BILL O'REILLY: This is basically an unfair interview designed to try to trap me into saying something that Harper's can use, and you know it. And you should be ashamed of yourself. And that is the end of this interview.
TERRY GROSS: Oh, so you're not even going to give me the chance to ask you a followup question. You have to make a speech and then have the last word? [PAUSE] You're gone.
BOB GARFIELD:Bill O'Reilly, Terry Gross. The now-famous walk-off interview. We'd intended to hold our tongues on this subject, because why pour gasoline onto the fire? But since that confrontation, Gross has been criticized by NPR's ombudsman, prompting Fox News Channel's O'Reilly to go on the air claiming final proof of NPR's leftist agenda. All right. What exactly has taken place here? Well, the first thing is, Terry Gross did an uncharacteristically ham-fisted hatchet job of an interview on Bill O'Reilly.
TERRY GROSS: Bill O'Reilly, welcome to Fresh Air. As you probably know, Al Franken was on the show when his book came out. Are you sorry you sued him?
BILL O'REILLY: I didn't sue him.
TERRY GROSS: Oh, no, Fox sued him. But I assume you--
BOB GARFIELD: And the inquisition proceeded. Why Gross so departed from her famously evenhanded style is a bit of a mystery, but the answer might have to do with O'Reilly's own sordid history of on-air bullying. Night after night in his "No Spin Zone," he twists facts, tosses Molotov cocktails and pushes around guests for the entertainment of his Fox News Channel audience. [CLIP PLAYS]
BILL O'REILLY: Hold it, hold, it, hold it. Okay--
MAN: Well, you either want to listen or you don't.
BILL O'REILLY: No, well, I, I'd rather question you. That's your interpretation-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: Yes, I know.
BILL O'REILLY: -- mine is different. The audience can decide. Now, two more questions-- [CLIP PLAYS]
BILL O'REILLY: You-- That's it. I'm not going to say any more.
BILL O'REILLY: In respect for your father--
MAN: September 14 [...?...] want to know what I was doing? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BILL O'REILLY: Shut up. Shut up.
BOB GARFIELD: He shouts guests down, he calls people names, such as pinhead and coward. When all else fails, he tells them to shut up. And the ugliest brand -- traitor -- rolls easily off his tongue. O'Reilly has a lot of favorite targets, but one of his extra, extra, extra-special favorites is NPR, which he regards as the quintessence of elitism, political correctness, and liberal bias. Let's just say that the journalistic values of skepticism, free speech and suspicion of government overlap progressive orthodoxy enough to give that bias charge at least a whiff of truth --a whiff which O'Reilly unceasingly inflates into the big lie of a conspiratorial liberal media agenda. O'Reilly's many smaller prevarications have been amply documented elsewhere, but we have more than passing interest in one of them --his repeated claim, before the Fresh Air interview, that he's never been invited on an NPR show. He continued to say that long after being featured on this show, following a long interview with our Mike Pesca. That piece, unsurprisingly, caught O'Reilly in a whopper.
BILL O'REILLY: I'm a registered Independent politically, and I'm a journalist who looks at life the way it is, not the way I want it to be.
MIKE PESCA: In reality, O'Reilly is not a registered Independent. He's been a registered Republican since 1994. When this information came to light after our original interview, O'Reilly said he made a mistake when registering to vote in Nassau County, Long Island six years ago, but records show that he's voted in at least five elections since then, each time being confronted with his party registration, which he never took any steps to change.
BOB GARFIELD:That, followed by the subsequent lie that he had never met Mike Pesca in his life. And, so on. O'Reilly has repeatedly declined a return visit, but if I were face to face with him, it would be hard for me to resist what Gross could not resist, not because of his conservative politics. We've long since excoriated Michael Moore, for instance, for his unfair tactics on behalf of the far left. But because O'Reilly is such a disgrace, such a mockery of Fox News Channel's claim to fairness and balance. So yes, Terry Gross lost her cool and played right into Bill O'Reilly's hands by failing to let judgment override her contempt. It was egg on her face and on NPR's. I only wish it could have been egg on mine, because to take a crack at this bellicose Humpty Dumpty, I'd happily wear an entire omelette. [THEME MUSIC] 58:00
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Janeen Price, Katya Rogers, Megan Ryan and Tony Field, and engineered by Dylan Keefe and Rob Christiansen. We had help from Dave Goldberg. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl. Our managing editor is Brooke Gladstone. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Arun Rath is our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from NPR. Brooke will be back with me next week. I'm Bob Garfield. [MUSIC TAG]