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2004-07-19

Broadcast Exclusive: Georgetown Professor Accuses Bill O’Reilly of Lying About 9/11 Commission’s Findings

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Georgetown Law School professor David Cole describes how Bill O’Reilly deliberately cut out a recorded statement from the head of the 9/11 Commission to mislead his audience about links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. [Includes transcript]

A new documentary which premiered in New York last week titled "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism," accused the Fox News Channel of tailoring its coverage to back President Bush.

We aired excerpts of the documentary on Democracy Now! and spoke with its director Robert Greenwald. The film features memos written by Fox executives and interviews with former Fox correspondents and producers who talk about how upper management pressured reporters to cover news with a conservative bias.

On-air host Bill O’Reilly comes under heavy criticism in the documentary. In one clip he declares that he has told only one guest in the past six years to shut up. The comment is followed with several examples of O’Reilly interrupting guests on his show "The O’Reilly Factor", and telling them to shut up.

One person that Greenwald could have interviewed for "Outfoxed" is Washington-based constitutional attorney and Georgetown Law School professor David Cole. He was recently invited to be a guest on "The O’Reilly Factor." This is his story.

  • David Cole, Washington-based constitutional attorney, professor at Georgetown Law School and author of the book, Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedom in the War on Terrorism.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!. Over the weekend, I saw Georgetown Law professor, David Cole. I talked to him for a few minutes at Dulles airport just outside Washington, D.C., about his experience being on the "O’Reilly Factor," with Bill O’Reilly.

DAVID COLE: It was an afternoon in June when I got a call from Fox producer who says, do you want to come on the O’Reilly factor to talk about a story that day in the New York Times about the Guantanamo situation. I generally have declined going on O’Reilly. It’s not the kind of show that I’m a fan of, but I think it’s an important issue; I will go on the show. I went on the show, and I am sitting in the Washington studio. It’s being recorded in New York. They’re recording the intro that O’Reilly apparently always does to his show. It’s an introductory commentary. In the course of this, O’Reilly says — he was talking about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, 9/11, et cetera, and says, the factor — the O’Reilly Factor established the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda and here’s what governor Tom Kean, the head of the 9/11 commission said about it this weekend. Then he play as clip in which Kean says something like we have found no evidence whatsoever of any connection between the Saddam Hussein and 9/11. However, we have found some contacts between — and at that point, O’Reilly interrupts very angry and says, we can’t use this. We have to redo this whole thing. So, they — so, there’s silence for three minutes or so. They come back on. They re-record the introduction totally verbatim, except when they get to the Kean part, instead of putting on the sound bite, O’Reilly paraphrases and says over the weekend, the head of the 9/11 commission said they definitely found evidence of the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. So, then we go into my segment, which is about this New York Times story, and O’Reilly’s spin essentially is that the New York Times is lying to us, the New York Times is biased, and that bias is under mining people’s resolve in the war on terrorism. He keeps characterizing the New York Times story as saying that the people in Guantanamo are innocent, there’s no reason for them to be there. I keep saying, no, that’s not what the New York Times story said. It said it was reporting on a C.I.A. Report that had found they had gotten very little intelligence from the people at Guantanamo and there were very few high level people at Guantanamo, mostly low-level people who didn’t actually pose much of a danger. We go back and forth, the usual — you know, very thoughtful exchange that you get on this kind of talk show. Until I keep saying — you know, Bill, you are misleading your viewers by mischaracterizing what the New York Times is saying and you are criticizing the New York Times for mischaracterizing the facts and he says, no, I’m not. At which point I say, I might as well go for it and say, it seems to me, Bill, like it’s the pot calling the kettle black because not five minutes ago I sat here and watched you re-record the introduction to your show in order to take out the head of the 9/11 commission saying there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11. At which point he just went ballistic, screamed at me, called me an s.o.b. at least three times. He said — guaranteed that this part of the segment would not air, and said that I would never ever be called back to the show, which at the time I wasn’t sure whether to take as a threat or a promise. But in any event, that’s where he left it. Later that night, the show aired and there was bill O’Reilly fuming about the bias and spin of the New York Times, but leaving out both governor Kean’s statement and my statement to O’Reilly about his own spinning of the al Qaeda–Hussein connection. That’s the story.

AMY GOODMAN: Georgetown University law professor, David Cole, talking about his experience on the O’Reilly factor. He then had this afterthought.

DAVID COLE: The most smarmy thing about the whole event was that O’Reilly’s opening commentary was all about how terrible spin and how terrible the New York Times’ spin is because it’s dividing the country, undermining the war on terrorism, and the final line was "the spin must stop. Our lives depend on it." But he had just spun the statement of Governor Kean to serve his own interests.

AMY GOODMAN: Georgetown University law professor, David Cole. You are listening to and watching Democracy Now!. When we come back, we go back over the decades of convention coverage. Stay with us.

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