Liberal Radio Guy Ed Schultz: Hangin' Out with Mr. O'Reilly
Reported by Marie Therese - January 14, 2005
Last night (1/13/05) liberal talk show host Ed Schultz went head to head with Bill O'Reilly. To his radio audience, Schultz sounds like a hearty, jolly guy with a bass voice reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh's. However, unlike Limbaugh, what Schultz says on the AM dial makes sense and and is devoid of over-the-top statements and megalomaniac demagoguery. Last night, admittedly, O'Reilly did not seem "out to get" Schultz with the same vehemence he has hunted other prey. But, then again, Schultz is a seasoned talker, used to the format, a big guy physically with a voice that is more resonant than O'Reilly's in tone and timbre. To his credit Schultz got in a few zingers, especially towards the end of the segment. All in all, this interview reminded me of two guys hangin' out on the couch watching "the big game," rootin' for different teams while knockin' back a few. Which actually was a pleasant change of pace from the usual Factor attack and destroy missions. Here's my transcript of the interview.
O'Reilly: It has been difficult for the liberal talk radio people to get any traction in the USA. Air America's still having major problems - didn't do well this fall in New York City and around the country right wing yakkers continue to dominate. Joining us now from Fargo, North Dakota is a man some liberals think is going to change all that. Ed Schultz is currently heard on seventy radio stations and is the author of the book "Straight Talk from the Heartland: Tough Talk, Common Sense and Hope from a Former Conservative."
Now, Mr. Schultz, your program is funded by Democracy Radio, which has close ties to the Democratic Party. In fact, our pal, Senator [Mary] Landrieu in Louisiana actually did a fundraiser to raise money for Democracy Radio. Is that a conflict of interest, or anything, that you work for almost a political party arm?
SCHULTZ: Not really, Bill. In fact, it isn't at all. These are all private donations from people next door, so to speak, who want to get involved and change the landscape of political talk radio in America, so it's not tax dollars. These are people who are progressives, liberals, who feel that their message isn't being heard and I signed onto it a year ago when I was convinced that we were going to have an opportunity to make a change and be funded for a couple of years.
O'Reilly: OK. But, if you are - if your organization that's funding you is close to the Democratic Party, aren't you hamstrung then by ...
O'Reilly: ... party politics.
SCHULTZ: No. I'm not hamstrung. I had it written in my deal that I wasn't gonna be beholden to anybody. I've got total freedom of editorial content. There have been situations that have come up that I've actually opposed the Democrats on some issues and taken, actually, some middle of the road positions on some things, so it's not tax dollars at all. Never has been, never will be. I would've never signed on to something like that ..
O'Reilly: Alright, so the difference between you and Armstrong ...
SCHULTZ: ... and I'm not anybody's mouthpiece.
O'Reilly: Right. The difference between you and Armstrong Williams is that was tax money comin' from the Department of Education.
O'Reilly: Yours is private donations.
SCHULTZ: Exactly, exactly.
O'Reilly: OK. Now, why did you change from being a conservative to a liberal?
SCHULTZ: Well, it's been a series of things over the last seven years. Back in 1998, when I met my wife here in Fargo, she was the manager of the homeless clinic and the first date we had, she told me I had to pick her up at the Salvation Army and that's where we were havin' lunch. And I'd been pretty tough on the homeless, been pretty tough on those that could be termed as downtrodden and was a conservative and went in and had my eyes opened that there were a lot of Vietnam veterans in that homeless clinic. And [I] started to talk to them and they recognized me and that was the first really eye-opening event.
Then, I went into a - did some research on veteran's benefits - saw that we really were morally not doin' what we should do there. Then I took my motor home all across that region and talked to a lot of farmers and ranchers and small town problems and I just thought, you know, the Democrats are correct on the issues and I'm a Democrat and I expressed that on the air ....
O'Reilly: Alright, but, but when you went through all this in ..
SCHULTZ: ... in the year 2000.
O'Reilly: In the middle of your conversion ..
O'Reilly: President Clinton was in office. So I mean ...
SCHULTZ: He was - I was pretty tough on ...
O'Reilly: All these things are happening under a Democratic administration entrenched for eight years. Maybe ..
SCHULTZ: That's right.
O'Reilly: You know. So ..
SCHULTZ: Well, I was pretty tough ...
O'Reilly: What do you blame the Republicans for?
SCHULTZ: Well, I was pretty tough - well, Bill Clinton, you can't fault him for the economy that they had and he had his priorities right as far as ...
O'Reilly: No. No. No. I know. But your conversion came ..
SCHULTZ: ...the social agenda for this country.
O'Reilly: You were seeing things that were obviously, are wrong. Nobody wants anybody in a homeless shelter.
O'Reilly: And nobody wants benefits not - veterans not to get benefits but your vision or conversion happened under a Democratic President who didn't correct those things.
SCHULTZ: Well, I believe he did attempt to correct those things. He was workin' with a Republican Congress. I think the country has moved hard to the right and I think that the neocon agenda right now that's goin' on is dangerous. I don't align myself with what the conservatives stand for right now. I am a liberal on many issues and I've changed. And it's been a series of events that have happened with me in the broadcast business that have brought me to where I am and so ...
O'Reilly: OK. Well, we respect everybody's heart, you know, if they're [sic] sincerely held ... The problem that we have is with the secular progressive agenda that wants to take the - change the country. Ya' know, Dem - uh - there's a split in the Democratic Party, as you know. I mean, you got the moderate Lieberman-Bayh Democrats and then you got the far-left Kennedy people. We talked about that at the top of the program. But, you're against abortion, so you bang up with the progressives there. You're pro-gun control - you bang up with em there. Are you a Bayh Democrat or a Kennedy Democrat?
SCHULTZ: Well, I don't think you can pigeonhole the Democratic Party saying that you have to accept the entire platform. I don't. When it comes to defending the country, when it comes to feeling the country, when it comes to education and a strong fiscal policy, the Democrats have got it right and I'm with them all the way on that. I do own shotguns. My boys own shotguns. We hunt all the time but I don't think my next door neighbor needs a bazooka or an AK47. I'm for reasonable gun control. I'm for givin' law enforcement all the tools they need to do the job. Now, as far as abortion is concerned, in my heart I'm a Christian. I'm against it. But we're livin' in a country where the majority rule and I'm not, as a talk show host, overturning Roe v Wade.
O'Reilly: Alright, but you're not also gonna support partial birth abortion and then you're gonna bang right up against the progressive agenda which is ...
SCHULTZ: Well, that's just one issue.
O'Reilly: Well, if you don't do that, you're out of the tent.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know. Look. You can't say that I have to be in the tent for everything. That's the problem with America right now, Bill, is that we've lost the middle of the road.
O'Reilly (overtalks the last 9 words): No I just don't want em to pull the plug on your money, Mr. Schultz. I don't want em to pull the plug.
SCHULTZ: Pardon me.
O'Reilly: I don't want em to pull the plug on your money, man. (Schultz laughs heartily.) Then you'll have to be like me, you know, in a free marketplace.
SCHULTZ: It's a free market now, Bill.
O'Reilly: I am - I make a living by my wits, which is, you know ...
SCHULTZ: Yeah, but wait a second. I want to make it very clear that Democracy Radio is not purchasing any markets for Ed Schultz.
O'Reilly: No. No. But you're ..
SCHULTZ: Yeah. OK.
O'Reilly: ....depending on people to support your enterprise where we are advertising driven. No look ..
SCHULTZ: Well, wait a minute. We're advertising driven too, Bill. That's not wrong. This is seed money till ...
O'Reilly: Look, you know how Air America ...
SCHULTZ: Wait a second. This is a ....
O'Reilly: ... these people are stayin' on the air. They're getting' big money.
SCHULTZ: Bill, this is a private ...
SCHULTZ: This is a private venture, an LLC. It's private money starting up a business ...
SCHULTZ: The Ed Schultz Show.
O'Reilly: But there are no politicians raising money for the Fox News Channel. It's not happening. That's the point I'm trying to make. One more question ....
SCHULTZ: Well, we don't know that. (laughs)
O'Reilly: One more question for you. Well, you don't know it but I know it cause I work here and what I say is true.
SCHULTZ: Well, what I say is true, too, Bill.
O'Reilly: How are you gonna cut through? I mean, how are you gonna become the left-wing Limbaugh? How's it gonna happen?
SCHULTZ: First of ...
O'Reilly: It'll never happen in this country.
SCHULTZ: Well, they, Bill, they tried the wrong people. That's the bottom line. It's gotta be a good radio show. It's gotta be entertaining. Ya' gotta have personality, activity, communication, entertainment. I mean, it just can't be - the Hate Bush agenda isn't gonna work with listeners.
O'Reilly: Nah. That's true.
SCHULTZ: And I really do believe that my show is off and running. We started on two stations. We're on seventy. We got a lot more major markets comin' on. We're in six of ten of the top markets - fourteen of the top twenty-five. We have made phenomenal success and strides in the first year.
O'Reilly: Alright, Mr. Schultz. We want to wish you the best.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
O'Reilly: We appreciate you comin' in and kickin' it around with us.