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2003-11-10

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

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Author Al Franken spoke to a packed house this weekend at the National Conference on Media Reform about the Bush administration, the Fox News lawsuit and why Bill O’Reilly is "a pathological liar." [Includes transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

[tape]

AL FRANKEN: It’s done very well, the book, and a lot of thanks go to a little organization known as the Fox News channel.

[laughter]

Who sued me. And, uh —

[laughter]

and, uh, it was a lot of fun and —

[laughter]

and I thought I’d tell you the story — a little bit about the story of the lawsuit because it’s just — people enjoy hearing it and I enjoy telling it.

[laughter]

It started in Los Angeles at the end of May.

I was at a book expo on a panel that was talking to book sellers, to Molly Ivins, Bill O’Reilly and I were there to plug our books coming out in the fall. Molly was there for her book — her great book Bushwhacked.

[applause]

Bill was pushing his book "Living with Herpes."

[laughter]

A very, very good book.

You know, all writers should really, you know, write from their experience and it’s a good book — very, very good book. And I was there to push my book and Bill didn’t like the fact that he was on the cover of a book called Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them; A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right".

So, Molly spoke. And then he spoke and decided to go after me. And he said "I don’t call people liars. I don’t do that."

Evidently he’s never seen his own show.

[laughter]

And he didn’t — evidently he also didn’t realize that this wasn’t his show because I got to get up after him and talk. And I felt I owed him an explanation, why he was on a book with the words "Lies and Lying Liars" and so I did and basically just reading from Nexus transcripts of his shows. I proved that he is not only a liar, but kind of a pathological liar.

[laughter]

And he didn’t like that. He didn’t like it. Although everybody else seemed to enjoy it.

He didn’t like it and he said "Shut up! You’ve had your 35 minutes! Shut up!"

[laughter]

And it was interesting because I’d only spoken for 20 minutes. He couldn’t even tell me to shut up without lying.

[laughter]

But he was angry. He went on radio the next chance he had on his show and said if this had been the old West, we would have had to have a shoot-out. Which I thought was interesting, but the most interesting part was that he guaranteed to his radio audience, to his listeners that he would win, he would have won — the shoot-out.

[laughter]

I thought — I didn’t know quite how he could guarantee that, but he did. And it’s really odd to me, especially because many — some of you may know this, but during the summer, I do the whole state fair quick draw circuit.

[laughter] And I’m actually third in the nation and I know that Bill’s not first or second. But nevertheless, he guaranteed, guaranteed to his audience that he would win the shoot-out and, quote, "I would have shot Franken between the head".

[laughter]

A quote. See, O’Reilly is like the schoolyard bully who hits a whole bunch of kids and then a kid comes up to him and hits him and he goes "Teacher! Teacher! Sue him."

And so Roger Ales, Fox sued me.

Well, actually — first what happened was we got a letter from them threatening to sue us and my publisher was a little upset and nervous about it and she told me and I said, look, I’d been doing this for 30 years. Don’t worry. Satire is protected speech. Even if the object of the satire doesn’t get it.

[laughter]

I said our letter back to Fox should be "Dear Fox, please, please, p-l-e-a-s-e sue us."

[laughter]

So, this made her feel better and —

[laughter]

and she got Floyd Abrams, one of the preeminent First Amendment lawyers in the country who wrote them a letter, it wasn’t the "Please, please, please letter."

It was the "Dear Fox, this is the United States of America" letter. So, I thought it was all over.

And a couple of months went by and I finished the book and then I went on vacation and I was on vacation, happily. And they sued me. They sued us! You know? And it was great!

[laughter]

It was just great. They’re printing the books just as they were suing us. And so we went to court and Fox was literally laughed out of court. Now, normally when you say "literally laughed out of court," you mean figuratively —

[laughter]

Not here. Not here.

[applause]

The Fox attorney opened the hearing this way. She said "Your Honor, the Fox News channel has over 85 million subscribers." And the judge said "I don’t know what that means. I get cable."

[laughter]

"Does that mean I’m a subscriber?", and she said "Yes."

[laughter]

And the courtroom burst into laughter and they were laughing

[laughter]

They were laughing for the next 20 minutes. 20 minutes of just laughing at the Fox lawyer.

AMY GOODMAN: Al Franken is author of the best-selling new book Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them; A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. He is speaking at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, Wisconsin.

[tape]

AL FRANKEN: And he looked at the Fox attorney and he said "There are hard cases —

[laughter]

and there are easy cases. This— is an easy case." "Your case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally and it’s highly unlikely that your trademark, 'fair and balanced', is actually a valid trademark."

AL FRANKEN:

[applause]

And as soon as they could, Fox withdrew the case so they wouldn’t be stripped of their trademark, their ironic trademark, which I didn’t know whether I was being sued for using "fair and balanced" the slogan, or the idea of it being used ironically. I didn’t know which. Which concept I was being sued on.

[laughter]

And you’ll notice they don’t use fair — if you watch the Fox News channel, which I would not recommend, that they do not use "fair and balanced" very much anymore, because it’s embarrassing. It’s just embarrassing. But I think the judge may have inadvertently given them their new slogan, the Fox news channel, "wholly without merit".

[laughter]

[applause]

But — but the — actually, the University of Maryland did a study and they may have given them this "wholly without merit" slogan, too. This is by the Program on International Policy at the University of Maryland, funded by the Ford Foundation, and they did a study on Americans’ misperceptions and how they correlated with where they got their information, on the war, on the war in Iraq.

And they tracked three misperceptions. First one was that there was proof of a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. The second was that we have found weapons of mass destruction. And the third was that world opinion was in favor of our invasion of Iraq.

Now they found that 80% of the viewers who got their news primarily from the Fox News channel believed at least one of these three misperceptions. And they found that people who listened to or got most of their news from and watched PBS, Bill Moyers and NPR, people who got their news primarily from them, 23% held one of these three misperceptions.

But the best part of the statistic, the best statistic was, the best finding was that the more you watched Fox, the more likely you were to have one of the misperceptions. In other words, the more you watch Fox, the stupider you got.

[laughter]

AL FRANKEN: Now Bob mentioned Rush being in rehab and we’re all praying for him.

[laughter]

No, you have to. If someone is addicted to drugs, you have to have compassion for them.

[laughter]

And even though Rush called my friend Jerry Garcia when he died just another dead junkie and a dirt bag and just because Rush said —- throughout his career has said anyone that uses drugs illegally should be prosecuted and put away -—

[applause]

You have to pray. You have to pray for them. That when he’ll get into recovery, and go to meetings, and, of course, take responsibility for his actions and for what he’s been saying — so that I’m sure that, and I’m praying that when he gets out, he will ask — demand —- that he be given the maximum sentence -—

[applause]

at the most dangerous prison in Florida.

[laughter]

And that he shares a cell with, oh, say, an African American prisoner who saw the — his comments about Donovan McNabb.

You know? You have to pray. You have to pray.

[laughter]

People have asked me why — and, by the way, people have asked me about this, you know, my doing a radio show? I’m hoping to do it.

[cheering]

I’m going to try to do drug-free radio.

[laughter]

Evidently it’s very hard. It’s what we may call it, drug-free radio. I guess — I don’t know if it has been done.

You know, were going to try to do it that way. So, these guys, they — part of my book — the basis of my book — there is a right-wing media and they shill for this administration and Fox is part of that, Rush is part of that.

Here’s an example. This is from August 26th — Brit Hume. Also from the Fox News channel — from his Grapevine segment of his show.

This is a quote. He said "277 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California, which is roughly the same geographical size."

[laughter]

"The most recent statistics indicate that California has more than 2300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, our U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7 deaths, including illness and accidents each day."

Well, yeah. But also the most recent statistics show that there are 34 million people living in California and there are 133,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Which actually means that our troops in Iraq are about 65 times more likely to be killed than citizens in California.

[applause]

And for each one of our soldiers who’s killed, five or six are wounded and maimed. Now when this was pointed out to Brit, his response was, and this was in the Washington Post, he said, "Admittedly, it was a crude comparison".

[laughter]

"But it was a illustrative of something."

[laughter]

And I agree. I agree.

[laughter]

It’s illustrative of how shameless, how shameless these guys are.

[applause]

I am — I’m going on my fourth U.S.O. tour at Christmas. I’m going to Afghanistan. I’m going to Kuwait. I’m going to Iraq.

[applause]

We love our troops. We love our young men and women in uniform. Don’t let anyone tell you that we aren’t more patriotic than them. Come on!!

[applause]

[cheering]

Don’t let them tell you that. And I love — I love performing for our troops because they have the sickest sense of humor of any audience I’ve ever worked.

[laughter]

And they will love what Brit had to say. They will love it. They will find it hilarious. And I never like to use someone else’s material without crediting them so I will, of course, credit Brit.

So, Bill O’Reilly was on Terry Gross’s show "Fresh Air" and he walked off and he said he was treated unfairly and —

AL FRANKEN: Aww. Aww, yes — he was asked tough questions. Teacher! Teacher, defund them.

[laughter]

He went on the air the next day and said that PBS and NPR get $1 billion from Congress.

[laughter]

He just makes — is this on the radio? — makes stuff up. OK?

[laughter]

pulls it directly from his — his behind.

Now the NPR ombudsman was so scared that he criticized Terry Gross for asking too tough questions and I don’t know if he listened to the same interview I did or maybe he just doesn’t know Bill O’Reilly because O’Reilly lied throughout the interview.

And I’ll give you — one of the — one that made me kind of angry. She asked me about this "Harper’s" article where he had interviewed had interviewed Jeremy Glick.

Amy Goodman talked about people in the world trade center and Jeremy Glick had lost his father in the world trade center and signed a petition against the war in Iraq. And that really made O’Reilly mad.

He said I want this kid in here. I want to talk to him. He had Jeremy Glick on, a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers, and Jeremy was against the war. And he said that Bush had — he had funded the Mujahedin and those kinds of things, and O’Reilly got very angry and told him to "shut up!"

"Shut up!" Sound familiar?

[laughter]

And he turned off the kid’s mic., and that was the end of the interview. And then — this is on radio, right? He said, according to Glick, who told "Harper’s" and "Harper’s" — and O’Reilly hasn’t denied this, he told Jeremy, "Get the f out of here or I’ll f-ing tear you apart."

Now Terry Gross asked him about this and he said — O’Reilly said, "Did you read the transcript of the interview?"

She said, well, I read the "Harper’s" thing. "Yeah. Well, that’s what the elite media does. They didn’t have the whole transcript. They took it out of context. That’s what they do."

[laughter]

"You see, this kid — this kid said some outrageous things. He said Bush One and Bush Two orchestrated, Bush the elder and this president — had orchestrated 9-11."

"Well as a journalist, it was my duty to ask him if he had any proof and he didn’t, and that’s defamation!"

[laughter]

Well, I had written about this in my book and I knew — I read the transcript of that and Jeremy Glick never said anything of the sort.

So, here is a man, who’s got a lot of power, and he defames — he — Jeremy is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers, he makes his money by writing.

It’s hard to get a gig. He wrote me. He e-mailed me. He said it is kind of hard to get a gig when people think you’re a conspiracy nut.

Here is a guy, a powerful guy and he attacks a kid with no platform and the question is, what do we do about that?

Well, it’s why I wrote my book.

[applause]

We have to —

[applause]

We have to take what they say and expose it and use it against them. My job is to sort of do jujitsu.

[laughter]

When they lie, use it against them. Hold them up to scorn and ridicule. Because what they want us to do is to shut up! They want you to shut up! But don’t shut up!!

[applause]

[cheering]

Don’t shut up! Stand up! Stand up! And fight! Stand up and fight! Every one here, stand up and fight!

[cheering]

Thank you!

AMY GOODMAN: Al Franken, author of the best-selling new book Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them; A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, speaking at the Orpheum Theater to almost 2,000 people this past Saturday night in Madison, Wisconsin at the National Conference for Media Reform and we’ll be bringing you more speeches and discussions from that conference through the week.

If you’d like to get a copy of today’s show you can call 1-(800)-881-2359, that’s 1-(800)-881-2359. Back in a minute.

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