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Stewart to O'Reilly: "You Have Become the Most Reasonable Voice on Fox . . . Which . . . Is Like Being the Thinnest Kid at Fat Camp"

Reported by Julie - February 3, 2010 -

On last night's O'Reilly Factor (2/3/10), O'Reilly hosted none other than Comedy Central's Jon Stewart. The perpetually thin-skinned O'Reilly seemed determined to set the record straight about Fox News, to set Jon Stewart straight about his attacks on Fox, and to really show Stewart who was boss.

"Are you cognizant of the fact that your audience are primarily stone slackers who love Obama . . . and when you criticize Obama you may be turning on them?" O'Reilly asked Stewart.

Stewart, however, wasn't having any, and without losing his cool or his humor, failed to allow O'Reilly to gain any ground at all. It appeared Stewart didn't get the pre-Fox interview memo that O'Reilly's the "BMOC" and not to be messed with. With video (Parts I and II).

Just to make sure his adoring, hate-mongering viewing audience wouldn't think he'd gone soft, O'Reilly engaged in some light-hearted insults of Stewart, saying, "You've got stone slackers watching your dopey show every night, okay, and they can vote, you can't stop them." It's interesting that O'Reilly seemed to almost consider Stewart his equal, and it also shows O'Reilly's bully mentality when he shows near deference to someone as powerful as Stewart, and yet doesn't hesitate to shout down and put down a guest he considers beneath him.

Discussing the job President Obama is doing, Stewart told O'Reilly, "I'm torn . . . those types of broad analysis . . . 'how's he doing,' it doesn't lend itself to a very easy answer . . . he has tried to reengage the regulatory mechanism . . . ."

"Give me a not okay," O'Reilly probed -- yeah, we know, you're viewers don't want to hear about anything President Obama may be doing right.

Stewart complied, telling O'Reilly, "I think he has decided that Congress is an equal branch of government . . . you can't just walk in there . . . and say, let's go back to three equal branches . . . it allows too much room for different narratives to take hold . . . If you allow too much nit-picking on the edges of legislation, it will be necessarily turned into a type of lobbyist gruel . . . ."

When O'Reilly sarcastically asked Stewart, "What about these evil Republican blocking everything he does . . . why do we put up with these people?" Stewart replied innocently, "Well . . . I would think you put up with them because this allows you to consolidate your power . . . and the Fox organization . . . yeah, no, the Shadow Government -- you know how all this works."

When O'Reilly said he really didn't, Stewart mocked, "Let me get a chalkboard . . . is Glenn here?"

O'Reilly probed Stewart's opinion on why the Republicans are blocking President Obama's agenda, and asked whether it was "just because they want to embarrass Obama and get him out of there."

Stewart said he didn't know what their motivation is, other than trying to get their way. Stewart also disagreed with O'Reilly that the President has been unwilling to give the GOP anything, mentioning tax credits and tort reform. Stewart reminded O'Reilly that President Obama told the Republicans, "I would like to put tort reform on the table, but even the CBO says it's only about 5 billion a year . . . but I'm happy to talk about it."

O'Reilly insisted that the President should "just put it in . . . just put it in . . . that's why the Republicans don't like it . . . give us something."

"That's not why the Republicans don't like it," Stewart flatly stated.

Stewart mocked the Republicans for sitting stonily, even when the President at the State of the Union announced he had cut taxes for 95% of Americans, a Republican wet dream. Stewart rubbed his chin and mumbled something about how tax cuts "ring a bell."

O'Reilly quoted Howard Kurtz as saying that Stewart is an important "cultural arbiter."

"Do you understand the implications of you being important in any context?" O'Reilly asked Stewart.

"Well, I think my family loves me . . . ." Stewart replied humbly.

In Part II, O'Reilly kicked it off with the announcement that "Stewart has been kinda tough on Fox News." O'Reilly half-heartedly ranted about Stewart's criticism of Fox for bailing out on the President's "back-and-forth" with the GOP, claiming that Fox bailed out "for about 12 minutes" because they had "other stuff to do."

O'Reilly also defended Fox' coverage of the Massachusetts Senate election, crowing, "We covered Coakley's speech in the entirety" and "the winner's speech in the entirety."

"Are you shocked that a Democratic poll operation shows that Fox News is the most trusted news operation in the country?" O'Reilly asked Stewart.

"No . . . are you shocked that an internet poll said I was the most trusted newscaster . . . ?" Stewart shot back.

"That was like Blinky did it," O'Reilly replied. ". . . This was big . . . ."

"Here's what I believe," Stewart said seriously. "Fox News is the most passionate and sells the clearest narrative of any [pause] news organization -- if that's, are you still referring to it in that manner?"

"Yeah, it's a news organization," responded O'Reilly tersely.

Stewart went on a vintage-Stewart stream-of-consciousness, smirking and saying, "I think Fox in and of yourself say you're not a news organization all day. Isn't it now you're news, what was it, you're news from 9-11 and then you're opinion, and then you're news again from like 1-230, except . . . holidays then you're not and then on alternate parking days you're news but then on Christmas you're not . . . ."

O'Reilly compared commentary to newspapers, opening a page where the opinion page is "clearly labeled," but Stewart disagreed, arguing, "Newspapers are a passive piece of paper that you go to . . . television doesn't function that way and you know it."

Arguing that everybody knows the Factor is an opinion program, Stewart said "it's not clearly labeled, I look at your promos, you're part of the fair and balanced part . . . ."

Stewart challenged O'Reilly: "You truly believe that Fox News is just a non-partisan fair and balanced trustworthy . . . ."

"Our hard news operation is . . . ." O'Reilly said, seeming a little defensive.

Stewart smirked, as O'Reilly said, "Now you're casting aspersions."

"Yes, I am, I believe I am," Stewart smirked.

"Casting aspersions," repeated O'Reilly.

Stewart responded, "That's right . . . here's the brilliance of Fox News. What you have been able to do . . . have been able to mainstream conservative talk radio."

Arguing that McCain wouldn't come on the Factor during the last campaign, and that he would have if "we're in business to help the GOP," Stewart told O'Reilly, "You're not in business to help John McCain -- he's not GOP enough for you. You're in business to help Sarah Palin."

O'Reilly tried again, invoking Dick Cheney. "Dick Cheney: Dick Cheney is to you Mr. Republican . . . wouldn't come on the program!"

Stewart again flipped the script, telling O'Reilly, "Not Mr. Republican . . . because Dick Cheney, again, this atmosphere there's a lot of light, which he's obviously allergic to . . . ."

In one of the few moments during the segment, O'Reilly seemed a little frustrated, telling Stewart, "Come on . . . I just gave you two examples that you can't refute with your propaganda."

"But that doesn't mean anything," Stewart said blandly.

". . . Don't give me, I'm a Republican shill, that's bull," O'Reilly said testily.

Stewart conceded, "You have become the most reasonable voice on Fox . . . you have become in some ways the voice of sanity here which . . . is like being the thinnest kid at fat camp. Let's just get that straight. Here's what Fox has done through their cyclonic, perpetual emotion machine that is a 24-hour a day, seven day a week, they've taken reasonable concerns about this President and this economy and turned it into a full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao. Explain to me why that is the narrative of your network."

O'Reilly lamely attempted to defend Fox, saying, "It's the narrative of a couple of guys, a Republican, Sean Hannity, and a guy, uh, uh, Glenn Beck, who's basically Everyman."

Stewart was aghast. "What do you mean, he's Everyman? What do you mean, he's Everyman?"

"It means that he doesn't shill for any party, he just spouts," O'Reilly said weakly.

"What!"

"If you think that Beck shills for the Republican Party, you're out of your mind," O'Reilly said, again testy.

We didn't get to hear Stewart's response, but there's a Part III coming up on The Factor tomorrow night, and I'll be there, watching Fox so you don't have to.

All in all, the interview was light-hearted and friendly, but I notice a hypocritical pattern to O'Reilly: He won't go toe-to-toe with anybody who he thinks may be able to score points on him or excoriate him at some future time. He treats his colleague Glenn Beck like a clown when Beck appears on The Factor, but it was clear that Stewart was not in the least intimidated by O'Reilly and O'Reilly, as is his wont, tread more carefully. His insults, if you notice, were carefully calibrated so that O'Reilly didn't go out on any political limb, and Stewart couldn't score any points that counted. If O'Reilly's motive was to defend Fox, it fell by the wayside in the face of Stewart's smirking disbelief. Given the level of political influence Stewart has, O'Reilly had better hope that Stewart's viewers are, in fact, all "stone slackers."