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Want to Drive a Conservative Off the Deep End? Say the Words "Hillary Clinton"

Reported by Marie Therese - June 21, 2005

It's no secret to anyone that conservative Republicans don't like Hillary Clinton. Just mention her name and with one voice they rise in a paroxysm of hatred, fists clenched, blood pressure at the max. It wouldn't surprise me if, after Monica, they all expected Hillary to divorce Bill. Imagine their shock when, in true Christian wifely fashion, she chose to stand by her man! Consequently, unable to tolerate the possibility that Hillary might just love Bill, they convinced themselves that Hillary stayed, not because she loved Bill and forgave him, but for other, more sinister reasons. The rumor mills have been working overtime for the past 5 years and now, along comes good reporter turned schlocko hack Ed Klein to give form and substance to those right-wing fantasies.

Bill O'Reilly donned the cloak of righteousness last night on The O'Reilly Factor, and claimed that, on principle, he will not interview Klein. However, he endorsed the book and made sure that a chunk of its salacious content made it to the Factor airwaves.

BILL O'REILLY: In the Personal Story segment tonight, as we told you in the Talking Points Memo [reprinted below] we have problems with the new Hillary Clinton book and, indeed, supporting any book or program that uses personal attacks, even if the person under assault is someone we don't like.

[COMMENT: By this reasoning, O'Reilly should boycott himself!!]

O'REILLY: Is all fair in love, war and politics? Joining us now from Washington Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis for the [L. Brent Bozelle's conservative] Media Research Center and [hopelessly unprepared] Gemma Puglisi, who teaches communications at American University. Professor, we'll begin with you. Did you read this new Hillary book by the way?

GEMMA PUGLISI: I did not read about it ...

O'REILLY: Alright.

PUGLISI: ... but I have read certain things about the book.

O'REILLY: On the internet? Is that where you read 'em?


O'REILLY: OK, because the internet is not really reporting accurately what's in the book.

PUGLISI (nods head in agreement): Correct.

O'REILLY: I did read the book. It is a negative book against Mrs. Clinton, not defamatory, in my opinion. But, how do you feel about the basic trend of these books?

PUGLISI: Well, I just think that - the thing that I thought was a little alarming about the book is that it's from a former journalist who worked for the New York Times Magazine as well as Newsweek and I think most of the criticism was that people felt that it was thinly sourced and also that it was done in poor taste and I think that it's very sad that we do see that, because there are some important issues in terms of - as the election comes up.

O'REILLY: What do you think about - what do you teach your students about anonymous sources? Do you think they're legitimate?

PUGLISI: Well, I think it's very important that they know that they have to get a lot of information from a source, that, you know - look at Watergate and what happened, how those anonymous sources were important, but we're seeing a trend where a lot of them are not strong, so they have to really do their homework and make sure they get a lot of sources and get the right amount of sources to get the story.

O'REILLY; OK. Because I think this anonymous source thing is now being used to punish people. Am I wrong, Mr. Graham?


TIM GRAHAM: No. I think the problem we have, though, is that even a - Hillary Clinton's public record - even when, for example, her chief fundraiser's on trial - the networks don't really want to cover that story. The news magazines don't want to cover the story.

[COMMENT: Notice that O'Reilly did not ask Graham if he had read the book yet.]
O'REILLY (interrupts, overtalks last 9 words): No. They didn't. I didn't cover it much either, but the guy was acquitted in the fundraising trial out in California.

GRAHAM [overtalks last 3 words]: But that's her public life. My point is the public life of Hillary Clinton is something the networks don't want to do. They don't want to do anything that they perceive will damage her chances, whether she's being reelected to the Senate next year, whether she's running for President, they simply do not want to do negative stories about Hillary Clinton

O'REILLY: I think that's true. I'm not gonna disagree with that.

GRAHAM: And when it come - and when it comes to personal stories, Bill, they're totally willing to put across on the American people the idea that Hillary Clinton had no idea that, that Hillary - that Bill was having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The idea that people would buy that idea, that she had no idea, that she didn't have an inkling that maybe that whole story was true for eight months, I really think strains credulity in a major way and it makes so-called skeptical journalists look like really wimpy people.

O'REILLY : But the folks know that. I mean, look, she goes on 60 Minutes early on in the 90s with her husband and he admits that he brought pain to the marriage and he's sitting there - look, everybody knows, every- at this point, who's paying attention Tim - this is a marriage that is unlike most traditional marriages.

GRAHAM: Right.

O'REILLY: You know, when I read this book, I said to myself: What's the point? It's just a compilation of stuff that's been in print before with a couple of lesbian references thrown in. Not that she is a lesbian, Professor ...


O'REILLY: ... that she knows some lesbians. And I'm sayin' to myself, you know. I mean, that she knows some lesbians. Is this, is this what I'm payin' $25.00 for?

PUGLISI: Well, I just think it's unfortunate that, you know, there are so many important issues and that this book is coming out and I think that it's, again, something that - the timing of all this book. Why did he decide to write the book now? I think that's what ....

O'REILLY: Because he wants to make money.

PUGLISI: Well, also that - but I also think, you know - I'm not being political here -but I think his timing is amazing. It's, you know ...

O'REILLY (overtalks last 3 words): I don't - I think this is probably the best time for Hillary Clinton for the book come out, because she's not running for a year and a half, and it's in the summertime and - look -

PUGLISI: Right. It's not - I - I ...

O'REILLY: People are going to read the book if they hate her.


O'REILLY: And the people who like her won't read the book. That's the way it's going to break down,


GRAHAM (never lets go of his talking point on the nasty liberal media): But I think the real issue, Bill, is that it doesn't matter who the author is, if they've written a negative book on Hillary Clinton, the major media's not interested. Joyce Milton wrote a book on Hillary. Peggy Noonan. Laura Ingraham. There's a long list of books that have been written about Hillary that the networks have tried to ignore the authors as if they did not exist.

O'REILLY (overtalks last 6 words): Well, look. It'll be interested to see [sic] - you have a good point, Tim. I'm not disagreeing with you at all. Because the Today show interviewed Kitty Kelley.

GRAHAM: Right.

O'REILLY: OK. Now ...

GRAHAM: Three days in a row.

O'REILLY: [Matt] Lauer went after her ..

GRAHAM: Right.

O'REILLY: ... but they gave her exposure for charges against the Bush family, which were absurd. I mean, I'm sorry. Kitty can tell me all day long that she sourced this and sourced that and I'm just sayin' to myself: Kitty, look, you're telling people bad things about a family and you got no name on the bad thing and it's just not right to do it. It'll be interesting if the Today show puts Ed Klein on for three days and I don't think they will. Do you?

[COMMENT: It's interesting that whenever Bill gets on his high horse and vociferously defends our shabby treatment of detainees, he frequently quotes from unattributed Pentagon press releases and adopts the position that we should trust some faceless, nameless bureaucrats because the letterhead says "Department of Defense" or "The White House." His attitude is that people who mistrust or question the government are unpatriotic. As documented in OUTFOXED, O'Reilly and everyone else on FOX News frequently makes use of the generic collective phrase "Some people say." However, they never offer any explanation of exactly how many people are contained in this group or what their ethnic makeup is (they could be aliens from outer space, for all we know!). Yet "some people" is a powerful, ubiquitous albeit anonymous presence consistently used on FOX News Channel to justify whatever position is favorable to the Bush administration.]

PUGLISI: Oh, well, I think the difference between Kitty Kelley is that she is known to be a biographer and, whether you like her or not, that is what she's done. She did it with Frank Sinatra. She did it with Nancy Reagan, which was one of the most sold autograph ...

O'REILLY (interrupts, going in for the kill): You're not stickin' up for Kitty Kelley, are ya'?

PUGLISI: No, not at all. But I'm just saying that writers respect her in a sense because she does source her ...

O'REILLY: No, Professor, I'm gonna argue with you all day long here. Klein has a much better record as far as a journalistic resume than Kitty Kelley, so ..

PUGLISI: But ... but ..

O'REILLY: I'm sorry, madame.

PUGLISI: OK. But, no. I agree. I understand what you're saying but the bottom line is that both New York - Newsweek magazine and New York Times Magazine refused to take excerpts or use excerpts of this book because they just felt that they just had a problem with it ...

O'REILLY: Because they did - becau - no - because they ...

GRAHAM: They ran excerpts of Kitty Kelley's book.

PUGLISI: ... so they didn't go after it.

O'REILLY: They like Hillary. That's why they did it. But Vanity Fair ...

GRAHAM: They went (shakes head in agreement) Yeah.

O'REILLY: ... who also likes Hillary, did take the excerpts.

PUGLISI: Well, they're takin' - they are taking the excerpts, correct.

GRAHAM: Apparently those are political, though, they're not personal. (flashes a baby-faced smile)

[COMMENT: It's clear that Graham is only interested in arguing that the "major media" should not concentrate Hillary's politics but also delve into the seamy, sleazy, unsubstantiated world of "personal" gossip about her life. However, what do you expect from a man who works for L. Brent Bozelle, prototype of the hyperactive overbearing smear merchant?]

O'REILLY: Oh, I don't know. I haven't read the piece. But look. I don't, I don't think anybody should be printin' the personal stuff, Tim. I - I think it's poorly sourced and it's beneath people to print that. I'll give you the last word, sir.

GRAHAM (exhibiting no compunctions whatsoever): Well, I simply think that the Clintons' are - their marriage is a train-wreck. And people don't trust the media to report anything about the Clintons' personal life. They really expect, whether it's - it doesn't matter who the journalist is, that they're simply not gonna do that story.

O'REILLY: I wouldn't do it either way. I wouldn't do the Kitty Kelley hatchet job and I wouldn't do this. I don't think the Clintons' marriage means anything to Hillary Clinton's political career. I just want to her to answer the questions, which she won't. Professor, Mr. Graham, thanks very much. And our new billoreilly.com poll question asks you: Will you buy the new Hillary Clinton book? Will you buy the new Hillary Clinton book? 25 bucks. Yes or no. We'd like to know whether you're gonna do that or not.


Professor Puglisi was definitely not prepared to face O'Reilly and Graham. I suspect she had never watched FOX News and had no idea that she was completely dismissed by most of O'Reilly's audience the moment she mentioned the hot button words New York Times and Newsweek.

The right-wing has carefully conditioned its audience to snap viciously at the words French, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, CBS, PBS and a whole host of other "bad" words. It's not the audience's fault, really. Just like Pavlov's dog or a Korean War POW subjected to Chinese water torture (sorry, "coerced interrogation"), their conditioning has been gradual and unrelenting to the point where just the mention of one of the "buzz" words creates the desired result - vascular constriction, high blood pressure and intense fury resulting in an outpouring of invective.

The one name that can summon a mountain of fury in a right-wing audience - more powerful even than "Osama bin Laden" - is Hillary Clinton.

I sure hope she's prepared for what's coming!


The Truth about Hillary Clinton. that is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. A book of that title will be out tomorrow and some right-wing websites have given it a lot of publicity. The author Ed Klein is a colleague of mine and he asked me to read the book, which I did over the weekend. First off, there's little new in the book, If you follow politics, then you already know most of what Mr. Klein has put forth. In fact outside of how Bill and Hillary interact right now, most everything has been written elsewhere.

And most of the contemporary stuff comes from anonymous sources, which is not good. Far too many accusations are coming from people who are settling grudges in a cowardly way. You may remember, we did a poll asking you whether I should interview Kitty Kelley, who wrote a slam book on the Bush family, using a lot of anonymous sources. well, majority said "no" to the Kelley interview and she did not appear. To be fair, I'm gonna apply the same standard to Mr. Klein.

It is not that the book is defamatory. It is simply negative. Again, that's not hard to do. Writing a book or article that slams somebody is simple. Just line up the person's enemies and let fly. They do that stuff to me all the time and to every other successful person in the media or politics. If you want to read Ed Klein's book, fine with me. Same thing with Kitty Kelley. Free country - knock yourself out. But understand what you are reading. Don't think there's anything fair or objective about it.

As for Hillary Clinton herself, anyone who watches The Factor knows I have many questions for the Senator and, if she doesn't answer those questions - which so far she has not - I will oppose her.

Here's a partial list:

What exactly would you do to secure the borders, Senator?

What exactly would you do to win the war in Iraq?

Would you close Guantanamo Bay and, if so, where would you move the prisoners? Are they entitled to Geneva Convention protections? Do you believe in coerced interrogation? Do you support civil trials for foreign battlefield combatants not in uniform?

I have tons of other questions for Hillary Clinton, which is why she's never appeared on The Factor. To be fair, perhaps she feels this venue is coerced interrogation.

So, I'm sayin' "no" to personal attacks on Hillary but "yes" to holding her accountable in public policy. She has a responsibility to get up close and personal with the issues, and if she does not, that's a legitimate reason to scorn her. We don't need the personal stuff. And that's the Memo.

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