What the Obama/O’Reilly interview says about the media

What the Obama/O’Reilly interview says about the media

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WASHINGTON, February 11, 2014 –  Bill O’Reilly conducted a two-part interview of President Barack Obama. The interview aired on Fox News the day of and after the Super Bowl. 


One section of the exchange involves some particularly intriguing back and forth between Mr. O’Reilly and President Obama. It stands out as extraordinary and telling. Here is the excerpt from the Fox transcript.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP]: But these are unanswered questions —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, but-but-but they’re defined by you guys in a certain way. But this — look, this is okay. This-this is …

O’REILLY [OVERLAP]: Do you not …

PRESIDENT OBAMA: If you want to — if you want to be President of the United States, then you know that you’re going to be subject to criticism, and …

O’REILLY: But if it’s unfair, I-I want to know if it’s unfair. Is it un — criticism is criticism. It’s my job to give you a hard time.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP]: Here — here — here’s what I would say. I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, uh, it has, uh, it has made Fox News very successful.”

That was the President of the United States blaming Fox News for all of the current scandals he is facing. The president, the leader of the free world, has just called Fox News “unfair” and blamed them for the criticism he has faced.

There is an old saying, “It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.” Well, it’s a poor president who blames the media.

Fox News is doing their job. It is impossible to get the entire story from one news source, whether that source is Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN. Fox is often as subtle as a bag of hammers, and sometimes it is painful to watch them. However, they offer the only conservative viewpoint in a medium that otherwise consists of CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and CBS. They pursue stories that the others won’t and ask for accountability where the others won’t.

Think of the implications of Obama’s comment, and his attitude in the interview. There was no winner here, because neither of them weighed in. O’Reilly lobbed softballs at the president, who answered predictably, but at the same time he revealed his real attitude towards the news media.

Obama wants the media to be team players with the White House. He expects them to be nice, polite, and non-confrontational. He thinks his agenda should be theirs. He wants them on his team. He’s like a quarterback who expects the opposing defensive line not to tackle or block him, and in fact to cheer him on as he runs for a touchdown. It is stupid on its face.

The media are called America’s “Fourth Estate,” an informal societal institution that should offset the power of the formal institutions of government. Freedom of speech in this country should guarantee its power as a check on the government. The media should be the watchdogs of democracy — loud, obnoxious, unwilling to lick the hand of government that comes like a thief in the night to steal liberty.  They are supposed to call out the corrupt, to shed light on the dirty secrets of our politicians, and to grab their closets and shake until all of their skeletons come out.

When George W. Bush was in office, Fox News sometimes acted more like cheerleader than watchdog, recalling their job as watchdogs when the 2008 elections arrived. NBC, CNN, and ABC did what they were supposed to do, demanding that he be accountable for his performance at home and abroad. But Bush Jr. never once blamed a news agency for his troubles. He might have wished they were supportive, but he never expected it and never blamed them for doing their job.

With Obama in office, the world has flipped. Fox News is now in the role of antagonist, while NBC, ABC, and CNN sit take their marching orders form Obama. They defend him, they take talking points from him, and they have the nerve to call Fox imbalanced and biased. In the media echo chamber, the liberal media try their best to drown out conservative voices.

How is it, then, that Fox News has on its own beset the President of the United States with scandal, and by itself dragged his poll numbers so low? On its own, it has not. Fox’s ratings are stellar, and only climbing higher. But when the President of the United States singles out one TV news network as the cause of his problems, he highlights two things: that he is a failure, and that the offending channel is the only one doing its job.

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