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Franken v. O'Reilly
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On C-Span this weekend, I watched Al Franken and O'Reilly go at it like rabid dogs at a luncheon from the L.A. Book Expo.

Molly Ivins was thrown into the mix, too, with Pat Schroeder "moderating".

Basically, they were all there to peddle their new books. O'Reilly's is called Who's Looking Out For You?, Ivins' is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, and Franken's is Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them.

So apparently it was unveiled at the event that the cover of Franken's book sported a picture of Bill O'Reilly (along with a few other people). O'Reilly was not pleased.

Each author was supposed to speak for about 15 minutes, and then the floor was supposed to be opened to questions. Franken went on well past his allotted time, and wrapped up with what was meant to be an example of the egregious lies that the Right spouts.

So he tells this story about how in an interview with O'Reilly, the interviewer asked him about his work on the show Inside Edition and pressed him on how it was a tabloid show. O'Reilly apparently retorted that the show had won two Peabody awards, which are prestigious journalism awards. Actually, they won two Polk awards, another award that's less well known, but also fairly prestigious. Here's the take from the FAIR website:

In February, O'Reilly gave a speech seemingly taking credit for winning a coveted Peabody award while an anchor at the tabloid TV show Inside Edition. After comedian Al Franken pointed out that the show never won a Peabody, O'Reilly retorted, in Mamet-esque syntax (O'Reilly Factor, 3/13/01): "Guy says about me, couple of weeks ago, 'O'Reilly said he won a Peabody Award.' Never said it. You can't find a transcript where I said it."

But on his May 19, 2000 broadcast, he repeatedly told a guest who brought up his tabloid past: "We won Peabody Awards. . . . We won Peabody awards. . . . A program that wins a Peabody Award, the highest award in journalism, and you're going to denigrate it?" (Inside Edition won a Polk Award, not the better-known Peabody, for reporting that was done after O'Reilly left the show--Washington Post, 3/1/01.)

I don't know if O'Reilly was intentionally trying to take credit for an award he didn't win, or whether he got them mixed up, or what. But honestly, if this is an example of the "Big Lies" the Right spouts, Al Franken needs to get a friggin' life. It's petty and pathetic.

Franken also pointed to O'Reilly's lies about his past. Again, from FAIR:

In March, editor Michael Kinsley infuriated O'Reilly by suggesting the Fox host's background was less proletarian than he lets on (Washington Post, 3/1/01). O'Reilly makes much of his "working class" upbringing in Levittown, Long Island. His book's dust-jacket bio begins: "Bill O'Reilly rose from humble beginnings to become a nationally known broadcast journalist," and O'Reilly says his father, who retired in 1978, "never earned more than $35,000 a year in his life."

But O'Reilly's mother told a reporter her son actually grew up in Westbury, Long Island, a "middle-class suburb a few miles from Levittown," where he attended a private school (Washington Post, 12/13/00). His father's $35,000 income in 1978 is equivalent to over $90,000 today in inflation-adjusted dollars.

This doesn't seem like Vanilla Ice-style background deflation, and maybe O'Reilly overplays the "I'm from a humble background", but again...isn't this petty, nitpicky bullshit?

I despise lies and obfuscation, but if the guy's been on TV for years, on an almost daily basis, and these are the best lies you can catch him in, you need to get a damn life.

Hint: Rigging up a car to explode to show how unsafe it is, a big lie. Saying your family was lower-middle class when they were really upper-middle class, not a big lie.

So O'Reilly was given a chance to respond to Franken's comments, and as soon as he started talking, Franken interrupted him. So O'Reilly said: "Just shut up, Al. You were supposed to speak for 15 minutes, you took 35."

So they went at it a while, again, like rabid dogs.

I've seen Al Franken for years on Saturday Night Live, Politically Incorrect, and other shows, and generally thought him funny. But a lot of these people, on both sides of the political fence, want to have it both ways. They want to be considered "entertainers" so that they can say anything and get away with it, and not necessarily be held to a rigid journalistic standard. But they also want to be taken seriously.

Anyway, after a bunch of fighting, the final question from the audience was something like: "Do any of you feel a particular obligation to bring people together, instead of sowing more political divisiveness?"

They all basically answered "No".

Warms the cockles, doesn't it? I know there has always been partisanship and bickering, but it seems particularly bad right now. And it also seems like we have more personalities ala Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken, Bill O'Reilly and Ariana Huffington, Sean Hannity and Michael Moore, that popularize the polarization more than ever before.

And that's not a good thing.

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