurred at the suggestion, because a long-form, unedited and civil conversation is exactly what President Obama should do to change the tide of the debate. Here’s why:

As we’ve said before, the real debate over health care appears to be between the Obama Administration and Fox News; that is to say that among all cable news networks, FNC seems to most consistently — and at times stridently — question the basic assumptions of the left. While some have found the style of FNC to be “distasteful,”  their ratings prove that no single news outlet currently has more influence, particularly given the comprehensive, nay, relentless coverage of the issues that Fox News holds most dear.

So why go on “The Factor”? Of all the “big-time” personalities on FNC, O’Reilly is arguably the most moderate. A proud, self-described “independent,” O’Reilly was the least antagonistic towards Obama during the presidential campaign, which Obama rewarded when he agreed to sit down for a much ballyhooed interview — an event that not only got great ratings, but appeared to help Obama in the polls.

Since the inauguration, O’Reilly has been a fairly vocal critic of this administration, but his critiques have been relatively tepid, which was evident after the Obama speech. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough noted via Twitter after the speech, “Bill O’Reilly is sounding somewhat supportive of the President’s insurance reforms right now. Opposes the plan but likes some parts.”

The current trend of opinion journalism has turned a partisan divide into a seemingly insurmountable chasm. And if Obama is genuine in his desire to cross the aisle for a bi-partisan solution, as we think he is, what better way to demonstrate that by going on “The Factor?” The same held true last year for their first and only interview, which was wonderfully described by Time’s James Poniewozik:

And to continue to freeze out Fox would go against one of Obama’s most consistent messages: that people are sick of red-vs.-blue America divisions and that we should be able to talk with people who disagree with us. In that sense, Obama made his strongest argument simply by showing up.

O’Reilly at least gave Obama props for that. In typical O’Reillian fashion, the host had two analysts on immediately after the segment, essentially to assess how well he had interviewed Obama (verdict: great!), and O’Reilly praised him for coming onto the show. “He’s a tough guy, Obama … I looked at him eye to eye — he’s not a wimpy guy.”

Obama, after all, had stared down Papa Bear. And in the No-Spin Zone, that’s the greatest leadership credential of all.

O’Reilly’s relatively warm reaction to the speech last night has given the White House an opening — one they’d be short-sighted to ignore. While those on the left might be concerned that there will be some dirty tricks or ambush by Factor producers, no one respects the station and decorum of the office of the President more than Bill O’Reilly (also a self-described traditionalist).

It might be Obama’s best chance for exacting the sort of change he hopes for.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough: Fox News Fan

scarborough_9-10You may wonder if cable news personalities actually watch their own network when they go home at night. Well now with Twitter, we’re able to find out.

In Joe Scarborough’s case, it seems he’d much rather watch Bill O’Reilly on rival network Fox News than Keith Olbermann on his own network MSNBC.

Scarborough was very active on Twitter during Pres. Obama’s address to Congress last night, but it was his tweets after that drew attention. Right after it ended:

Bill O’Reilly is sounding somewhat supportive of the President’s insurance reforms right now. Opposes the plan but likes some parts.

A little later:

Monica Crowley gives the President’s speech a B+ politically but a D on substance. Crowley says the plan doesn’t pay for itself.

Then he checked in on CNN:

Valerie Jarrett talking about the plan being deficit neutral on CNN. “He is open to new ideas.”

The total would be four Fox News related tweets, two about CNN – and a big goose egg when it came to his own network.

No one would ever claim Scarborough and Olbermann are BFFs – here are a few examples of some on-air moments proving that. But by making the point he isn’t tuning in to MSNBC to watch the speech and post-game reaction, he only drives those who enjoy seeing the rift storyline continued.

Maybe it’s all part of his campaign strategy for 2012.

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O’Reilly Pushes Back: Addresses Kennedy Commenters, NBC, Beck

oreilly_8-27Bill O’Reilly weighed in on several of the stories we’ve written about here this week last night on The O’Reilly Factor.

And some of the ways he addressed the big stories of the day – the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, his ongoing feud with Keith Olbermann and the Glenn Beck boycott – may surprise some people.

Yesterday we wondered if O’Reilly would “shame commenters bashing Kennedy,” and Joe Coscarelli guessed, “It seems doubtful.” Well – O’Reilly did just that. “Unfortunately there have been some vicious posting on the internet about Senator Kennedy, and they are disgraceful,” he said. “If you are a religious person, you know the bible states quite clearly that personal judgments should be made by God and God alone. All of us are flawed, and none of us have the right to demean a public servant who just died.”

This is classic O’Reilly – take the high road, but by not making “personal judgments,” he can introduce all aspects of the Kennedy legacy, both good and bad. Overall, O’Reilly was gracious, dubbing Kennedy a “patriot,” which in the No-Spin Zone, is about as good as it gets. Here’s the clip:

So while Kennedy was a patriot…NBCU President Jeff Zucker was a “pinhead.” Really though, Zucker just served the role of place-holder for Olbermann. This comes on the heels of an Olbermann personal attack on the FNC host that we thought O’Reilly wouldn’t respond to. But he did. “Last night on MSNBC, someone said the people, you guys, who watch Fox News are paranoid and racist,” said O’Reilly. “Pinhead, doesn’t begin to cover it.”

This is about as close to saying the words “Keith Olbermann” O’Reilly has gotten to – and the MSNBC host is likely to love the attention. While our predictions haven’t been right recently, look for an O’Reilly mention on Countdown tonight.

And finally, O’Reilly had Glenn Beck on to chat about the boycott against him. In reality, it served mostly as a way for the 5pmET host to gain more exposure for his “special” this week.

Olbermann Attacks O’Reilly Personally, Glenn Beck Has His Back

best_8-26We know whatever GE/FOX “deal” there was is now dust. But last night the attacks reached heights not seen since before the summer. On Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC host went after Bill O’Reilly personally.

And it was based on some faulty ratings – which Glenn Beck pounced on during his radio show today.

Olbermann named O’Reilly the “Best Person in the World” last night (and changed the picture), but it was more of the same – a knock at the FNC host. Began Olbermann (via J$):

In his nightly round of self-applause last night, designed to drown out the echo of daddy hitting him…

This insult takes the feud to another level – or rather, the level it was at before June when several reports say a truce of some kind was first reached.

The attack came over O’Reilly’s insult toward MSNBC’s ratings, and Olbermann answered with some new ratings info of his own. “Ours is the highest rated cable news program viewers 35 and younger and the highest rated cable news program for all viewers not on Fixed News,” he said.

Well besides the fact that “35 and younger” isn’t exactly a usual demographic, according to Nielsen, this doesn’t appear to be accurate. The lowest age level would be the 18-34 demo, which O’Reilly still beat Olbermann in during July (140,000 to 124,000). The FNC host is winning by that same percentage in August so far.

On Beck’s radio show today, he went after Olbermann. Olbermann continued last night describing the FNC audience as “tinfoil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids and racists,” and Beck had a response:

I don’t know how many lines you need to cross before you get to State‑Controlled Media. Does Barack Obama need to sign the check for Keith Olbermann before we can look at MSNBC and NBC News as State‑Controlled Media?

O’Reilly won’t fire back at Olbermann – he considers that swinging down. But expect another GE takedown soon, and for the cycle to continue. With Beck involved, the ante is upped that much further.

Here’s Olbermann’s “bests” segment:

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O’Reilly, Stewart and Kurtz Team Up to Break Navel-Gazing Record

How do you deal with a Picture 3 news slump? Engage in an ongoing debate about semantics with another TV Anchor in hopes that a respected media critic will cover it, then report on said critic taking the bait. If this sounds confusing, we’ll explain: Jon Stewart, Howard Kurtz and Bill O’Reilly all teamed up to set, what we feel to be, an all-time record for media navel-gazing. Hopefully by covering this, we too will be included in the record books. 

So this is how it went down:

  1. In covering an alleged media bias in the Health Care debate, Bill O’Reilly made the following point: “When we cover the Town Hall meetings, we don’t describe the protesters as loons”
  2. In a piece that called Fox News “Liberals”, Jon Stewart took exception with that comment, and ran a clip of this comment, followed by a clip from the 2004 RNC where O’Reilly called the protesters “loons”
  3. O’Reilly called out Stewart for not including the entire context of what he said – claiming that he was making a larger point about the protesters that had been arrested.
  4. During his CNN show Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz mentioned this back and forth and asked his panel if O’Reilly has a point that, even if used in a satirical way, selective editing is indefensible?
  5. Last night O’Reilly aired this clip, apparently using it as proof that he was right all along.

Hopefully now you can understand this Escher-style navel gazing, which appears to break the previous record co-owned by Tucker Carlson and Jon Stewart. But it’s not clear if the record will hold up, as O’Reilly’s claim that Stewart out quoted him out of context isn’t entirely correct.  What is the full quote of O’Reilly’s “loon” quote?

O’Reilly: There are the anti-Bush protesters in New York City. While most of these people have been peaceful, more than a thousand have been arrested and surveys show, many protesters are simply loons, calling for the destruction of the American system, calling for retreat in the face of terrorism. Here’s a bulletin for you Bush-haters: These protesters are not helping John Kerry.

O’Reilly somehow thinks this demonstrates his innocence:

O’Reilly: We were talking about the arrested protesters.

Actually, no he wasn’t. If one carefully examines the transcript, he was talking about the protesters who were surveyed — and that included all the protesters, not just those who were arrested.

Nonetheless we are pleased help you reader understand the back and forth, and are hoping in some way to keep the dialog going. That’s right, Mediaite is pleased to trump this exchange, by looking deeper into the media navel then ever before. You’re welcome.

PS – It would be great if some other Media Watchdog website blogged about this article, which we’d promise to re-blog about in return. Let’s keep it going!

Jesse Watters Ambushes Naked People; Bill O’Reilly Pees With Spike Lee

watters_8-25Fox News’ most famous ambusher, O’Reilly Factor producer Jesse Watters, is out on Martha’s Vineyard this week to bug the locals and see who shows up to hang out around The Obamas.

What did Watters find? Naked people and Spike Lee (who Bill O’Reilly knows a bit).

O’Reilly introduced Watters, saying he had been “roaming around, causing trouble, as he’s known to do.”

What was the “nuttiest” thing he saw? A nude beach on Gay Head Bluffs. Oh how silly that sounds, right Jesse? “I know the spot you’re talking about,” said O’Reilly.

His plans for the evening were to “ambush a big large bowl of clam chowder, and maybe a lobster dinner.” Oh, and tonight – he’s going to try to ambush Cindy Sheehan.

Then, right at the end of the segment, he brought up Spike Lee, and O’Reilly decided to relay a story between he and the director in a Madison Square Garden bathroom. We’re not really sure why the Fox News host felt compelled to do this, but we’d love to hear how Lee remembers it.

The segment is below, and we’ll have more on The Factor later today (including a Mediaite shout-out):

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Beef: Jay-Z Latest Rapper To Rip Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh

jay_8-24Who’s beefing with Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh this week? Hip-hop icon Jay-Z.

In his newest song from his upcoming album, leaked today, “Off That” includes a line directed at the Fox News host and radio star.

Here’s what Jay-Z says near the beginning of the second verse of “Off That“:

This ain’t black vs. white, my n—a, we off that. Please tell Bill O’Reilly to fall back. Tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls. It’s 2010, not 1864. We come so far…How’s that for a mix? Got a black president, got green presidents.

The O’Reilly jab likely comes as a response to a segment the FNC host did in January, chastising Jay-Z and Young Jeezy for comments they made at a Pres. Barack Obama inauguration celebration. The Limbaugh reference may have been a response to a less-than-favorable reference to the rapper in a speech Limbaugh made in December.

But the Fox News host has a long history of beefing with the hip-hop world (Jossip documents it here). It could have started in 2003, with O’Reilly’s segment, “Is Gangsta Rap Hurting America’s Children?

It continued with a long-standing battle with Nas, who challenged the FNC host to a debate in 2007. (I went to a protest led by Nas outside the News Corp. building last summer in the wake of the hip-hop stars latest album, and attack on O’Reilly).

O’Reilly is sure to respond, and probably Limbaugh. Jay-Z is a megastar – far beyond the world of hip-hop. The question is, how? The irony of the shout-out to O’Reilly is the song “Off That” deals with issues O’Reilly would likely support. Throughout the chorus, Drake raps about items they are “off” of, including many things O’Reilly would consider to be staples of the “gangsta rap” he often attacks. They are off “over-sized clothes and chains,” “rims,” “making it rain” and more.

Will O’Reilly continue the beef? It’s more than likely. It can only help both sides – it promotes Jay-Z’s album, and highlights the continued power of O’Reilly. Maybe NBC News will get a break this week.

Here’s the new song (O’Reilly reference around 1:30):