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FOX Sharks Circle CBS

Reported by Marie Therese - September 17, 2004 -

On page 193 of his book "Who's Looking Out for You" Bill O'Reilly writes: "In 1981 I went to work for CBS and got royally hosed by Dan RAther and his merry men. ..But the point is that I tried to convince CBS that it had an unfair system in place for the majority of its correspondents. That was like trying to convince Fidel Castro to be nicer to Cuban dissidents."

"...In network news there is a term called bigfooting, which means that a more experienced or well-known reporter is allowed to take the work of another reporter and broadcast it. This is wrong. When I was bigfooted in Argentina during the Falklands War, I instantly rebelled. A number of old CBS hands told me to let it go and be patient. But I could not discipline myself. I hit the CBS brass head on, telling them they were morally wrong to allow the theft of my work. Their reaction was to make an example of me by assigning me to the dismal overnight shift. The janitors and I had a great time at the CBS Broadcast Center on 57th Street. It got me deep-sixed at the national news level, a stigma it took me years to overcome. That incident caused me more pain than anything else in my career because I knew I was good enough to report for Dan Rather, but CBS put out the word that I couldn't hack it. With an ego like mine, that kind of rap cut deep."

Last night Bill O'Reilly and his two guests, James Taranto of Wall Street Journal Online and Tom Shales of The Washington Post discussed Memogate, CBS, Dan Rather and Taranto's editorial for WSJ Online regarding the imminent demise of the "elite liberal media."

O'Reilly: "All right. Do you really believe that this is it for the dominance of the elite liberal media?"

TARANTO: "Well, I think this is something that's been a long time in the making. We had the rise of talk radio in the late '80's. We had the rise of Fox News channel in the mid '90's. And now we have the rise of the bloggers. And the bloggers were all over this story within hours of CBS running the story. Bloggers identified this as an obvious fraud. And then the rest of the media got on board. The Washington Post, Mr. Shales' paper did a brilliant job reporting this. And what we see is a much more competitive media marketplace than we had 20 years ago."

O'REILLY: "What are the implications then, if the New York Times - because they were always the agenda setter - they would write something and then the network news would read it and pick up on that theme? Now if that's not going to happen anymore, what is the implication for the country?"

TARANTO: "I think the implication is that there will be a lot more voices out there. It's gonna be a lot more competitive. And I think that serves the cause of promoting the truth."

O'REILLY (overtalks): "Will it be a lot more confusing? Won't the truth be harder to come by because you're gonna have all this innuendo and rumor and stuff floating into the discourse?"

TARANTO: "Well, who put the innuendo and rumor into the discourse last week? It was CBS News with these phony memos. And you know, for every innuendo and rumor you can point to on the Internet, you can point to some in the mainstream media as well. And different voices act as checks on each other."

Tom Shales responds "Well, I love the idea, first of all, that the Wall Street Journal isn't part of the elite in this country. They always take the side of giant corporations. And their editorials are usually laughed off because everyone knows exactly what position they'll take on every issue. To try to extrapolate from this unfortunate incident and say that there's some sort of seed change in America, and that the liberal elite is no longer setting the agenda, and I don't think that it ever was true in the first place, is ridiculous. And I think we should remember that this is something - also, he spoke with such conviction that the memos are fake. We still don't know. I mean, one person says yes. One person says no. There's a little 'th,' there's not a 'th.'"

Later:

O'REILLY: "But the point of it is that you don't believe there's going to be a power shift. You don't believe that? You don't believe that Fox News and talk radio and the Internet has cut into the influence of, say, the New York Times and the network news. You don't believe that?"

SHALES: "Yeah, certainly there have been changes. CNN itself was a change when it came along all those years ago. But you're a journalist. Do you sit around thinking about how much power you have? Do you think about this as a power biz?"

O'REILLY (overtalks): "No, but I know that Fox News - we've been on the air eight years now come early October."

SHALES: "Yeah.."

O'REILLY: "And we have - we wield a lot of influence now. And the elites don't like that. You don't like it that much, I don't think."

SHALES: "Well, the elites..."

O'REILLY: "Am I wrong?"

SHALES: "You're owned by Rupert Murdoch! I mean, he's not exactly the common man."

O'REILLY: "Yes, we're just a little cable - scrappy, you know, a little scrappy cable network."

SHALES: "Part of a gigantic, gigantic worldwide media empire. Rupert Murdoch is a globally - one of the most important..."

O'REILLY: "Well, that's not - look, Rupert's not anchoring any of the programs here. It's just me..."

SHALES: "Yes..."

O'REILLY: "...this barbarian bully, me."

Shales tried for a little humor by complaining that FOX should turn up the air-conditioning. O'Reilly notes "We gotta pay our bills."

Shales went on to note that Dan Rather is not at fault, that some source duped him.

Taranto came back in to say: "Yeah, and I think they went after the story. And they believed these memos, in part, because they wanted to believe it, but there's..."

O'REILLY: "Do you believe that, though?"

TARANTO: "Oh, sure. I think they..."

O'REILLY: "Do think you believe that they wanted to believe the story and didn't vet it firmly enough?"

TARANTO: "I think there's no question about that. If you look at some of the reporting that the Washington Post among others have done, some of the experts CBS consulted said they had raised red flags about these memos and they were ignored. CBS went...."

O'REILLY: "Well, we're going to play one of them in a minute. But if that's true, if they wanted to believe it, they would be almost self-destructive in doing so, because I don't believe that Dan Rather's gonna come back from this. I think that this will always be on him. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what - you know, it's almost a self-destructive thing, is it not?"

TARANTO: "Well, I think it is. I don't think they realize that it was, any more than Jayson Blair realized that he was going to be discovered and..."

O'REILLY: "It's a different thing, though."

TARANTO: "But there's a great power for denial. You know, Bill, I think Dan Rather probably still believes he's going to survive this."

O'REILLY: "All right, I want to ask Mr. Shales, because you've been covering CBS for a long, long time. You know how it works. Do you believe that Dan Rather's going to recover from this in the perception mode here among the American people?"

SHALES: "Well, it's funny about Dan. He's a larger-than-life personality. A lot of people use him as a kind of 'bete noir' or whipping boy. You know, they'll blame Dan Rather for the evils of the world because he's such an activist anchor. I think if Tom Brokaw had broken this story, there wouldn't have been nearly as much of a hullabaloo about it.

O'REILLY: "Well, all three, all three of them are lightning rods. They are."

SHALES: "Yes, but Dan more than the others. Don't you think he stands a little taller?"

O'REILLY: "I do."

SHALES: "He's gotten into these controversies before..."

O'REILLY: "Particularly with Bush the elder and then the shootout that he had with him. But, you know..."

SHALES (interrupts): "Right, but I said..."

O'Reilly (continuing):" ... I think that this goes with Rather now forever. I don't think he ever gets out of it."

Comment

Bill O'Reilly doesn't like Dan Rather or CBS.

He calls Rupert Murdoch by his first name. Time Magazine reported recently that they lunch together sometimes.

James Taranto compares Dan Rather to Jayson Blair, of all people.

FOX either tries to make their (liberal?) guests sweat (lack of air-conditioning) or someone over there is the penny-pincher of all time.

Do you think Dan Rather will survive these sharks?