Former Clinton operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Thursday’s O’Reilly Factor and received a declaration from Bill O'Reilly that, while obvious, probably wasn’t very welcome: "...You're a Democrat. I'm an Independent." This assertion resulted in no audible or visual protestations from Stephanopoulos.
And although the comment is demonstrably true, one might think that a supposedly independent, neutral journalist would fight back or claim to have put such partisan beliefs aside when he became a journalist. Stephanopoulos didn’t. The This Week host was appearing to discuss Barack Obama’s speech to Congress about health care and how the President has handled the issue.
On the show, Stephanopoulos repeatedly played the role of defense attorney for the President. After O’Reilly chided Obama’s handling of health care throughout the last few months, the ABC anchor retorted, "Well, I think he's [Obama] mad about some of the illegitimate criticisms that have been made." The O’Reilly Factor repeated his critique and Stephanopoulos, who once worked on Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential bid, complained, "You can't blame someone for when lies are told about his plan."
As a preface to a discussion of whether or not the Commander in Chief will be able to able to keep the health care bill from increasing the debt by only cutting waste and fraud, O’Reilly began: "Here's what Stephanopoulos and O'Reilly know. Okay, and we're coming at it, because you're a Democrat. I'm an Independent." Either Stephanopoulos had no response for this or he thought none was necessary.
A transcript of the September 10 segment, which aired at 8:02pm EDT, follows:
BILL O’REILLY: And now the lead story tonight, post Obama speech reaction. Here's what was said on ABC's "Nightline" last night.
GEORGE: STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was the most emotional I've ever seen President Obama in a major speech. His anger at the tone and tactics of his opponents was very palpable tonight. And he even seemed to get caught up in the emotion of the moment towards the end of the speech.
O'REILLY: Joining us now from D.C. is ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, host of "This Week" on Sunday. Okay.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Bill.
O'REILLY: So why would Obama be angry with people who oppose his vision because, number one, he can't explain it, has not explained it still specifically. And, number two, there are a lot of legitimate points that people have to say look, we don't want a big government colossus running this. It might bankrupt the country. So why would he be mad? I could see why he disagree. Why would he be angry?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think he's mad about some of the illegitimate criticisms that have been made. And he really addressed those right in the middle of the speech last night, when he took on the claims of death panels, and whether his plan would serve illegal immigrants, and whether it would require a government takeover. He was clearly very angry about that. I also think, Bill, that his anger was somewhat tactical. I mean, I think he's very passionate about this issue. And it was sincere, but I also think it served the purpose of rallying and unifying the Democratic base, getting them revved up.
O'REILLY: Yeah, maybe. But I don't think he's got a legitimate beef about the anger. Look, if somebody lies about Obama's health care plan, the President can come on this program and come on your program. He can send his acolytes out. And they can correct the record right away. So he-
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they didn't do good enough job of doing that. I think that's right. They didn't do a good enough job.
O'REILLY: He did a terrible job of doing it. He did an awful job of doing it. It's his fault. He couldn't explain it after, what, 39 speeches?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You can't blame someone for when lies are told about his plan. You can say he could have been more effective. But, I think he has a right to take on his critics in a pretty tough and a pretty forceful way. And he clearly did that last night. But I do also take your point. Now the President did have a bit of a concession last night when he said that confusion has reigned in this debate. And he should bear some of the responsibility for that.
O'REILLY: No, no, all of the responsibility, not some of the responsibility. Look, President Obama is the leader of the country, okay? He has a grand vision for improving Americans health care. He believes that vision is correct. I respect all of that. I respect his office. I respect his passion. And I respect the fact that he wants to improve health care for all Americans. What I do not respect is him blaming his critics when it's his fault. He could come on this program as I just said. He can come on your program. He can hold up a chart. And he can say this is what we want to do. He hasn't done it. He's given speech after speech after speech. And I don't know what he's talking about.
O'REILLY: And last night, I knew what he was talking about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's what I was just going to get to.
O'REILLY: -but he's still dodging the two questions that I cited. One is cost. Look, George, you don't believe for a minute sitting there in D.C. that waste and fraud efficiency's going to pay for this. You don't believe that for a second, do you?
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no. No, but, let's look at the other side.
O'REILLY: What other side? He said it's going to pay. You don't believe it. I don't believe it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President said if the savings that he's calling for don't materialize by 2012, he's going to impose this trigger. He's going to be required to come up with more savings or to scale back.
O'REILLY: But he didn't say how.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean, and you're right. We're going to have to check the details on how this proposal is constructed. But I think it's going to be essentially -- the second thing, and this is a more technical point, but I think it's important. There is a real dispute over whether or not the kinds of programs the President is calling for on urging more prevention, on having more electronic health records, whether they will save more than the current score keepers like the Congressional Budget Office.
O'REILLY: But nobody knows.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no, I was just going to say that. I think that's right. We don't know.
O'REILLY: Nobody knows.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -but we don't know that it's not true either.
O'REILLY: Okay, we can't guarantee though.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The other numbers are going to be true.
O'REILLY: Here's what Stephanopoulos and O'Reilly know. Okay, and we're coming at it, because you're a Democrat. I'm an Independent. We both don't believe that the President can pay for this by cleaning up waste and fraud. That is not going to happen. And the second thing is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there's a lot of waste and fraud in the system, but that's not enough to get to where he wants to go.
O'REILLY: If you put 40 million new people on the insurance rolls, you don't have enough doctors and nurses to care for them. You don't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know that.
O'REILLY: So that means health care rationing kicks in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our medical editor- Well, you have rationing now. The insurance companies as you pointed out, and I think that was one of the most effective parts of the president's speech last night when he talked about the kinds of abuses that people are visited with by insurance companies. I think that was important. Our own medical editor Tim Johnson agrees with you on this need to make sure that we have more incentives for doctors and nurses to go out there in the country that we offer more funds for training. Because if we do expand the number of people who are covered, we're going to need more doctors and nurses.
O'REILLY: Yeah, there's no way they can do it now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no question about that.
O'REILLY: There's no way they can - they can't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I think you can't deny that rationing happens every single day in America right now.
O'REILLY: But George, let me get this straight. It's going to get worse for everybody. It's doesn't happen to me, but it will.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's an open question. I'm not sure about that.
O'REILLY: My doctor is overworked now. My doctor is like this. You know, it is going to get worse because it has to. 40 million new patients, no more new doctors and nurses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You and I agree, more doctors, more nurses.