Audio and transcript to follow after Bill is on from 6-6:30 EST. While you are waiting, peruse the reviews for The Happiest Life and you will experience the dualism that every journalist/writer experiences after every interview/book.
HH: The Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl was a blowout, but how about the game before the game, Obama-O’Reilly? Joining me now to Monday morning quarterback on Tuesday is Bill O’Reilly of the Factor. Hello, Bill, how are you?
BO’R: Hi, Hugh, how are you doing, man?
HH: I’m terrific. If it had been a fight, how would the judges have scored it?
BO’R; You know, it’s hard to say. I think I asked the questions that had to be asked, but he didn’t answer directly. You know, it depends what kind of judges you have.
HH: Who’s the better interview – W. or Obama?
BO’R: They both are masters of answering the question they want to answer rather than one that’s asked. But I probably would say that W. is a little bit more direct, but that might be because he didn’t perceive me to be a threat, whereas I think President Obama did. But you know, they’re politicians.
HH: Here’s what, I went back and looked at your ’06 interview with W., and here’s what you said on the Factor before you showed that to us.
(Tape) BO’R: Now interviewing a president is not like interviewing anyone else on the planet. You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States. You can be direct, but you can’t be disrespectful.
HH: Now I understand that. I’ve interviewed Bush. I’ve never interviewed Obama, and I’ve interviewed Carter. And I know exactly what you’re talking about. Do you feel that you walked that line pretty well on Sunday?
BO’R: Yeah, I think I was respectful to him. You know, the far left kooks like this nut at the Washington Post, Milbank, well, he’s a dishonest man, Milbank. You know, he says the interview was nasty. Did you think it was nasty?
HH: No, in fact, Erik Wemple, another Washington Post writer, because I was going to bring up Milbank, said the interviewer could have asked the President how badly someone needs to mess things up to trigger dismissal. But he all and all scored it a pretty good interview. And I thought, I think Dana’s out to lunch. It’s very hard to interview a president, actually.
BO’R: Well, you know, look, these are certain things that you have to do, a certain tone. But it distresses me that we have a climate in this country where journalists are just lying. I mean, this guy, Milbank, that was on Page Two of the Washington Post today. He just lied. You know, even if people don’t like me, they didn’t go that far. I mean, nasty? There wasn’t a nasty tone there. It was very matter of fact. This is what happened, why didn’t you fire Sebelius?
HH: Now most of the criticism I’ve heard, I’m talking with Bill O’Reilly about Sunday’s interview with President Obama, I heard from Kelly Ayotte, Senator from New Hampshire on earlier today with Martha McCallum on your network, saying look, the President got away with murder. O’Reilly pressed him on Benghazi, but what about the interview he did with 60 Minutes? What about the interview he did with The View? The President clearly is not coming clean on Benghazi. But you know, you only had ten minutes. I’m not sure I’m blaming you for that. He did not come clean. Do you agree?
BO’R: Yeah, I mean, I asked him if Panetta told him, the secretary of Defense, that it was a terror attack on the day it happened, and he didn’t answer. What do you want me to do? What does Senator Ayotte want me to do? Go over and throw him to the floor? Pour water on him? I mean, you know, you’re a journalist. You ask the questions. If the interview subject doesn’t answer, that’s evasion, and people know it, and then people can see it. So that is an exposition in itself. I mean, I’ve got a lot of right wing, far right wing stuff, well, you were too easy on him, you let him, the favorite phrase is you let him get away with… I let him get away with? What exactly do you want me to do? You know, I mean, I can’t put a pejorative on him like why don’t you answer the question, you pinhead. You know, I could do that to most politicians.
HH: Did that cross your mind?
BO’R: No, it didn’t cross my mind, because I’ve done ten presidential interviews, and I mean, you don’t do that.
HH: You have to respect the office.
BO’R: You ask the question, and I did say to him, well, you’re not going to answer. I did say that. And I said it to Bush a couple of times, too. And then I move ahead to the next question. That’s all you can do.
HH: And this is the key question. On Benghazi, we don’t know what he did that night. We do not know. I mean, do you know, Bill?
BO’R: We don’t know what he was told, and we don’t know how he reacted. He’s buttoned it down.
HH: And you tried a few times, and then you moved on. And Jake Tapper made this argument to me last week. Eventually, you have to move on. How about not moving on? Is that disrespectful after three tries on firing Sebelius? You tried three times. I counted. You tried three times on Benghazi. He evaded both of those.
BO’R: Yeah, I mean, I think after the third time, if you don’t move on, then you’re looking for a confrontation. And I didn’t really want a confrontation with the president of the United States. Now that might have been good theater, but it doesn’t advance my job, which is to get answers to a bunch of different questions. And I did. I mean, if you look at the interview, it’s about 20 minutes long, both as live and tape together. I asked him a ton of questions, and I got some answers.
HH: Yeah, well, do you want to hear a criticism from me?
BO’R: Yeah, sure.
HH: You blew the Little Sisters of the Poor question, because you mixed up your cases. That was remanded to the Circuit. Only lawyers would know this stuff. It’s the Hobby Lobby case. And he out and out lied to you about all they have to do is sign a piece of paper. That’s simply not the case. But you’re not a lawyer, and I don’t expect you to know that.
BO’R: But I can’t take up time…
BO’R: …explaining that to the audience who doesn’t understand it.
BO’R: I was hoping I could get a taunt there quickly. I mean, it wasn’t an overwhelming, it wasn’t one of the most important questions like the IRS and things like that. It was a sub-question.
HH: It was a nice header, because everyone knows about the Little Sisters of the Poor as a TV question, but he totally misled your audience, and I don’t know that your producers prepped you for it. But let me ask you about this. Were you schmoozing beforehand, because he makes reference to the fact you say I look pretty good for having been on the job five years. How long were you schmoozing?
BO’R: I talked with him about ten minutes, but I’ve talked with him before, you know, off camera. I mean, you know, we run into each other at the Kennedy Center honors and a bunch of veterans’ things. And we have, you know, a common interest in athletics and history. So we’re always bantering about that. I never talked to him about the interview ahead of time.
HH: Of course not.
BO’R: We were talking about, you know, how he works out, what his regimen is, and we talked a little history beforehand.
HH: And so are you ever afraid in your mind I’m going to lose my access? Bill O’Reilly, biggest numbers on Fox News, I’m going to lose my access to the biggest get in the world if I step over the line?
BO’R: No, I don’t look at it that way. I’m fortunate to be here. I never assume I’m going to have another shot. So I just do the best interview I can. What I don’t do in my presentation on the Factor is I don’t attack anyone personally. So therefore, they don’t have an excuse to avoid me. You know, issues are issues. And they get, everybody gets scrutiny. But I don’t use the personal stuff.
HH: Would you invite Dana Milbank on your show?
BO’R: Probably not. He’s a weasel, in my opinion, beneath contempt. I probably would not invite him on the program. Number one, the audience despises him. And number two, I don’t really care what he says. I care that the Washington Post employs him. That’s what I care about. Whatever he says doesn’t bother me, because I know where he’s coming from. But the fact that the Washington Post would employ a guy like that, I mean, it’s really disturbing.
HH: Now Jeff Bezos has just bought the Washington Post. Would you interview him and bring up Milbank with him in the course of that interview?
BO’R: Absolutely. But I’m not on a jihad against Milbank. I’m on a jihad, a holy war, against declining standards of journalism. The Washington Post editors, if they watched the interview, which God knows if they did or not, had to know that Milbank was lying. And they had to know that he was lying for a reason, that he’s a far left zealot. It’s okay to be a liberal columnist, but once you cross the line into lying to promote what you want, then the paper’s got to take action. You just can’t have, and he’ll go well, it was my opinion. And you look at him and go, that’s insane. All right, that’s like saying that Barack Obama was a stand-up comic during the interview. I mean, it just is ridiculous. So once it’s at ridiculous, what are you doing on Page Two?
HH: All right, let me finish with two other questions. First, unrelated to any of this stuff, do you, Bill O’Reilly, believe Chris Christie?
BO’R: I believe him in the sense that it’s the fairest thing to do to believe him. I don’t know him. He has refused to come on my show, and I don’t know why. So because he says very explicitly that he didn’t do it, I’m going to believe him, because that’s the fair thing to do. I have no reason not to believe the man. So that’s the way I play it.
BO’R: If something comes out, something comes out.
HH: And if it does, he’s done, right?
BO’R: He’s done. He’s done.
HH: All right, now the second thing has to do with former Secretary of State Clinton. Have you interviewed her?
BO’R: At Notre Dame on the campaign trail when she was competing against Obama.
HH: But not since being Secretary of State? I just wanted to make sure I was right about that. Correct?
BO’R: No, we didn’t, she doesn’t do interviews unless they’re friendly. She did me in the campaign, because you know, we were giving her a fair shake against the President, and she felt that she had something to gain. Look, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hillary Clinton in an adversarial interview ever.
HH: If, and neither have I, if and when she ever sits down on the Factor, will you press her on the night of Benghazi, because nobody has. Nobody knows where she went when she hung up the phone with Greg Hicks. She never…
BO’R: Yeah, I’ll do the same kind of interview. Give me a timeline on it. But look, I had much more against the President than I do against Secretary of Clinton.
HH: Oh, you shouldn’t.
BO’R: We know, we know that Panetta was told it was a terror attack. We know that 100%. And it just strains credulity that he wouldn’t go in and tell a commander-in-chief that it was a terror attack.
HH: That’s true, but Secretary…
BO’R: So I’m almost 100%…
HH: Bill, that’s true, but Secretary of State Clinton has line authority over those people in Benghazi. She ought to have been on the phone.
BO’R: But what did she know? What did she know?
HH: She ran away. She ran away from the scene of the…
BO’R: Well, that might be true. She went to South America right after it. That might be true, and I would ask the timeline on it, as I said. But I can’t throw any grenades at Hillary Clinton unless I have something like General Carter Ham testifies, he told Senator Clinton, it was a terror attack.
HH: Oh, but you do have, you’ve got…
BO’R: And we don’t have that right now.
HH: Yeah, we do. We’ve got Greg Hicks telling the Senate, telling the House that she talked to him…
BO’R: Not Hillary Clinton.
HH: Yes. Talked to her at 2…
BO’R: No, no, no, it’s her underlings. He didn’t talk to her.
HH: You’re wrong, Bill. You’re wrong. She was on the phone with Gregory Hicks at 2am in the morning Tripoli time.
BO’R: Where was that?
HH: That was in, it was Greg Hicks testimony before the Senate Oversight Committee. Go, we’re out of time, but I’ll follow up with you on this, because when you get your teeth into that one, you’ll never let go of that, because she never called back, Bill O’Reilly, and that’s why she should never be president.
BO’R: All right, I’ll look at that for sure.
HH: Bill O’Reilly, great to chat with you as always.
BO’R: All right, Hugh, thanks for having me in.
End of interview.