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Shootin' Quail in the Bushes: Why Is the Mean Old Media Picking on Poor Little Dickie Cheney When All He Did Was Make One Teeny Little Mistake?

Reported by Marie Therese - February 15, 2006

Last night Bill O'Reilly spent the first 7 minutes of his show trying to explain why he didn't lead with the Cheney story on Monday's Factor. One wonders if his BillOReilly Premium Members gave him hell because he chose to highlight and smear former Vice-President Al Gore rather than come to the defense of the current Vice President in his hour of need.

Bill started off by devoting his entire Talking Points Memo to defending himself from, he claimed, were negative comments made by Howard Kurtz in Monday's Washington Post. Throughout, O'Reilly kept saying over and over again that the Cheney story didn't affect the lives of ordinary Americans and that's why he had only mentioned it on Monday in his "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day" segment.

columnist Bill Sammon appeared with Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page to discuss the matter with O'Reilly, who basically just kept repeating his mantra that the story wasnt important, it "bored him to tears," it was just the mean old elitist media types ganging up on the Vice President, Cheney handled it badly but that's no reason

When Clarence Page asked Bill if he would have handled it the same way had the shooter been Al Gore, O'Reilly lied and said he would have felt the same way and not covered it.

O'REILLY: "I would have been bored to tears then as I'm bored to tears now. Look, if Al Gore went on a vacation ..."

PAGE: "You wouldn't care if the Vice President ..."

O'REILLY: "Not at all."

PAGE: " ... happened to shoot somebody."

Page went on to explain that the Vice President's office did not handle it well, and that the story came out only as the result of a tip given to a small Texas newspaper.

O'REILLY: "Clarence, I gotta tell ya' the truth. I was not a nit-picker on Clinton or Gore. I'm not a nit-picker. I don't think this is a big story."

[Yeah, if anyone believes that, there's this really neat bridge in Brooklyn for sale!]

Page went on to say that the way it was handled made it appear to be "one more cover-up in an administration that's had too many cover-ups." O'Reilly did not like that answer and asked "What cover-up?" to which Page responded that the press wouldn't know that until it asked a lot of questions, i.e., investigated the incident. O'Reilly downplayed the seriousness of Cheney's actions, comparing it to a "fender-bender." Page came back with a good retort: "This was more than a fender-bender. This was live ammo. I mean, we are lucky the man wasn't hurt more seriously and we still don't know if he's out of the woods yet."

O'REILLY (exasperated): "But that's about him and it's about a bad accident. If I have a bad accident, somebody falls down in my house and breaks their leg, I don't hold a press conference."

PAGE: "Because you're not Vice-President."

O'REILLY: "Well, no, but I'm a public figure and if I were Vice-President, I wouldn't hold a press conference either."

O'Reilly did eventually agree with Page that Cheney was wrong when he did not follow normal press protocol and inform the AP of the accident. Even Bill Sammon agreed, after a fashion, but managed to soften his criticism with an assault on his media colleagues:

SAMMON: " ... Cheney made a mistake, obviously, by accidentally shooting someone (A). (B) he compounded that mistake by not coming clean and being forthright and (C) the press has a right to be upset, to a degree, that they were kept in the dark about this important develoment - somewhat important development. Having said that, the problem, Bill, is the matter of degree. The press is treating this thing like World War Three. They are letting all their pent-up frustrations with this administration come pouring into the briefing room, because they've always had contempt for Cheney (video clip of Scott McClellan and NBC reporter David Gregory on screen) They've never been able to nail him on anything. They didn't get him on the energy task force. They didn't get him in the Fitzgerald probe. (Well, at least not yet!) And now they've got him on somethin' and it's out of all proportion to what - it's using up so much more oxygen

Throughout this whole statement and for the entire interview (except one time), Sammon used only the plain, unadorned words "the press." I found this very interesting and possibly revealing of a basic assumption that Sammon has, i.e., that he is NOT a member of the press at all. Usually the right-wingers are very careful to divide the press corps into two camps - the good press (Sammon, O'Reilly, FOX News, Washington Times, etc.) and the bad press (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CBS, etc.). The "bad press" is always described using adjectives such as "liberal," "left-wing," "radical left-wing," "elitist," "mainstream" that have become code words for "anyone who doesn't agree with the conservative world view." Could this mean that, in his heart of hearts, Sammon does not see himself as a member of the media but as one of its opponents? Even O'Reilly noticed it, because he immediately used a coded qualifier when responding to Sammon, saying: "Yeah, it's the hate-Bush, trash-Cheney media once again."

The discussion then turned to where various newspapers placed the two stories. Sammon took pride in the fact that the put a story about Iran on their front page and tucked the Cheney story in the back pages whereas the New York Times and the Washington Post chose to put the Cheney story on their front pages.

SAMMON: "... I think by overreacting to this the press is in danger of overreaching. You've got network correspondents in the briefing room calling the Press Secretary [Scott McLellan] a jerk. (Video clip of NBC reporter David Gregory) Now, this is why America hates the mainstream media. There was a poll out in November [2005] by the Pew Research Foundation that showed the number of Americans who think the press covers Bush in a biased way has jumped 20% in two years. There's a reason for that and it's because they behave this way."

What Sammon left out is that the 20% change in average poll number comes largely from changes in attitudes among REPUBLICANS. From the Pew Research website:

"A similar pattern is seen in public attitudes toward whether the press has been too critical or not critical enough of the Bush administration's policies and performance. Currently, 34% think the press is handling coverage of the administration "about right," while 32% say it is too critical of the administration, and 28% feel it is not critical enough. That represents a major change since July 2003, when nearly half (48%) believed the coverage of the Bush administration was about right.

"Much of the shift has come among Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%) see the press as too critical of Bush's policies and performance, up from 46% in July 2003." (Alito Viewed Positively but Libby Takes a Toll, November 8, 2005)

Once again these conservative commentators reveal that they only count as "American" what happens in the "Republican" circles!

Bill O'Reilly then noted that in the entire two hours of his Radio Factor program devoted to the question of Cheney's accident, none of his listeners could tell him why it was important in their lives.

Guess Bill thinks only HIS listeners represent the opinions of all TRUE AMERICANS. The rest of us are somehow irrelevant to him and FOX News.

As Clarence Page said at the end of the segment: "If this story doesn't change in the next couple of days, Bill, and it's still on page one, then you've got an argument. But, let's face it. This story may be a one day story but it's lasted three days because of the way the administration has handled it."

COMMENT

I couldn't help but chuckle as I recalled that FOX News Channel has not got not one but TWO shows devoted full-time to covering all manner of crimes - big and small. WHY on earth do they think the story of the Vice President shooting a friend then stonewalling reporters is too small for a channel that spent weeks on the Runaway Bride?

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