CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, the only Big Three network reporter who's been regularly covering the "Fast and Furious" controversy, appeared on Thursday's O'Reilly Factor, throwing cold water on an earlier report that she was "unavailable" for further interviews on the story. Attkisson emphasized that there was a lot more to the issue than what has already reported, but "we need to get more confirmation."
The Fox News host pressed the journalist on her revelation from Tuesday's Laura Ingraham Show, that associate White House communications director Eric Schultz "screamed and cussed" at her for her reporting on the controversy. Attkisson would only state that "the conversation, as you reported it, was accurate," and later added that "the point is really not the content of that. The point is, story-wise, it seems significant and important how people handle questions, and how they react when you ask questions" [video clips available below the jump]
The CBS journalist also revealed that there was more depth to the issue than meets the eye:
ATTKISSON: Well, I would say there have been some pretty incredible developments in the past week. Also, documents- we haven't even had time to report on all of them. There are very sensitive documents and allegations going around. Many of them we haven't reported yet because we need to get more confirmation of them. But what you see on the surface, that we do report in our stories, is really only a part of what may be going on, and we may be reporting in the future when we can get confirmation.
Towards the end of the interview, Attkisson noted that she had requested to interview Attorney General Eric Holder on the issue many months ago, and had repeated that request earlier in the day, but had yet to hear back from the top official.
The full transcript of Bill O'Reilly's interview of CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, which began 12 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour of Thursday's O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel:
BILL O'REILLY: 'Factor Follow Up' segment tonight- as we reported last night, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has uncovered some Justice Department memos that show Attorney General [Eric] Holder knew about the 'Fast and Furious' gun sting long before he said he did.
Ms. Attkisson joins us now from Washington. So let's just walk through this, so even I can understand. When you found these memos, then you called the White House for comment, as any reporter would, and some guy actually yelled at you? Is that what happened?
SHARYL ATTKISSON, CBS NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, it was during reporting on some of these documents, not those particular ones, and we had a conversation which, you well know about and have reported on and has been duly noted. And, ever since- and I have been moving on and trying to work on the next developments in the case. There have been quite a few-
O'REILLY: Okay. But let's not try to get away from this too quickly, Sharyl. (laughs) [White House Associate Communications Director] Eric Schultz is hired by the White House to handle this story, the 'Fast and Furious' story. So you call Eric up and you say that he was hostile? Was he hostile?
ATTKISSON: Well, I don't want to say exactly how the whole thing took place, because part of that is how we work together, in sharing information since the story began. There are assigned people in various part- sides of the story, to deal with the media, I do want to say that the conversation, as you reported it, was accurate and-
O'REILLY: Did he curse at you?
ATTKISSON: As you reported, that's accurate, and I think-
O'REILLY: Well, wait wait, wait, wait, wait. Now, I have had that happen to me, and you wouldn't- anybody would curse at me- I mean, come on. You get a promotion doing that. But you're a nice person. I mean, you're just somebody who's trying to get the story. Why would this guy curse at you? What led him to do that?
ATTKISSON: In the course of covering these kinds of stories, as you know, you get into a lot of difficult moments with people that you talk to, and they probably don't think you're as nice as you think I am, Mr. O'Reilly. But when you talk to them-
O'REILLY: No- well, you know what I'm talking about here. It usually lights a fuse- particularly if somebody like that- at that level, the White House level, did actually curse at a reporter, a CBS News correspondent- that's not something that happens every day, Sharyl. So what do you think lit that fuse?
ATTKISSON: Well, I would say there have been some pretty incredible developments in the past week. Also, documents- we haven't even had time to report on all of them. There are very sensitive documents and allegations going around. Many of them we haven't reported yet because we need to get more confirmation of them. But what you see on the surface, that we do report in our stories, is really only a part of what may be going on, and we may be reporting in the future when we can get confirmation-
ATTKISSON: And I can only say that this is a very sensitive story that goes into many facets-
ATTKISSON: And there's a lot of sensitivities-
O'REILLY: There's no doubt about it- particularly because today, President Obama stuck up for Holder and said- look, Holder didn't mislead anybody before Congress- whatever. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm speculating, based on your reporting- something that makes me uncomfortable- but you're in the field and I'm here in the studio. It looks to me like Eric Holder, the attorney general, did know about this 'Fast and Furious' operation, that led to the death of a Border Patrol agent, long before he told Congress he knew about it. Would that be accurate, at this point in time, to say?
ATTKISSON: You would be factually correct, and as we have reported, that the attorney general was briefed a long time ago or received briefing memos-
O'REILLY: Okay. So the facts say that he knew-
ATTKISSON: Let me finish that- was briefed on 'Fast and Furious,' not-
O'REILLY: So then he goes up to the Hill, and he tells Darryl Issa, the congressman from California- you know, I just found out about this. I really didn't know. So it looks like Holder is not telling the truth. That's what it looks like. Are there any extenuating circumstances that you have found?
ATTKISSON: None so far, and I've put in a separate query to the Department of Justice, which- we're continuing to report on the story- to ask them to clarify- okay, when is it, if he misunderstood the question-
O'REILLY: Yeah, when was it that he knew about it?
ATTKISSON: When was he did- right-
O'REILLY: And when did you put that request into the DOJ?
ATTKISSON: I put that request in today.
O'REILLY: Okay. Did you put a request to interview Holder?
ATTKISSON: I've repeated that request- I repeated it today, yes.
O'REILLY: How long have you been trying to get him?
ATTKISSON: I believe we asked for our first interview request with him many months ago. I would say February, March-
O'REILLY: Okay. So you have been trying to get him for a long time and he hasn't come up. Now, have you asked Eric Schultz at the White House for an apology? You don't have to take that garbage.
ATTKISSON: Well, there's nothing to apologize for. That's really-
O'REILLY: Well, he cussed at you.
ATTKISSON: That's really- the point is really not the content of that. The point is, story-wise, it seems significant and important how people handle questions, and how they react when you ask questions. It's not that anybody owes somebody an apology, and again-
O'REILLY: All right. Well, I was just-
ATTKISSON: We have moved on to the developments in the next-
O'REILLY: It's a curiosity to me because it is at a high level. Last question: in your opinion- you have been doing this how many years- have you been investigating- how many years?
ATTKISSON: Gosh, a long time.
O'REILLY: Okay. In your opinion, is this a big story or is it just a little story? Is it big? Is it going to lead to, perhaps, a resignation by the attorney general? Is President Obama going to be embarrassed? Is it that big?
ATTKISSON: I have no idea about that. But there's no doubt that what we already know, and what we have already reported on, I think, is incredibly important, and is an incredibly major story that we've only- that we really have a lot more to learn about.
O'REILLY: All right. Sharyl, we appreciate you coming on the program very much. Thank you.