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O’Reilly Confronts Bachmann On Her BP “Extortion” Accusation

Reported by Ellen - June 19, 2010 -

What has our media come to that Bill O’Reilly may be becoming our most frequent wingnut confronter on the airwaves? On the heels of demolishing Sarah Palin earlier in the week, our “no spin zone” guy took on Michele Bachmann last night (6/18/10) over her comments complaining that President Obama had exceeded his jurisdictional limits to "extort" BP to put up $20 billion for an oil-spill-victims fund. Bachmann has since backtracked from her previous comments. She made the unlikely excuse to O'Reilly that what she had really meant was that she was worried about who would administer the fund. And then she blamed the Democrats for making her overly suspicious. Although I would have loved to have seen O’Reilly hold her feet to the fire more about her disingenuous waffling, I can’t say O’Reilly pulled a lot of punches.

The same is not true for Foxnews.com. They helped softpedal her comments by calling the interview, All About ‘Extortion’ or ‘Politicizing’ the Fund? and gave it the subtitle, "Michele Bachmann explains her criticism of Obama ordering BP to set up oil spill compensation fund.”

Bachmann’s original comments were made at a Heritage Foundation lunch where she advised BP not to be “chumps” or get “fleeced” to pay for "perpetual unemployment and all the rest -- they've got to be legitimate claims.

"The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from. He makes them evil, and what we've got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this."

Bachmann also told CNSNews, “it seems that it’s all about extortion--and that what they want to do is create a pot of money for themselves that they can control and that’s not what the Executive is supposed to do. There is a real misreading of jurisdictional limits, and they continue to stretch those limits beyond all bounds.”

On The Factor, O’Reilly asked, “If the executive branch, the presidency, isn’t going to force BP to pony up the money, who will? Who would?”

Bachmann immediately tried to back away from her comments. “The point isn’t who’s responsible… The question is who will run the fund and that was my point.”

“But that’s not how it came across,” O’Reilly said sharply. “How that statement came across to me was that you said, ‘Look, Obama has overstepped his power… by taking a private corporation and forcing that corporation, BP, to put $2 billion in a till.' Now, I don’t want it to be politicized, you don’t and I don’t think anybody in this country wants that fund to be politicized. What we want is, that the money gets to the people who are suffering as quickly as possible – exactly what happened after 9/11.”

O’Reilly added that Kenneth Feinberg, the overseer of the BP fund, had also done a fine job administering the 9/11 fund. “I don’t think this guy’s a political hack or a shill. Do you?”

If you pause the video at the 1:56 mark, just as O’Reilly said that, you can see the “called into the principal’s office” look on Bachmann’s face that is unlike the usual grin she wears on Fox News.

Bachmann tried to weasel further by blaming Democrats for her own indiscretion. “Understand the context. It was just a couple of weeks ago when my Democrat colleagues tried to raid a previous oil spill fund to pay for unemployment benefits extension. This just happened, Bill, during the midst of this BP oil spill. That’s what a number of us are concerned about in Congress.”

O’Reilly didn’t let her off the hook. He told her to keep him posted “if you see one piece of shenanigans” with the fund. But, he added, “I also want to know… You and the Congressman Barton from Texas, using words like ‘shakedown,’ and ‘extortion,’ and all of that. I’m not agreein’ with that. I think Obama did absolutely the right thing by putting maximum amount of pressure on these weasels.” O’Reilly’s voice rose as he came close to shouting, “Is there a bigger weasel on the planet than (BP CEO Tony Hayward)? Are you trusting HIM to do anything? …I think this is the best thing Obama did in the whole mess. Do you agree with that? Getting the $20 billion.”

Bachmann weaseled some more herself. “No one is saying that this fund shouldn’t be set up. The question is, who administers it.”

Except that Bachmann had exactly said that the fund should not have been set up. In addition to the remarks above, she said, “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there -- 'We're not going to be chumps, and we're not going to be fleeced.' And they shouldn't be.”

O’Reilly pressed, “You’re dodging my question about extortion and about a shakedown. Do you think Obama shookdown BP?”

“I think they put pressure on them,” Bachmann said. “Remember, he previously said he wanted a criminal investigation. So the people that were around that table were thinking they might end up in the slammer.”

“Is that wrong?” O’Reilly asked. “I think you’d do it. Wouldn’t you do it?”

Bachmann tried to go back on the attack against Obama. “You think about it. Here you have the president of the United States threatening criminal action… So are they going to take money from the shareholders, maybe to keep themselves?”

“I’m OK with it,” O’Reilly told her in a forceful tone.

Bachmann backed off again. “I’m just asking… We need to have a victims comp. fund… There’s nothing wrong with the president (going after BP with everything he had). The point is, is he putting pressure on, the threat of a criminal trial, which is the force of government, so that they’ll give him money? That’s crossing lines that we have to be very careful.”

O’Reilly said, “If he (Obama) bags the criminal investigation because they did put up the $20 billion, then I’m with you… We’re not trading here. We’re doing both.”

“That’s all I’m worried about… That’s what I’m worried about,” Bachmann said.

Of course, that’s not what she had originally said. But O’Reilly gave her a pass on the dishonesty.

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