The O’Reilly Factor purported to debate last night the firestorm that erupted over Mike Huckabee’s comments about women’s libidos and needing “Uncle Sugar” to provide birth control. Women, sex and contraception? Instead of talking Huckabee, Bill O’Reilly used the occasion to obsess (again) about Sandra Fluke – and smear her by misrepresenting what she stands for.
In case you missed it, Huckabee said in a recent speech that women have been manipulated by Democrats to believe they need "Uncle Sugar” to provide birth control because “they cannot control their libido.”
“How could it not offend me?” Democrat Alexis McGill Johnson asked O'Reilly.
O’Reilly echoed Huckabee’s defense – that he was criticizing Democrats, not women. Then O’Reilly immediately added, “I think it was obvious that Sandra Fluke …was asking for her birth control mechanisms to be paid for by the government. I think she did that, did she not?”
Sadly, McGill Johnson completely fell down on the job here. Instead of pointing out how O’Reilly was trying to deflect criticism from Huckabee to Fluke, that O’Reilly has some kind of unseemly obsession with Fluke and that Fluke did not ask for her birth control to be paid for by the government, McGill Johnson went along. She’s a long-time, frequent guest on Fox. She should have been better prepared.
The fact – as McGill Johnson should know – is that Fluke advocates for contraception coverage in health insurance. Also, O’Reilly has used that misrepresentation to slut shame Fluke and to suggest she wants him to pay for her promiscuous sex.
But McGill Johnson apparently thought she was defending Fluke by agreeing with O’Reilly. “Absolutely,” she said.
O’Reilly interrupted, “As long as the record is – you and I do not disagree about the record. She was asking, (Fluke) was asking for the taxpayers…”
If you ask me, this was the moment McGill Johnson should have confronted O’Reilly on his tactics. Instead, she allowed his game plan to succeed by “arguing” that Fluke was not asking for contraception for herself but for all women.
O’Reilly interrupted with undisguised hostility. He said, “(Fluke) was asking for the taxpayer to pay for them.” And McGill Johnson did not challenge that falsehood.
Meanwhile, the other guest, conservative Penny Nance praised Huckabee for not going “weak in the knees” like other Republicans do on the subject. “Governor Huckabee hit it on the nose. I’m sorry if it offends you but you need to get over it,” Nance said. “…It’s true that Sandra Fluke and that the left, the abortion proponents on the left, have demanded that women, that we offend our own religious liberty and pay for services that we don’t…”
McGill Johnson did interrupt to object, “That is completely untrue.” But she missed the biggest untruth of all: how The Factor had slyly made the discussion about Democrats instead of Huckabee and that covering contraception in health insurance is not the same as making taxpayers pay.
O’Reilly continued, “The Democratic Party wants subsidies for the behavior of women. The Republican Party generally does not. That’s what the debate is, is it not?”
There was another perfect opening for McGill Johnson. Because not only is that not the debate – as even Megyn Kelly was able to articulate on her own show’s discussion of the issue – but as I also said in my post on the Kelly File discussion, Huckabee suggested that women stupidly and wrongly fall for Democratic policies. Which is another kind of insult.
But McGill Johnson continued to behave as though she were having a legitimate policy discussion. She responded, “This is about trying to create access to something ...For many women contraception is medically necessary.”
Which would be a great point if that were really what the segment was about. But she had just been hoodwinked into a defensive and wonky stance – as O’Reilly and Nance pounded the lie about paying for someone else’s birth control.
Even worse, it let Huckabee off the hook.
To her credit, McGill Johnson did try to bring it back to Huckabee by noting that he supported right-wing extremist “legitimate rape” Todd Akin. But it was too little too late, in my view. Near the end, McGill Johnson demanded to have her say, by continuing to talk even after O’Reilly tried to make her stop. He snapped, “Miss Johnson, you’re going to stop talking now and Ms. Nance is going to have the last 30 seconds.”
“OK, let her lie for the last 30 seconds,” a frustrated McGill Johnson shot back. She repeated it after O’Reilly said she had had more time to speak than Nance.
O’Reilly wagged his pen at McGill Johnson and said, “That. Is. Unacceptable.” I guess she didn’t get the message that it’s only OK to call liberals a liar. Or is it only OK if O’Reilly does it?
Ms. McGill Johnson seems like a perfectly lovely and intelligent woman. I don’t mean to sound so harshly critical of her. But while I think it’s important for Democrats and liberals to go on Fox News, it's equally important to be prepared for their news-as-political-theater tactics and ready with a strategy of your own.
None of that, of course, is any kind of excuse for O’Reilly’s sexist boorishness, disingenuousness and dishonesty.
And neither his defensive justification nor your assumption that his comments aren’t offensive can change the stubborn facts here. If he wanted to just say that he feels that the Democrats are wrong in their approach to this issue, he could do so without using language that people find to be thoroughly demeaning. He doesn’t get to use the language and then hide behind an excuse of “well, that’s what I was saying the Dems were doing!” He didn’t need to use that language. Personally, I think he’s just trying to get attention.
I also agree O’Reilly carefully spun the segment. It’s the sort of thing I would have expected from Laura Ingraham. And his premise was almost completely false. The proper response would have been to immediately correct him on the premise and take the conversation to the arena of why anyone would think that it was appropriate for Mike Huckabee to make comments like this. And yes, she should have stood her ground and backed O’Reilly off the incorrect assertion that this was about taxpayers and not insurance companies.