The second part of the confrontational pre-Super Bowl FOX News interview between Bill O'Reilly and President Barack Obama aired Monday evening, Feb. 3, 2014 during the regularly scheduled The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News. After the network turned towards the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 the cameras kept recording President Obama and O'Reilly for a second half of the interview. A little less combative, but still deeply ideologically divided the two argued over the XL Keystone Pipeline State Department report published on Friday, Jan. 31, the persistent poverty problem in America, and Fox News fairness to the President, and the liberal and conservative divide over "big government" versus "self-reliance." The less sensational interview no longer had to stand out and compete with the Super Bowl, so it became a little more civilized, with less talking over each year and the two even agreed three times, a monumental break through.
O'Reilly started the interview the issue of poverty, specifically the social issues. The Fox host brought up that the average has dropped 17 percent "among working families in this country" and 72 "percent of babies in African American community are born out of wedlock." O'Reilly asked the President what he and First Lady Michelle Obama has done to reduce the number of children born "out of wedlock," which prompted an angry response from Obama; "I'll send you at least 10 speeches that I've made since I've been president talking about the importance of men taking responsibility for their children….So whether it's getting publicity or not is a whole different question."
President Obama wanted to focus on blue collar jobs and jobs training part of his economic opportunity program instead, O'Reilly turned the conversation to a debate over school vouchers; "Why do you oppose school vouchers when it would give poor people a chance to go to better schools?" The interview then descended in the two speaking over each other, with neither able to speak a sentence, finally Obama was able to argue his position against school vouchers, explaining; "it has very limited impact if any… vouchers has not significantly improved the performance of kids that are in these poorest communities." Instead the President said his administration prefers charters; "which within the public school system gives the opportunity for creative experiments by teachers, by principals to-to start schools that have a different approach."
The interview's boiling point came when the Fox News host was blunt with the President asking him; "Do you think I'm being unfair to you, do you think I've been giving you" which a definite yes answer from Obama; "Of course you have, Bill. But, I like you anyway, Bill." Then O'Reilly wanted to gauge the level asking; "give me how I'm unfair" and kept pushing the President, who tried to skillfully evade a response, but then answered; "we've just run through an interview in which you asked about health, uh, health care not working, IRS where-where we, uh, wholly corrupt, Benghazi."
President Obama told O'Reilly; "they're defined by you guys in a certain way" when the Fox host said "these are unanswered questions" Obama admitted that criticism comes with the job position and that it "has made FOX News very successful," and that "I've been a big money-maker for you." O'Reilly in an effort to make controversy, headlines and ratings kept pushing Obama to let him know "if it's unfair." Leading Obama to ask "what are you gonna do when I'm gone?" O'Reilly pointed out that he gave a "real hard time" to both Obama's predecessors, George w. Bush and Bill Clinton.
O'Reilly broached the liberal conservative issue with the Fox host asking Obama if he is "the most liberal President in US History," in which Obama responded that Richard Nixon was more liberal, especially in being a Republican. It was an answer that shocked O'Reilly, who thought the logical response would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Obama added Lyndon B. Johnson, both architects of the welfare state and social programs. The President elaborated; "I tend not to think about these things in terms of liberal and democrat-or liberal and conservative because at any given time, the question is what does the country need right now?... That's not a liberal or conservative agenda."
This lead to a debate about the deficit and welfare state and government "freebies" where Obama and O'Reilly agreed on raising the minimum wage, but not on the "nanny state" and "big government" versus "self-reliance" and with President Obama argued over the importance of post-World War II social programs that helped veterans, with O'Reilly responding that "the work ethic was different then than it is now," prompting an agreement with Obama who said; "We'll have to improve the work ethic."
The interview ended with both Obama and O'Reilly agreeing on helping veterans, and the Fox host commended Obama on his efforts; "here's something that you and I agree on…. And I'll tell everybody. You helped the Veterans…. I have come to you four times. And every time you have done what I have asked. And we have raised more than $20 million."
The interview which commenced as a confrontational battle ended positively, almost a mutual love fest and as amicable can be hoped for with President Obama also commending O'Reilly's efforts for veterans Obama expressed; "you have done great work, Bill, uh, on behalf of our veterans." And Obama's final comments that showed that maybe they agreed on more than they would admit. The President concluded; "I think self-reliance is alive and well in America. I think the problem is people don't see as many opportunities to get ahead. My job as President, as long as I'm in this office, is to give them the tools to get ahead. They gotta work hard, they gotta be responsible, but if they are, let's make sure that they can make it in America. That's what it's all about. That's how you and I ended up sitting here talking."
The first part of the interview aired on Sunday, Feb. 2 before the Super Bowl. The conservative Fox News' live interview taped at the White House focused on issues most Americans and news media have long forgotten, but remain much alive on the Fox News network, including the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya and the IRS scandal that as the President pointed have been the basis of numerous Congressional hearings with no wrong doing found. Never mind the disastrous rollout of the health care law and in general the Affordable Care Act, which perennially remains opposed by Republicans.
President Obama chose a defensive tactic throughout the very confrontational interview that was both short, but packed a big punch. Most of the time O'Reilly and the President argued so much over each other that neither of them could get a out a full sentence, and resembled more an interrogation rather than what should have been a friendly pre-football game interview. Much of the interview focuses on the divide on ideological issues that are important to conservatives and Fox News viewers. Obama told O'Reilly that there is only one reason those remain hot topics, stating; "These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
- Bill O'Reilly Interviews President Barack Obama Part 1, The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, Feb. 2, 2014
- Bill O'Reilly Interviews President Barack Obama Part 2, The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, Feb. 3, 2014
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.