On last night's O'Reilly Factor, Bernard Goldberg, former CBS reporter and author of "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," says the Foley scandal is nothing but an "October surprise." He also says the media ignored a similar story in 1994 about Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds, who "didn't just talk about sex with an underage person, he had sex with a 16-year-old girl."
Giving the opposing viewpoint was Jane Hall, professor of journalism at American University and a dedicated defender of the mainstream media on various Fox News programs.
BILL O'REILLY: I think all fair-minded people agree Foley got what he deserved. He's through; he's finished; he's humiliated; he's not coming back. And absolutely, I think that's the right thing.
Now the story shifts into who was out to get him, and how did they do it? And based on what you've seen so far on the network and cable, how do you think the press is handling it, Bernie?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: Is that me?
GOLDBERG: Me, sorry.
First of all, it's a legitimate story, no question about that. Second of all, I don't think there's any question that liberal reporters will run over their liberal grandmothers to get on the air or the newspaper.
There's no question, Bill, there's no question that when the villain is a Republican, they salivate more. They're more enthusiastic.
And here's a piece of evidence. I think incontrovertible evidence. In 1994, a Democratic congressmen, Mel Reynolds, he didn't just talk about sex with an underage person, he had sex with a 16-year-old girl. She wasn't a page, but he had sex with her, and the girl was going to bring a 15-year-old girl into the mix.
He was sent to prison. He was pardoned by Bill Clinton. He was given a job by Jesse Jackson, and none of this -- none of this, Bill, was big news on the three broadcast networks. Now why is that?
O'REILLY: That's why I love -- right, that's why I love you, Bernie. That's why I love you. Because I went to the Kennedy School with Reynolds, and I had forgotten -- I had forgotten all about that case. You are absolutely right. Go-ahead.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but he's a Democrat, he's a liberal, and forgive the political incorrectness, he's black. And all those things and a liberal media culture matter.
O'REILLY: Jane, Bernie just made the best point, I think, of the evening, and I'm stunned. I didn't even remember, because again, I know Reynolds. The hysteria over Foley -- and again, we all agree Foley got what he deserved and should go to jail if the FBI finds he did anything wrong -- pales with the Reynolds thing. It was a two, three day story, a local story in Chicago but not nationally.
JANE HALL: I don't know. I watch network TV news, and I watched stories about it. I think there's a different issue here. I think that you have Rush Limbaugh already on with Hastert, saying, "I think this is collusion between the media and the Democrats."
John Gibson tonight was talking to people. I think there's a reverse spin that's going on, that the people who are on the conservative side of the media are saying, "Oh, it's the Democrats did it. George Soros did it." Not "let's look at Foley's behavior."
I mean, even the Washington Times called for the resignation of Speaker Hastert.
HALL: And to say the media are doing this -- I mean, you've had Brian Ross on. His reporting has been very fair.
O'REILLY: I'm not -- I don't think anyone's saying the media is driving this story. I want to know who was shopping the e-mails, don't you?
HALL: Well, I would like to know. There are lots of different stories. The Hill newspaper says it was a Republican who gave them the e- mails.
O'REILLY: Yes, well, wouldn't you like to know?
HALL: I would. But I think there's an awful lot of smoke being blown than to try to divert attention from Republican leadership in what they did or did not do.
O'REILLY: I think the investigation should go ahead, and if anybody covered up for Foley, they've got to go. They...
GOLDBERG: Hey, Bill?
O'REILLY: Go ahead.
GOLDBERG: Bill, look, this has become a political story. The sex part of it lasted about 10 minutes. It's now a political story. Every two years we hear about October surprises, and it's usually along the lines of that Usama bin Laden is being hidden in Karl Rove's basement, you know, and he's going to be released just before the election.
Well, this may be a Democratic October surprise. And if it is, and if it isn't, we need to know. That's part of the story.