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Sen. Tom Coburn Stands Pat On His Accusations About Fox News’ Inflammatory Rhetoric And Bias

Reported by Ellen - April 14, 2010 -

You have to hand it to Sen. Tom Coburn for having the guts to do what a zillion Democrats do not: Calling out Fox News for their inflammatory, sensationalized “news” and for pretending they are not part of the mainstream media. Without saying so directly, Coburn also made no bones about Fox News’ conservative bias. Bill O’Reilly insisted that, contrary to Coburn’s assessment, nobody on Fox News had ever said that under the new health care legislation, you can go to jail if you don’t buy health insurance. But not only was O’Reilly wrong, one such claim was made by Glenn Beck right on The O’Reilly Factor. Interestingly, O’Reilly never argued that Fox is “fair and balanced” and without bias. With video.

Coburn appeared on The O’Reilly Factor last night (4/13/10) to discuss his “Don’t catch yourself being biased by Fox News” remarks at a recent town hall. Coburn also said at the town hall, to a constituent who claimed that she could go to jail for not obtaining health insurance, “That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn't the intention.”

Right off the bat Coburn offered as a given that Fox News is biased. “The constituents that come to my town hall meetings? They routinely and uniformly listen to your network and every network has some bias.” He also said that his constituent who worried about going to jail, “didn’t make that up. She heard that.” Coburn added, “The point is this, Bill… We have to win on the real facts of the issues. And when we change those to where we inflame them, we lose our credibility.”

O’Reilly replied, “And I’ve been saying that more than anybody, that personal attacks are foolish.” That’s true to some extent but O’Reilly has also been touring with Mr. Number One inflamer, Glenn Beck.

Then O’Reilly said, “Can you tell me one person on Fox News, just one, who has told this audience that they’ll go to jail if they don’t buy health insurance?”

Unfortunately, Coburn could not name a person. But we can: Neil Cavuto, Bill Hemmer, Foxnews.com (H/T The Nation) and Glenn Beck. He even said so on The O’Reilly Factor, no less. Rep. John Shadegg also said it on On The Record and was not corrected by host Greta Van Susteren.

O’Reilly claimed he had researched whether “anybody on Fox News had ever said, ‘you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance.’” He concluded, “Nobody’s ever said it.” I think O'Reilly needs a new researcher.

However, O’Reilly did concede that Coburn “may have a point” about the demonization of Nancy Pelosi on Fox (Gee, you think?). O’Reilly added, “Nancy Pelosi, FOR SOME COMMENTATERS (his emphasis) on this network, is the devil. There’s no question about that. And your point about, ‘Hey, just because we disagree with her doesn’t mean that she’s a bad person,’ – I’m with you all the way.”

Well, except for all the times he wasn’t: Like, for example, the time he obsessed about her “popping up and down” at the State of the Union speech. Or how he didn’t mind when guest Dennis Miller said, “Pelosi is more unhinged than a double wide front door in the midst of a crystal meth bust.” O’Reilly seemed amused, not disapproving, when Miller said, on another show, about Pelosi’s use of military aircraft to ensure her safety while traveling, “The worst thing about lending Pelosi an aircraft is it always comes back with an eye job on the cockpit, where the window shields are pulled up at a really unnatural, disturbing mark. That's the worst part of lending her a jet. And the fact that somebody thinks this empty-headed Pashmina mannequin has to be guarded from people will show you how absolutely mad the world has gone.” But let’s hope O’Reilly sees it differently now.

Later, O’Reilly revealed what I think really bugged him about Coburn’s remarks: “You know, YOU KNOW, that the far-left cranks that dominate the media took what you said and ran with it all day long.”

Coburn wasn’t buying it. “Here’s the problem, Bill… First of all, you all are running the media now in Oklahoma. I guarantee it, …and across a larger and larger percentage of this country. But when that becomes the news story, instead of us trying to not add to the debt, when we do take a courageous stand and we say, ‘We’re not gonna pass an unemployment insurance bill that we’re gonna charge to our grandchildren… it’s that the story on the networks is more important than the actual happenings that are going on. And that’s a problem in the media because they don’t want to talk about the real substantive issues. You do. But many do not.”

If you forget that he was self-servingly urging coverage of his own radically obstructionist tactics, and that he was sucking up a bit too generously to Bill O’Reilly, you might want to stand up and applaud.

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