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Bill O'Reilly Poor Mouths David Cole, The Nation Magazine and Georgetown University

Reported by Marie Therese - January 26, 2006

On last night's O'Reilly Factor, prior to an interview with David Rivkin, a former U. S. Justice Department official and a partner at Baker & Hostetler, Bill went off on a tear against Georgetown Law Professor David Cole. He also took the opportunity to lie about what actually transpired during a protest by Georgetown University students aimed at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

O'REILLY: A couple of years ago [June 2004] I made the mistake of booking far-left Georgetown University law professor David Cole on this program.

Picture of Mr. Cole with caption: "FAR-LEFT DISTORTER"

O'REILLY: After the segment, Cole ran to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and completely misstated his experience on The Factor. Of course, the liberal Kurtz printed the attack, even though we thoroughly explained to Kurtz that the professor was wrong in his assertion. Anyway, Cole is not a quality guy, in my opinion, and, therefore, I was not surprised to see him in the middle of a very troubling display at Georgetown yesterday [1-24-06]. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was invited to the college to talk about the NSA controversy ...

VIDEO CLIP of Gonzales at a podium speaking, then clip of hooded students with their backs to the AG, holding a sign that read "THOSE WHO WOULD SACRIFICE LIBERTY FOR SECURITY DESERVE NEITHER - Ben Franklin"

O'REILLY: ... and faced a bunch of hostile protesters who turned their back on the Attorney General, disrupted the proceedings and then didn't even listen to what he had to say. Nothing wrong with protest but disrespect is another matter.

O'Reilly's guest, David Rivkin, was one of four panelists, including David Cole, that discussed the NSA situation after the Attorney General left the room. During the Factor interview, O'Reilly and Rivkin savaged both Cole and Georgetown, painting them as far-far-left. Here's a partial transcript.

O'REILLY: You know, if I were Attorney General Gonzales, I would not have attended any event where Professor Cole was seated because he is a virulently anti-Bush far-left, radical guy ... In his mind they [Bush and his administration] are guilty of all kids of illegality, so why would the Attorney General even bother goin' in there? ... These radical people like Cole and his acolytes disturb me, Professor, because they don't, as you said, engage in any kind of - you can't persuade them. Their minds are made up and they're gonna do whatever they can to embarrass you rather than have an intelligent dialogue. ... Look this Cole was so dishonest in what he did here. I learned my lesson. I won't put him on. I won't put Vander [sic] Heuvel on, who edits The Nation magazine and Cole writes for it. I won't put a lot of these far-left people on 'cause they just simply aren't honest.

RIVKIN: I mean, there is a real problem with the quality of debate, particulary in academic circles and these are the people, of course, who educate future lawyers. It is a serious problem. My only view is you engage them as much as you can, perhaps an exercise in futility but I certainly went there. I spent an hour and a half of my time. I debated three law professors and maybe I convinced one person in the audience.

O'REILLY: Was it three against one?


O'REILLY: OK. But this speaks so poorly of Georgetown University which was, at one time, a fine school. It speaks so poorly for this univeristy that it has gone so far left and I think Georgetown alumni should absolutely let the school know how it feels. We called the President of the school. He's hidin' under his desk. They all know what's goin' on there, that Georgetown University has become a hotbed of radical left thought, particularly in its law school. The fact that YOU had to stand up against three when they coulda had two and two proves my point, does it not?

RIVKIN: One of the three professors was more sympathetic to the administration. He was not from Georgetown, but two professors were certainly very critical, but quite frankly, I'm used to situations where it's five to one.

O'REILLY(petulantly): But why should it have to be that way?

RIVKIN: You're right. It shouldn't ...

O'REILLY: You know, we did a report on the Kennedy School, where I graduated at Harvard. And we had the Shorenstein Center, the press guy on, Alex Jones and I said: "You've got 23 faculty members on your school. 22 are Democrat-liberals." You know, there comes a point in this country, as you pointed out, where our lawyers, our teachers, our professional people are being trained in schools that are basically shovin' propaganda down their throat. They're not fair and balanced. I'll give you the last word.

RIVKIN: No, they certainly are not. Again my only solution is to engage in vigorous debate and hopefully try to change the character of the faculty.

O'REILLY: Alright. You're a courageous guy and so is the Attorney General but I wouldn't have gone there! Not in the - when the deck is that stacked and these people you know are gonna try to embarrass you. Cole knew what was gonna happen - despicable human being!

Unlike Bill O'Reilly, I actually watched the video of Gonzales' speech, which is available at C-SPAN's website. The students were very respectful and were joined in sympathy by several other law students, who also stood SILENTLY with their backs to the Attorney General. They had to have heard what Gonzales said - they were in the same room with him, so saying they didn't "listen" to his speech is ridiculous! At the end of Gonzales' speech, the original group marched out, hand-printed sign in hand. David Cole actually asked them to stay for the panel discussion, but they declined, much to his disappointment.

However, the clip aired by FOX News and O'Reilly's words gave a totally different slant to the event.

Ironically, O'Reilly used a similar kind of "creative editing" in his original encounter with David Cole, who recounted their one and only FOX News encounter for The Nation magazine:

I sat in the Washington studio as the taping of the show began in New York with a rant from Bill O'Reilly. He claimed that "the Factor" had established the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and then played a clip from Thomas Kean, head of the Senate's 9/11 Commission, in which Kean said, "There is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States, in other words, on 9/11. What we do say, however, is there were contacts between Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Iraq, Saddam--excuse me. Al Qaeda."

I was impressed. O'Reilly, who had announced his show as the "No Spin Zone," was actually playing a balanced soundbite, one that accurately reported the commission's findings both that there was no evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and that there was some evidence of contacts (if no "collaborative relationship") between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Maybe all those nasty things Al Franken had said about O'Reilly weren't true after all.

But suddenly O'Reilly interrupted, plainly angry, and said, "We can't use that.... We need to redo the whole thing." Three minutes of silence later, the show began again, with O'Reilly re-recording the introduction verbatim. Except this time, when he got to the part about Kean, he played no tape, and simply paraphrased Kean as confirming that "definitely there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda." The part about no link to 9/11 was left on the cutting-room floor.

Now it was my turn. O'Reilly introduced the segment by complaining that we are at war and need to be united, but that newspapers like the New York Times are running biased stories, dividing the country and aiding the enemy. "The spin must stop--our lives depend on it," O'Reilly gravely intoned. He then characterized the Times story that day as claiming that the Guantรกnamo detainees were "innocent people" and "harmless." He said the paper's article "questions holding the detainees at Guantรกnamo."

I noted that the Times had said nothing of the sort. And I pointed out that the article relied on a CIA study finding that the detainees seemed to be low-level and had provided little valuable intelligence.

That didn't convince O'Reilly, however, who again criticized the Times for misleading its readers by terming the detainees innocent and not dangerous. I replied that he was misleading his own viewers, by exaggerating what the Times had said. "No, I'm not," he retorted. So far, the usual fare on newstalk television.

But then I decided to go one step further: "It seems to me like the pot calling the kettle black, Bill, because I just sat here five minutes ago as you re-recorded the introduction to this show to take out a statement from the head of the 9/11 commission stating that there was no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."

Apparently O'Reilly does not like being called "the pot." He exploded, repeatedly called me an "S.O.B." and assured me that he would cut my accusation from the interview when the show aired. He also said I would "never ever" be on his show again. At this point, I wasn't sure whether to take that as a threat or a promise.

Sure enough, when The O'Reilly Factor aired later that night, both Thomas Kean's statement about 9/11 and my charge about O'Reilly deleting it were missing. All that was left was Bill O'Reilly, fuming at the liberal media's lack of objectivity and balance, and ruing the divisive effect "spin" has on our national unity.

Guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

POST UPDATED 5-26-06: Democracy Now has a video interview with David Cole on this topic.

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