Accuracy in Media

President Bush has joked that John Kerry should debate himself. I’ve got a similar suggestion for Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. He should interview himself. He has achieved financial success by appealing to conservatives, but went on the CBS 60 Minutes show last Sunday sounding like a liberal. He told the program that he is pro-gun control, anti-death penalty, and pro-gay adoption “as a last resort.” O’Reilly also offered the opinion that conservative critics of the Al Gore theory of global warming are “idiots.”

A self-described “journalist” who dismissed Rush Limbaugh as a mere “entertainer,” O’Reilly told Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes that he might vote for John Kerry, whom he described as a “patriot” he has known for 25 years. O’Reilly denounced the Swift Boat vets’ ads against Kerry as “awful” and “terrible.”

Nine days earlier, however, on his own “O’Reilly Factor” show on the Fox News Channel, O’Reilly had said that Kerry acted in a “craven” manner when he came back to the U.S. after the Vietnam War “by besmirching all the fine soldiers in Vietnam” when he called them war criminals. While interviewing John O’Neill, co-author of the anti-Kerry book, Unfit for Command, O’Reilly said, “I enjoyed your book.”

Some observers suspect that O’Reilly, after having secured an interview with President Bush, is desperate to get an interview with Kerry before the election. In fact, when Kerry advisor James Carville appeared on his show on September 23, O’Reilly virtually begged Carville to set up a Kerry interview for him.  

O’Reilly’s curious rhetoric might be dismissed as inconsequential were it not for the fact that he claims to provide a “No Spin Zone” to 3-4 million people a night. But as I discovered when I appeared on his show on February 11, 2003, to expose his flip-flops, he resorts to name-calling and interrupting when he is put on the defensive.

O’Reilly had claimed that unnamed scientists at MIT, which he described as “the best in the world,” believe that “all this fossil fuel is hurting the earth” and that global warming is occurring and must be urgently addressed. O’Reilly says he opposes the global warming treaty but believes the federal government has to take immediate and drastic action to curb the use of fossil fuels. He opposes gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. 

However, the most prominent expert on global warming at MIT is meteorologist Dr. Richard Lindzen, a leading critic of the theory who has never been invited on “The Factor.”

O’Reilly took this controversy one step further on 60 Minutes, not only telling Mike Wallace that  “global warming is here” but that “all these idiots that run around and say it isn’t here” are “ridiculous.”

Lindzen has engaged in climate and climate-related research for over 30 years and has testified before Congress. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the author or co-author of over 200 papers and books. He told me that he didn’t know of anybody at MIT who is on O’Reilly’s hysterical side of the debate. He said that some colleagues waffle and say, “Well, we don’t know but it could be a serious problem.”

The average temperature over the last century has gone up between a third and two-thirds of a degree, Lindzen said. “If you’re not intelligent enough or sensitive enough to know that every day of your life you see ten or twenty times that variation, then please stop the conversation,” he added. He said that such a minor change, which can be entirely natural, grabs the public’s attention when it is put on a graph “and made to look like Mount Everest.”

But Lindzen thinks people are wising up. “People have more sense than we give them credit for,” he said. “No one thinks of O’Reilly?or these days almost any newscaster?as an authority and that’s for the good. I think CBS has done a wonderful service.”

He was referring, of course, to the CBS “Rathergate” memo scandal that has exposed the corrupt and deceptive nature of journalism today. It is noteworthy that 60 Minutes, the same program that perpetrated a fraud on the American people with the fake Bush/National Guard memos, was the vehicle for O’Reilly’s outrageous and completely indefensible comments on global warming.

O’Reilly made the offensive comments about “idiots” at the expense of the millions of conservatives in the viewing audience who generate the ratings that helped O’Reilly buy his wife a gas-guzzling Mercedes-Benz. O’Reilly, the “working class guy” who makes $10 million a year, told Wallace he doesn’t set foot in the car and “I’m not driving” it. He sounded like John Kerry, who, when caught riding in an SUV to an environmental event, claimed it was really his family’s car, not his.

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