Considering Bill O’Reilly’s Superbowl Interview

Each year, on Super Bowl Sunday, the President grants an interview to the network airing the big game. Since that channel was Fox this year, Bill O’Reilly conducted a 10 minute pre-game interview with the President.

Much like Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck, I’ve never dedicated a lot of time to understanding Bill O’Reilly. He is objectively combative, often arguing with his guests. Those who watch him love this about him, and his critics (me) detest it.

For those who haven’t seen the interview, let me try and summarize it.

O’Reilly begins by saying he wants to get the President “on the record” about a few things. He then asks about the botched healthcare roll out, Benghazi, and an IRS scandal. The President replied by saying they tried to fix the healthcare.gov website as fast as possible, called Benghazi an act of terror the day after the attack, and there is no IRS scandal.

Many commented  on O’Reilly’s interrupting, with one newspaper reporting it happening 42 times in 10  minutes. Many headlines included  President Obama’s criticism that scandals keep arising because Fox keeps bringing them up.

With that summary, I will try to consider the whole interview from the middle.

In days leading up to the interview, O’Reilly said he wanted to be “precise” and ask poignant questions that wouldn’t let the President speak too long. Pundits, especially O’Reilly, do not usually have one-on-one  interviews with the President, so he wanted to keep control of the 10 minutes he had. And yes, our President has been known to struggle with short answers (see the first debate with Mitt Romney). So from O’Reilly’s view, he wanted to keep the President on point. I can sympathize with that.

Now on to the point that O’Reilly was trying to stick to. Not being a regular O’Reilly viewer myself, the questions kind of confused me. Healthcare.gov rolled out 4 months ago, the IRS story broke about 9 months ago, and the embassy in Libya was attacked 17 months ago. Each of these subjects have had their own separate hearings. Why bother talking about them?

First of all, further research proved I was wrong. It seems congress, and particularly House Republicans, are reintroducing the IRS scandal. So that question makes more sense.

As to the other questions, Fox News analyst, Howard Kurtz, hypothesized as to why O’Reilly asked what he did. CNN aired an exclusive interview with President Obama the Thursday and Friday before. This interview was longer, and more in depth. As Kurtz points out, “CNN’s Jake Tapper…asked solid questions but made little news.”

Sensational questions sell. Long interviews do not.

There may be another reason besides ratings why O’Reilly legitimately thinks the President hasn’t discussed the other “scandals” before: O’Reilly might watch Fox News and/or MSNBC.

A new study shows that those who watch Fox News as their primary news source actually know less about national and international events than those who watch no news. MSNBC viewers also knew less than the news-less about international events, although do a little better on national events.

These news stations are fun to watch for us political nerds. However, they not only polarize us, they don’t seem to keep us informed very well, liberal or conservative.

I will say this post was kind of hard. I had to work not to jump down O’Reilly’s throat as he kept interrupting the President. Looking for his point of view took more time than anything else so far. This project of impartiality is way more time consuming than I thought! It began with attempting to watch the interview without bias, and then hours looking for answers to the question “Why did he do that?”

What did you think of the interview? Do you think there is a place for biased news channels in our media?

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