Lawrence O'Donnell: Bill O'Reilly is 'Bullying Nuts' and 'Freaks' Like Palin 'Off GOP Stage'

March 29th, 2011 10:42 PM

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday cherry-picked an "O'Reilly Factor" segment to drum up a feud between Fox News's top prime time host and the former Alaska governor.

Five sentences about Sarah Palin pulled from a six and a half minute segment ridiculing President Obama for not scheduling Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates as guests on last weekend's "Fox News Sunday" led "The Last Word" host to conclude that O'Reilly is now assuming a role in Republican politics "bullying the nuts off the stage to make room for viable candidates" (videos follow with transcripts and commentary):

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Sarah Palin’s slide off the Republican a-list continues this week with her Fox News boss taking a swipe at her even going as far as to compare her to President Obama.


BILL O’REILLY: The same thing's happening to Sarah Palin. Her favorability among Republicans and Independents has dropped four points in a month. And the reason I think it's dropping is because she's not engaging directly. You know, when I had her on this program, I asked her some specific answer -- questions she didn't want to answer. She wanted to the give a speech, this, that, and the other thing.


O’DONNELL: Bill O’Reilly, the communicator-in-chief at Fox News also found fault with Tea Party Republican Christine O’Donnell when she ran for the senate in Delaware. So O'Reilly has found, has O’Reilly found his calling in Republican politics, bullying the nuts off the stage to make room for viable candidates? Joining me now is Alex Wagner, Huffington Post correspondent and MSNBC analyst. Alex, thanks for joining us tonight.

ALEX WAGNER, HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.

O’DONNELL: I think this O’Reilly thing is serious business the way he talked about Sarah Palin. I don't think he would have done that a while ago. She’s a very valuable asset, or has been considered such for Fox News, but O'Reilly is a much more valuable asset for Fox News, and he seems to be saying, “Don't pay attention to the freaks.” I think he wants people to concentrate on real viable Republicans.

What was interesting is that nowhere in this four minute segment did O'Donnell mention what the context of O'Reilly's comment about Palin was.

As NewsBusters previously reported, despite Clinton and Gates going on ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation," and NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday to discuss the events in Libya, they were not offered to appear on Fox's political talk show. This led "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace to scold the administration for this oversight.

On Monday, O'Reilly brought former CBS reporter Bernie Goldberg on to discuss the matter during which came the five sentences about Palin.

O'Donnell chose not to inform his viewers Tuesday what O'Reilly and Goldberg were actually talking about, and neither did his guest. This was particularly curious as the outlet Wagner works for, the Huffington Post, did a piece Tuesday concerning this matter wherein the author at least had the decency to report the full context of the Palin snippet:

O'Reilly brought Palin up while discussing the recent flap over the White House's decision not to send Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates onto "Fox News Sunday," even though the Secretaries of State and Defense went on "Meet the Press," "This Week" and "Face the Nation." Host Chris Wallace brought the issue up on air, criticizing the White House for its decision.

Speaking to weekly guest Bernie Goldberg, O'Reilly said that the decision by the White House not to go on Fox made no sense to him.

"I can't really figure this out," he said. "The Fox audience is divided on the Libyan action. There isn't any anti-Obama juggernaut on this network...I don't get why they want to stoke this up."

Goldberg said that he thought the move would hurt Obama politically with independents, because they would see him as ducking critical questions.

That's when O'Reilly brought Palin up.

As such, the organization Wagner now works for was far more honest with its readers than she or O'Donnell were with his viewers.

After some give and take, "The Last Word" host offered another tenuous premise:

O’DONNELL: Isn't it proof that O’Reilly is the absolute king of her Fox News world, that she has not immediately tweeted some sort of attack of Bill O’Reilly for slighting her in any way? If anyone else had said that, there would be the Palin attack machine would immediately react.

Or, the fact that Palin hasn’t responded means that she didn’t take these five sentences by O’Reilly in a lengthy segment ridiculing the President as being much of a slight on her or anything warranting her attention.

Sadly, the conspiracy-minded O'Donnell and Wagner didn’t consider that possibility.

For those interested, here's the full video and transcript of O'Reilly's discussion with Goldberg Monday evening:

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the "Weekdays with Bernie" segment tonight, yesterday Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates went on ABC, CBS, and NBC talking about Libya. They avoided "FOX News Sunday." Chris Wallace was not pleased.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The Obama team felt no need to explain to the millions of you who watch this program and FOX News why they have sent U.S. servicemen and -women into combat. We thought you'd like to know.


O'REILLY: Joining us now from Miami, the purveyor of, Mr. Goldberg.

So, was it was a big dis, disrespectful to FOX News?

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I wouldn't choose the word "disrespectful." I would say it was -- "dumb" is a better word. I think it was a dumb decision not to -- not to go on FOX.

First of all, if -- and I'm underlining the word "if" -- if this was an honest decision to simply go with the more traditional media, the White House has to understand that this is the 21st century, and there's a lot more out there than just ABC, NBC, and CBS. FOX matters, and it matters a lot. That's why I don't think it was that.

I think the war between the White House and FOX is continuing. I -- I don't think -- I think it cooled down for a while, but it never went away.

The idea that these smart people -- and I'm not saying that sarcastically -- smart people at the White House either don't understand or refuse to understand the distinction between partisan anchors, in some cases rabidly partisan anchors, on FOX and a straight shooter, hard news solid journalist like Chris Wallace is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, to not understand that distinction is really dumb.

O'REILLY: Well, Ted Koppel -- Ted Koppel was on CNN yesterday and didn't seem to understand it either.

But to be fair to the Obama White House, they didn't do CNN. CNN has a bunch of morning shows, Sunday morning shows. I think they hid behind the fact that, well, we didn't do cable. We just did broadcast. But as you pointed out, "FOX News Sunday" is on broadcast.

GOLDBERG: FOX is on -- FOX is on the broadcast network, right.

O'REILLY: I can't really figure this out, because -- here's why I can't figure it out. The FOX audience is divided on the Libyan action. They're divided on it. polling, FOX News polling, very close. There isn't any anti-Obama juggernaut on this network.


O'REILLY: Some of us, like me, support the action. Some others don't. But it's evenly divided. So I don't -- I don't get why they want to stoke this up.

GOLDBERG: Neither do I. But from a -- I'll say this, from a political point of view, it doesn't make any sense.

Barack Obama is going to need the independents that he lost in 2010. A lot of independents watch the FOX News Channel. Barack Obama won't win any Republicans who watch FOX, but he has a shot at some of those independents.

But when he disrespects, to use the word that you used in the lead-in, of FOX News, and more importantly, when he disrespects the viewers, who hear Chris say what he said about the White House or -- and the administration, and what he correctly said, I don't think that endears the independents to Barack Obama in 2012.


GOLDBERG: So, politically, I don't think it's a smart move.

O'REILLY: You know, it's interesting, because I just did this in the no-spin news we have for premium members after the program, the no-spin news that I don't cover.

The same thing's happening to Sarah Palin. Her favorability among Republicans and independents has dropped 4 points in a month. And the reason I think it's dropping is because she's not engaging directly. You know, when I had her on this program, I asked her some specific answer -- questions she didn't want to answer, and she wanted to the give a speech, this, that, and the other thing.


O'REILLY: So I think you're absolutely right that Barack Obama, if he looks like he doesn't want to go into the tougher venues -- and I don't think Wallace would be any tougher than the other guys -- that people are going to say, "Look, you're not confident in your position." That's not leadership.

GOLDBERG: I rest my case, your honor.

O'REILLY: All right. So what you're saying to the audience is I summed it up so beautifully that you're at a loss for words?

GOLDBERG: Something like that.