Looking Out For The Little Guy
Part Two of Two
Bill O’Reilly Says He Is Just “Looking Out For The Folks”.
Al Franken has branded him one of the Right’s Lying Liars.
Just Who Is Really Looking Out For You?
By Perry Hicks
During my holiday shopping, I came across Al Franken’s book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The cover was obviously designed to parody Fox News Channel including a twist to the FOX slogan that read “a fair and balanced look at the Right”. Franken’s thesis is that conservative commentators are more than unfair and biased. They are actually highly flawed human beings with a penchant for lying.
Admittedly, the short chapter dedicated to O’Reilly is funny- simply because Franken is a skilled comedian. Substitute anyone else’s name and the piece would still garner laughs. However, Franken’s purpose is hardly a happy one: O’Reilly is made out to be a venal hot headed liar. Of course, Franken portrays himself as a hip, cool, liberal kind of guy who found it easy to trip up O’Reilly with some amateur sleuthing.
There are two problems with Mr. Franken. The first is that it is one thing to have disagreements over the efficacy of research, the accuracy of statistics, or even a gaff or two, and it is another to brand someone a liar. In order to be a liar, one must have the intent to deceive. That it to say, a skilled liar can very well deceive while speaking only carefully selected but indisputable facts.
Although Bill O’Reilly and I disagree on some major policy points (one of which I will explain later), I can unequivocally state that I have never heard him tell a lie. O’Reilly has good reasons to believe what he says. “Believe” of course, is the operative word. Believing is what makes for honest debate.
The second problem with Mr. Franken is what one takes away from reading his book: Nothing good. You see, some people are builders and some are destroyers. Some, through your association with them, will build you up- not just make you feel better, but actually make you a better person for knowing them. Others will only tear you down and leave you the worse off.
In regard to Franken, I am not better off for having read the chapter on O’Reilly. Far from being uplifting, which good humor should be, it is both mocking and pejorative on a very personal level. While it is certainly red meat for the Democrat base, it does not make Franken’s case. Furthermore, I did not feel better for having read it. Indeed, I came away feeling as if I had participated in some very ugly gossip.
Contrast this to O’Reilly: Reading his non-fictions has both uplifted and helped me with my work. Both my students and I are the better for it.
December 19th was O’Reilly’s last regular TV show for 2003. In the opening talking points segment, he summed up the year and spoke to the subject of his critics. Without mentioning Franken by name, O’Reilly admitted that he had made a mistake by focusing more attention on his detractors than they otherwise deserved. Without being specific, he went on to admit that, even with the best research and intentions, he had on occasion made some inaccurate statements.
Whether it is analog electronics, computers, mechanical systems, or even modern automobiles (that use all three), there is a four step process for diagnosing and repairing any technical problem. This method also works quite well with matters of social policy.
The four steps of what I call the Universal Troubleshooting Process are:
1.) Accurately define the problem
2.) Pinpoint the root cause
3.) Take corrective action
4.) Insure that the problem does not happen again.
If these steps are not followed, not followed in the correct order, or individually not followed to completion, either the problem will not be fixed or the problem will manifest itself again at some point in the future. As benign as this may sound, it is the core reason O’Reilly finds himself so vilified by the Left.
If only a handful of people wanted Bill O’Reilly’s head before his move to FOX, this all changed with the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.
In the case of President Clinton, the problem was an almost continuous string of salacious scandals. In my view, the root cause for this was Clinton’s total lack of moral character. As a result, Americans have lost their safety and security both at home and abroad. In my mind, this would fully justify his impeachment and Senate trial.
Clinton’s impeachment was particularly embarrassing for his party. He was the first Democrat elected president since Jimmy Carter and they badly needed this administration to be a success. If Clinton failed, it could well be a long time before the nation would put another Democrat in the White House.
As one Clinton scandal unfolded after another, both White House and DNC strategists began a massive damage control effort. A veritable army of apologists were sent out to compliant venues to spin the latest bad news. FOX was unique in fully airing both sides of each controversy. The problem with the Democrat’s side was that it usually didn’t have the ring of truth. No one can forget Clinton’s taped remark about what the meaning of “is, is.”
The Lewinsky episode also exposed the Democrats as hypocrites. They demanded that Clinton get a pass for something greater than what was alleged about either Clarence Thomas or Bob Packwood. With the help of DNA and other evidence, Clinton was proven to be, in my view, a congenital liar.
No matter how one may try, history cannot be rewritten. What has happened has happened. This explains the Left’s obsession with uncovering what they want to call right-wing deceit and hypocrisy: They want to exact personal revenge as well as make Clinton’s conduct look commonplace.
Even more infuriating to the Left is that this full airing is what helped put FOX News and The Factor at #1. Without question, FOX News and Bill O’Reilly simply enjoy a great deal of public trust. Regardless of how many negative comments he reads on the air, the bulk of O’Reilly’s viewer correspondence is actually supportive.
An Honest Debate
The biggest policy difference I have with O’Reilly is over the environment. He has often mentioned the mildness of present day winters compared to those of his youth and he ascribes this to global warming. Couple this with his alarm over our massive dependence on foreign oil and his natural frugality; it is no surprise that O’Reilly is not a fan of SUVs.
While I am on board with him to some degree, our differences are in the details: We have seen significant climate change but I am not joining the global warming bandwagon. Nor am I ready to blame anything on CO2. Oil imports are out of hand partly because environmentalists have used the courts to block domestic energy development, and partly because of an increased level of human activity.
I am not alarmed by claims of global warming because no one can tell you what temperature the planet should be. Both written historical and fossil record speaks of wide swings in earth’s temperature. Furthermore, the record also indicates that Earth has been far warmer for most of its 4 billion year existence. Recent investigations have even suggested that this climatological swing could be due to solar variability.
There is also a long history of inaccurate environmental prognostications: Catastrophic global cooling and widespread famine are just two. Remember that during Desert Storm, the late Carl Sagan was most emphatic in predicting nuclear winter should the Kuwaiti oil fields be set afire.
The real reason that environmentalists have gone after the SUVs is that the American auto industry is in serious economic trouble. Trucks and SUVs are the only profitable vehicles Detroit sells with strong consumer acceptance. I believe that the environmental Left is attacking SUVs in an attempt to cripple the Big Three.
Green is the new socialist color where before it was red. Look for environmentalists to drop this issue once the Japanese and Koreans make substantial inroads into the American pickup and SUV market.
A Peek Behind The Curtain
Cable news shows usually feature guests who are quite powerful in their respective fields. O’Reilly would be no different except that he also affords time to regular, everyday people who are neither media savvy nor nationally prominent.
In 2001, I had become so sick of hearing about how SUVs were ruining our environment; I took a very bold move and contacted Dan Cohen (then) at The Factor. I asked him how could I be booked on the show? After some interrogatories, Dan made the pitch to O’Reilly who readily assented.
It is one thing to do an audio interview and it is another to go up against a highly skilled debater. In fact, I had never been on television before so this was going to be a considerable challenge.
As it turned out, this was also going to be the first Factor with a live audience. The show would be on location so, if I wanted to appear on stage with him, I would have to fly out to Arizona. Unfortunately, I had made a prior business commitment so I wound up doing the show from a local station with satellite uplink capability.
Five hours of broadcasting per week requires a lot of show preparation. Assisting O’Reilly is a staff of nine. In the days immediately before the show, several of his people vetted me and, on the day of the broadcast, a car was sent to convey me to the studio.
A Factor segment is only about 7 minutes long. The format is simple: O’Reilly does a quick set-up so that the audience will know the salient points of the debate, and then the guest has a few seconds to state their case. After that, O’Reilly launches in with his questions.
When the limo arrived to take me to the studio, I felt well prepared with a host of facts and figures. In particular, I wanted to explain how the largest SUVs were but a small part of the 16 million new vehicles to be sold that year. I even had numbers to show how cleaning up toxic exhaust emissions actually produces more of the CO2 blamed for global warming.
When I tried out my presentation on the limo driver, I realized that what worked brilliantly with a room full of car guys was going to fail miserably on television. I was in BIG trouble.
Fortunately, the show is taped from 6 pm to 7 pm eastern time but aired as live one hour later. This gave me an opportunity to reorganize my thoughts and exclude those pesky numbers. While waiting in the “green room,” I worked frantically.
The studio set was large and very dark except for the bright lights needed for the camera. I was ensconced in an elevated chair and an ample amount of powder was applied to my shiny bald head. Immediately I realized this powder was the “dandruff” I had noticed on so many guest shoulders so I insisted that my coat be brushed very clean. Technicians wired me up with a lapel microphone and an earpiece commonly called an “I.F.B”. When they stepped away I knew I was ready for the broadcast. At that moment a good amount of stage fright swept over me.
Make that terror. The only thing I knew about performing on television I knew intuitively: Stare intently into the camera lens so as to not look “shifty” and project yourself with positive enthusiasm. Thus, I resolved not to allow my eyes be distracted by anyone moving behind the camera. I also told myself to smile and be pleasant throughout. I took heart knowing that it took a long time for O’Reilly to get comfortable in front of a camera.
There was no pre-show banter. I was asked to count backwards in order for the control room to set audio levels and technical things had to be done with the camera. Then, all I could do was sit very quietly and wait for it to begin.
There was no monitor for me to see but while I waited I could hear both the interviews and O’Reilly’s off air instructions. The Factor had started with an audio delay so there were awkward pauses between questions and answers. I took note of this and resolved to start my answers as quickly as possible.
Factor segments are book-ended with commercials. About half-way through the show, I got the cue that I was up next. My stomach knotted.
O’Reilly’s set-up surprised me. He was actually calling into question the private non-commercial ownership of SUVs! When he “tossed” to me, I opened up with an argument that there is no such thing as a perfect vehicle, for if there was, we would all be driving “it.” SUVs, I proclaimed, were popular because they met a broad variety of towing, hauling, and passenger carrying needs. The economy, I asserted, would collapse if we were all forced to drive Toyota Corollas.
O’Reilly fired back that SUVs hurt this country because they are so gas thirsty and our dependence on foreign oil jeopardizes our national security. This was an excellent point but, in my view, negated by the environmentalists who block the development of domestic energy sources. Again, trying to avoid numbers, I countered that the energy problem was not one of consumption but one of production.
The segment ended on a friendly note. The stage fright I fought throughout the segment morphed into guilt that I had not done my best. Indeed, I may have not met O’Reilly’s expectations. Of course, without being able to see, I was at a distinct disadvantage. I would have to wait until I got home to watch the show and find out.
My performance came off better than I had expected: I did not look shifty and my speech, if a bit aggressive, flowed well. However, I did not smile until the very end.
O’Reilly addressed me quite respectfully using my faculty rank and the banner below me alternated between “Professor” and “Former Ford Technical Trainer.” The visuals put up during my opening remarks were quite appropriate stock footage of SUVs being gassed up and driven about.
I may have been correct about falling short of O’Reilly’s performance standards. At one point, he did look down and frown disapprovingly. Camera shots of the audience, however, did show them to be well entertained by our debate.
Was Bill O’Reilly fair to me? Absolutely; with no formal media training and sitting in an unfamiliar environment, a skilled debater like O’Reilly could have decimated me had he wished to do so. Of course, doing so would have been misleading. O’Reilly did not take advantage of my inexperience and that alone settles the honesty question for me.
Was the broadcast faithful to my in-studio experience? That is to say, did FOX pull any tricks to send a counter message over my arguments? No, they did not; moreover, the segment was broadcast exactly how I remember doing it.
Was I better off for having been on The Factor? Yes, but a better question might be to ask: Were my students better off for it? Without question, the Arizona Show improved the perception of my college program and the stature of it in the eyes of the administration. Furthermore, the message I was trying to deliver was much better received by my students: After all, it was coming from someone who had been on TV!
In my view, Bill O’Reilly does indeed look out for the “little guy”; that is to say, you and me. His message is both consistent and wholesome. Furthermore, he gives everyday people a voice by affording them a world-wide venue to express their views or state their plight. But more importantly, he does not pander to the power elite. Instead, he holds them accountable to a standard he believes is in the best interest of those he simply calls “the folks.”
Editor’s Note: Corrections to Al Franken’s observations are noted independently on another website you can access from here….www.frankenlies.com
CLICK HERE for Part 1
Perry Hicks is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics, and is a former Ford Motor Company technical trainer. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Automotive Technology at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.
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