Newsweek’s Jon Meacham: ‘We're Not A Partisan Magazine’

Jon Meacham, FNC Appearing on FNC’s O’Reilly Factor Monday, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham was asked by host Bill O’Reilly: "What, you're a not a left-wing magazine?" Meacham denied any liberal agenda in the magazine: "No, I don't -- We're not a partisan magazine. We're just not." A skeptical O’Reilly replied: "Come on." Meacham defended his assertion: "We're not. We try to be provocative. We try to break news. We try to contribute to the conversation. You can decide whether we do or not."

O’Reilly asked Meacham about the magazine’s liberal leanings after the Newsweek editor argued in favor of investigations of Bush officials over interrogation tactics. O’Reilly also asked for Meacham’s opinion on a recent political cartoon in the New York Times that criticized those interrogation tactics by depicting the Statue of Liberty brandishing a whip, but Meacham refused to comment: "I'm not going to comment on somebody else's editorial decision." In frustration, O’Reilly replied: "You're an American. Forget you're editor of Newsweek, you're an American. You see this thing, what do you think? You think this is fair?"

O’Reilly went on to reference new photos of prisoner abuse about to be released: "Yeah, do you think this is fair? Do you think that's good for the country? Are you looking forward to putting those pictures coming out next week in Newsweek magazine, of abusing the prisoners, you looking forward to doing that?" He later added: "...you won't comment on that -- on that Statue of Liberty with a whip? Come on, you're an American, too. You know, I'm fighting the battle here alone. It's me and the Wall Street Journal, and couple of other guys on Fox, against a juggernaut of media apathy that you're a part of at Newsweek magazine, with all due respect."

Near the end of the segment, O’Reilly criticized a recent Newsweek article attacking Mel Gibson during the actor’s divorce. The article read: "There has been the usual, unsubstantiated speculation about another woman. We, however, would like to mention another man, a guy named Malachi. As in Malachi 2:15-17, the verses in the Bible that say: 'For I hate divorce!' says the Lord...Good thing Gibson doesn't take the Bible literally or anything." O’Reilly asked Meacham: "You know, why do you want to do this and kick Gibson when he's having difficulty in his marriage. Why do you want to do that?"

Meacham seemed to abandon his earlier claims of non-partisanship: "The -- Gibson's a literalist, he's a conservative. And he was part of the popular culture, he put himself out there." O’Reilly pointed out: "Sean Penn has had recent marital trouble, I didn't see that on Sean....Don't you think that's a little unfair, Jon?" Meacham replied: "No, I don't."

O’Reilly continued to question the decision to go after Gibson: "Really, you think kicking Gibson when he's down having marital problems is okay, using a Bible verse because he's a religious guy?" Contradicting himself, Meacham argued: "It's not because he's a religious guy. I'm a religious guy and so are you. That's different...We did it because he made a big point, and a hugely important movie, controversial movie, in which he took a literal reading of the gospels, contentious passages that a lot of Jewish Americans, a lot of other Americans-" O’Reilly asked: "So this is payback?" Meacham explained: "It's -- it's commentary. It's life in the arena."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

8:18PM TEASE:

BILL O'REILLY: Directly ahead, the editor of Newsweek calls for an investigation into the Bush administration. He will be here.

8:22PM SEGMENT:

BILL O'REILLY: 'Personal Story' segment tonight. The editor of Newsweek magazine, Jon Meacham, won a Pulitzer Prize last week for his book 'American Lion: Andrew Jackson and the White House' and it was a big best-seller. Mr. Meacham's also calling for an investigation into CIA interrogation techniques and here he is. So here's my idea, why don't we put Andrew Jackson on trial, okay? Andrew Jackson, human rights violations against Native Americans no doubt.

JON MEACHAM: Unquestionably.

O'REILLY: Okay. Had 150 slaves, human rights. What don't we have a -- let's try every president, alright, for human rights violations. Let's put them all on trial and send a message to the world, Jon, that these aren't our values. Go ahead.

MEACHAM: Well, let's start with Jackson. Jackson has been on trial, before the bar of history, and he always will be. And the question is whether because he's a human being, like the rest of us, do his vices outweigh his virtues? And in the end, my view, is that as president, because of what he did, because he took the people and made them central. Because he defended the country at a time of threat of disunion, that his virtues do outweigh his vices.

O'REILLY: And he's on the $20 bill, right?

MEACHAM: He's on the $20 bill.

O'REILLY: And you got plenty of 20s for selling this book. So, you say-

MEACHAM: Not as many-

O'REILLY: No, not as many as me. Nobody does. Don't compare yourself to me, you'll always sad.

MEACHAM: I know, it is.

O'REILLY: Look, I liked your book and I think you did a fair assessment of Jackson and you deserve the prize, in my opinion. But this pinhead stuff that you guys are peddling at Newsweek is ridiculous. Now, let me tell you why. Because, as you said, every president in a time of leadership, particularly in a time of war, and Jackson fought two of them, the Indian War and the War of 1812. There are going to be mistakes made. And you say that Jackson's good over-rode the bad. Well, I don't think we've been attacked since 9/11, you know? I don't think any other Americans are dead. So I don't want any show trial that is going to inevitably embarrass this country and inevitably make people who defended us, make their lives harder. And I'm right and you're wrong. Go ahead.

MEACHAM: Did the -- did the 9/11 Commission embarrass the country?

O'REILLY: Did it do anything? Did the -- did the Iraq commission do -- you know what the Iraq commission came back with?

MEACHAM: No, that's not what I asked you. Did the 9/11-

O'REILLY: No, that was just the same thing as you're calling for. The Iraq commission came back and said 'surrender,' okay? And Bush and Petraeus said 'no, we're not going to do that' and they turned it around. It doesn't do us any good now, Jon. Go ahead.

MEACHAM: That's ahistorical, though, Bill, and I know you don't believe in being ahistorical. What I want to know -- and we were calling it a 9/12 Commission -- I want to look at the whole war on terror. We're winning the war on terror because, as you say, we haven't been hit. How did that happen? What should we be doing going forward to emulate? Was it the attacks -- the unmanned drones? Is it the surveillance? Is it rendition?

O'REILLY: Well, how do you do that?

MEACHAM: Well, I think you do it the way you did the 9/12 -- the 9/11 Commission. And you get people, you immunize them. You don't do it in public, I don't think you have a show trial.

O'REILLY: But it leaks out and you know it will.

MEACHAM: But 9/11 Didn't.

O'REILLY: Yeah it did. There was a whole bunch stuff that came to me and I used some of it?

MEACHAM: No, but we learned -- we learned from that report. Why are you against wanting to know what worked?

O'REILLY: Because it's too soon, that's why. We're in the middle of this thing now. It's too soon. It's politicized. You know it's politicized. You -- if you don't -- look, come on.

MEACHAM: We did Pearl Harbor-

O'REILLY: What did you think of that cartoon with the Statue of Liberty with the whip? Did you like that? Was that good?

MEACHAM: I'm not going to comment on somebody else's editorial decision.

O'REILLY: Why not? Why not?

MEACHAM: I'm just not going to comment on that.

O'REILLY: Why?

MEACHAM: Because they make-

O'REILLY: You're an American. Forget you're editor of Newsweek, you're an American. You see this thing, what do you think? You think this is fair?

MEACHAM: You don't often see those two things together.

O'REILLY: Yeah, do you think this is fair? Do you think that's good for the country? Are you looking forward to putting those pictures coming out next week in Newsweek magazine, of abusing the prisoners, you looking forward to doing that?

MEACHAM: What I'm looking forward to is trying to get, what I think would be, a useful commission to look at how we're winning, winning, the war on terror. And I don't think that's-

O'REILLY: I don't think it's possible. I don't think it's possible in this day and age, as polarized as this country is, to do something like that. If I thought it were possible I would be on your train but it isn't. And it's too soon. You know, I'm not, see I'm -- look, you're a Pulitzer Prize winner now, you're the editor of a big magazine, you know? And you won't comment on that -- on that Statue of Liberty with a whip? Come on, you're an American, too. You know, I'm fighting the battle here alone. It's me and the Wall Street Journal, and couple of other guys on Fox, against a juggernaut of media apathy that you're a part of at Newsweek magazine, with all due respect.

MEACHAM: Well I -- obviously I disagree with that.

O'REILLY: What, you're a not a left-wing magazine?

MEACHAM: We -- we've had this conversation.

O'REILLY: And, yeah?

MEACHAM: No, I don't -- We're not a partisan magazine. We're just not.

O'REILLY: Come on.

MEACHAM: We're not. We try to be provocative. We try to break news. We try to contribute to the conversation. You can decide whether we do or not. But, what I do think we have added to, and I hope we do all the time, is what can we learn to keep us safe? I think we're on board with that, I think all of us agree with that. And I just don't understand the argument that you don't want to at least attempt to find a way, and the White House is with you, by the way, they don't want to look back either on this, but what's the case against looking back to figure out what works and what doesn't?

O'REILLY: If it wasn't -- if it wasn't a vengeance play, I would be for it.

MEACHAM: But I'm not vengeful. Do I look vengeful?

O'REILLY: But you're not in charge, okay?

MEACHAM: Well, that's true.

O'REILLY: You're not in charge. I got to call you out of one more thing. Put this Mel Gibson thing up here, this was nasty. I don't know why you guys do this. Throw it up there. This is the Mel Gibson quote about Malachi, you know, because he is getting divorced.

[ON-SCREEN NEWSWEEK QUOTE: "There has been the usual, unsubstantiated speculation about another woman. We, however, would like to mention another man, a guy named Malachi. As in Malachi 2:15-17, the verses in the Bible that say: 'For I hate divorce!' says the Lord...Good thing Gibson doesn't take the Bible literally or anything."]

O'REILLY: You know, why do you want to do this and kick Gibson when he's having difficulty in his marriage. Why do you want to do that?

MEACHAM: This is the Bible being literally?

O'REILLY: Yeah.

MEACHAM: The -- Gibson's a literalist, he's a conservative. And he was part of the popular culture, he put himself out there. So we-

O'REILLY: Sean Penn has had recent marital trouble, I didn't see that on Sean.

MEACHAM: I will look into Mr. Penn.

O'REILLY: Don't you think that's a little unfair, Jon?

MEACHAM: No, I don't.

O'REILLY: Really, you think kicking Gibson when he's down having marital problems is okay, using a Bible verse because he's a religious guy?

MEACHAM: It's not because he's a religious guy. I'm a religious guy and so are you. That's different.

O'REILLY: Well, why did you do it?

MEACHAM: We did it because he made a big point, and a hugely important movie, controversial movie, in which he took a literal reading of the gospels, contentious passages that a lot of Jewish Americans, a lot of other Americans-

O'REILLY: So this is payback?

MEACHAM: Payback? It's -- it's commentary. It's life in the arena.

O'REILLY: It's payback.

MEACHAM: It's life in the arena.

O'REILLY: Alright, Jon. I recommend the book 'American Lion.' It almost sold as many copies as 'Bold Fresh,' not quite, but almost. I didn't get the Pulitzer, Meacham did, and I'm glad he got it. Thanks for coming in and taking the fire.

MEACHAM: Thanks.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC