Bob Schieffer's Faulty Memory On Assaulting Ollie North With 26 Questions About Lying

November 7th, 2014 8:54 AM

CBS Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer granted The Hollywood Reporter an interview to mark the 60th anniversary of that program, which first aired on November 7, 1954. Asked at the end about retiring, Schieffer said at 77, he doesn’t think about it: “My wife keeps an eye on me. She says, ‘When you start drooling, then it will be time to go.’”

But Schieffer has clearly forgotten the content of his program-length attack on conservative Oliver North 20 years ago, when he was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Virginia. He suggested North was not a “professional” in his taking umbrage at the barrage:

Did anyone ever walk out on you?

No, but years ago Oliver North almost did. When he decided to run for the Senate, he came in here to be interviewed. I was asking him about Iran-Contra. He has said he was under oath when he said something. And I said something like, "Well you're not under oath now. I take it that you're telling the truth?" I must say he was the only one who didn't shake hands when he left. He just up and stormed off. Most of the time, they might be mad, but most of them are professionals.

From the February 1994 edition of our newsletter MediaWatch, we can revisit the scene of the bullying:

Oliver North brings out the anger in the national press. CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer reflected the media's bloodlust in a hostile January 30 interview. In just 17 minutes, Schieffer asked the just-announced U.S. Senate candidate 26 questions about lying.

He badgered North: "How can I know when you are telling the truth? You said that I told the truth once I took the oath [before Congress]. Is a person allowed not to tell the truth when he's not under oath?....What's the criteria to know that Oliver North is telling the truth?....Only under oath or all the time?"

Schieffer switched topics, only to ask North 11 questions about one sentence in one of North's fundraising letters. After quoting the sentence, "An arrogant army of ultrafeminists opposed to traditional family values has captured the political process," Schieffer asked incredulously, "Do you believe that? I mean, should we take that literally?"

Schieffer then announced he was shifting the discussion to Russian aid, but asked: "Let's suppose the Congress says no. Do you think the President would then be justified to have someone on his staff try to assemble a team to figure out how to go around the Congress, because that's what you did as a member of President Reagan's staff."

Despite this shamelessly belligerent performance – never matched in Schieffer’s interviews with Bill Clinton or other truth-mangling Democrats – Schieffer claimed there are no “gotcha” interviews or “anchor antics” on Sunday shows: "The Sunday shows are different than any other time period on television because we're still trying to advance a story. We're not about the gotcha question. We're not about anchor antics. We're not about bells and whistles. We're just trying to find a new lead to the story."

Try and find one instance on Sunday where Schieffer asks Obama about lying about keeping your plan under Obamacare, or any of Obama's other lies.

Like a good corporate soldier, in a Friday appearance on CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose gushed all over Schieffer and his high standards of journalism: “Bob, there's a reason that you're number one. And when anybody sits in that chair as Norah and I have, you're aware of the standards you have set, and they're very high, and we congratulate you on those many years that you've sat in the chair.”

Like any “objective” journalist of the liberal persuasion, Schieffer lamented to The Hollywood Reporter over the current “golf course” of news, with the “validation channels” of cable TV, as if CBS never validated liberals as they eagerly bashed away at Nixon or Reagan or the Bushes:

People, while they didn't always agree with the editorials in the paper, they generally took it that the things that were on the front page or the network newscasts, that they were true, that reporters had gone to some trouble to check it out. And so they based their opinions on common facts. That's no longer the case because now you can get the news served up from any political slant you want. You have what I call validation channels, where you turn on this channel because you agree with their point of view. I think that's one of the reasons for the great partisan divide in the country. And I think the greatest challenge for us is to try and fight and claw and dig our way through this huge [amount] of information.

Do you think cable news, the validation channels, have been bad for political discourse?

I think an informed person today cannot rely on one source for news. It's almost like it was in Abraham Lincoln's time where there was no such thing as objectivity. You had to read a variety of publications to come to some understanding about what was going on. It's an evolution. But I don't think it's going to change very much. It's the golf course we play on now.

When asked about the low point of his career, Schieffer avoided the obvious gotcha question: how Dan Rather destroyed the CBS News brand by accepted badly forged copies to go after George W. Bush in 2004. Schieffer picked up the pieces and became Rather’s successor. Too bad there weren’t 26 questions about that.

PS: Schieffer thought Maya Angelou was one of the “sexiest old women”? Asked about favorite guests, he said:

But we had Maya Angelou on one Sunday. Of course I knew who she was and admired her and read her books and all that. But she was just the sweetest, most delightful, and if I may say it, one of the sexiest old women I have ever encountered. We just had a great time. She was just an amazing woman. I was just blown away by her.