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O'Reilly Can't Get Major Garrett to Throw Him An Obama-Bashing Bone

Reported by Julie - August 24, 2009 -

On last night’s O’Reilly Factor (8/24/09), O’Reilly once again demonstrated he has the thinnest of skins, as he tried valiantly to get Fox News’ Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett to admit that the Obama Administration has it in for Fox in general and Garret in particular. Never one to miss a chance to push the “NBC is in President Obama’s pocket” meme, O’Reilly flatly stated – attempting, no doubt, to cue Garrett as to what he was supposed to say -- that Garrett doesn’t get any of the “plums” from the Obama Administration that are handed out to other networks -- namely NBC. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, Garrett shied away from embracing O’Reilly’s agenda. With video.

“This is a serious story,” O’Reilly said to Garrett, “. . . Let’s put it all out there on the table. Fox News is now the most powerful news organization in the country . . . we reach more people in a stronger way, particularly in prime-time . . . why then would the Obama Administration want to have a testy relationship with us, and do they?”

Garrett, to his credit, didn’t take the bait, saying, “Well, they don’t with me, Bill . . . I’m called on in every single briefing, when the President has sat down for round robin interviews with all 5 networks I’ve been in place . . . the President has called on me in every single press conference he’s had save for one when we were basically punished for the broadcast side of our network operations . . . not carrying that prime-time news conference live. I wasn’t called on as punishment for that . . . There are people within the administration who take a very dim view of some of the prime-time shows on our network . . . not necessarily yours but others. And during the campaign . . . down the stretch . . . I heard at least once a week some rip from then-candidate Obama about Fox News . . . I took it in stride . . . I would say it’s not a strategy now . . . .”

The fact that O’Reilly boasts constantly about the almighty power of Fox News begs the question: If Fox News is, in fact, so all-powerful, why does Fox, or O’Reilly, care whether the White House approves of it? But the idea of the White House allegedly giving short shrift to Fox News seems to be really getting under the thin skin of Fox News – and ol’ Bill, he really wants everybody to adore him, and gets prickly when they don’t. But despite the fact that talking against the Obama Administration wouldn’t be Garrett’s best career move as White House correspondent, O’Reilly didn’t seem to care.

Sounding more and more defensive, O’Reilly gave us a rundown on the Fox air staff, I guess to prove – unsuccessfully -- that Fox isn’t really anti-Obama. Despite O’Reilly’s apparent belief that those mentioned were “fair and balanced,” O’Reilly’s line-up consisted of those generally lukewarm about Obama and those clearly anti-Obama. Notably, there were no broadcasters mentioned who were considered to have favorable sentiments about the President.

O’Reilly first mentioned Greta van Susteren (Fox News’ version of a Democrat), who he said “certainly has no axe to grind against President Obama.” Au contraire, Bill -- van Susteren seems, to me, to be as sulky as others on Fox about Obama, she’s just a little more subtle about it. Though a little sneakier about her stone-throwing, she has no problem sitting idly by while her guests hurl slings and arrows at the President. A case in point is her multi-part interview with Rush Limbaugh, in which she allowed him to say whatever he wanted about the President – none of it complimentary -- with hardly a whimper of protest. She even let slide Rush’s comment that President Obama “is black, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder.”

O’Reilly then talked about himself (what Factor would be complete without that?), and explained that “some Democrats feel that I’m an Obama hater, some Republicans feel that I’m too soft on Obama . . . I certainly don’t have any personal animus or idealogical animus against the man.” Though admittedly O’Reilly has refrained from Hannity-style Obama-bashing, he’s taken his shots, such as saying about President Obama’s religion (he’s a Christian) that he’s a “secularist” who rejects public spirituality. O’Reilly also questioned whether President Obama is “selling out America.” No personal animus? No idealogical animus? Uh, yeah.

Sean Hannity, he noted, “is a Republican -- it is obvious that he does not like President Obama and thinks his policies are bad.” Oh, so that’s it – Hannity just thinks his “policies” are bad. From saying that President Obama pitches baseball “like a girl” to editing clips so as to paint the President as a radical socialist to attacks on President Obama for putting mustard on his hamburger, Hannity has demonstrated a venom toward the President that goes waaaaaay beyond disagreements about “policies.”

O’Reilly continued defensively, “But in totality, with Shepherd Smith coming at 7, with Bret Baier coming at 6, you have a presentation that’s not overtly hostile to President Obama [not overtly hostile – is that the standard at Fox?] . . . The tension is that we glorify the protesters, but that’s bull, we just don’t demean them like all the other networks do. So I’m trying to get in my mind why the Obama people don’t see this as a negative for them – a fight with Fox hurts them, helps our ratings, hurts their ratings. But they continue, I think, to make an issue of it.” First of all, though Shep is cool, Bret Baier (the new Brit Hume?) has bought into the Fox anti-Obama theme hook, line and sinker, even granting the birthers some credence by failing to report that the Obama-isn’t-American claims have been debunked.

Garrett again refused to bite, saying, “The one time during the presidency was the one interview he did with John Harwood [CNN] . . . during one of his recent town meetings he said, you know, if you go across cable and you stop your remote on a certain channel, well, you know you’ll hear some critical things . . . .”

“Well, of course that’s Fox . . .,” O’Reilly said scornfully, then went on to push the theme that Garrett is shut out of the White House “insiders” because of his affiliation with Fox. “You don’t get a lot of information given to you while they do feed it out, particularly to NBC News all the time. You don’t get preferential treatment . . . you don’t get any of that.”

If O’Reilly was hoping to engage in an Obama White House-bashing session with Garrett, he was gravely disappointed. Garrett once again refused the hook, saying, “I’ve been tipped to small things – but in the larger course of White House dissemination of information . . . every White House does it . . . they all have their selected outlets, it is obvious we are not among them for the Obama White House. I fight and scratch for everything I get, I’m happy to do it, I don’t have any problem with it . . . .”

“Why won’t Gibbs come on the Factor, what’s the matter with him?” O’Reilly asked snidely.

“Probably doesn’t see much percentage in it,” Garrett said matter-of-factly. “Maybe that’ll change over time.”

I have a little “fair and balanced” clean-up to do here. Notice how O’Reilly cherry-picked the least offensive Fox Newsies, but omitted a few – quite a few, in fact – who are over-the-top anti-Obama propaganda machines? Notably absent from O’Reilly’s line-up were Glenn Beck and Neil Cavuto, both of whom have made vitriolic attacks on the President. Shit, Glenn Beck just lost 36 advertisers because he called President Obama a racist. And let’s not forget that Cavuto, who claims he never mocks the President, was a big player in the anti-Obama tea party protests.

A few more A-listers O’Reilly forgot to mention were Fox News contributors Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Michelle Malkin, Mary Katharine Ham, Laura Ingraham – the list of whiny and snide Obama-bashers on Fox is long and illustrious.

To use a couple of clichés, Fox News clearly backed the wrong horse during the election and is now reaping what it sowed in terms of being on the high-five list at the White House. Although no one would blame the Obama Administration for completely shutting out Fox News, as it turns out, it doesn’t – and Fox News’ own White House correspondent Major Garrett made that clear.

What is Fox News coming to? First Shep went rogue, and now Major Garrett can’t even be depended on for the correct Fox News talking points. Garrett might possibly want to be viewed as a real journalist, and not as a Fox News hack. If that’s the case, in denying O’Reilly his moment of triumph tonight, Garrett definitely backed the right horse.