The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank came on in hour two of my show to respond to Bill O’Reilly’s attack on him in hour one of my show. Audio and transcript to be posted shortly:
HH: Joined now by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who took a pretty direct hit from Bill O’Reilly on this show last hour. Dana, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DM: It’s a pleasure, thanks for having me on.
HH: Have you had a chance to read or listen to the interview I did with O’Reilly last hour?
DM: I heard of it, so I know that I’m a lying weasel who’s beneath contempt, but I didn’t get any specifics.
HH: Well, let me play a little bit for you so you get the flavor of it.
Tape: BO’R: I think I was respectful to him. You know, the far left kooks like this nut at the Washington Post, Milbank…but he’s a dishonest man, Milbank. You know, he says the interview was nasty. Did you think it was nasty?
Tape: HH: No, in fact, Erik Wemple, another Washington Post writer, because I was going to bring up Milbank, said the interviewed could have asked the President how badly someone needs to mess things up to trigger dismissal. But he all in 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.
HH: So Dana, I think you’re out to lunch in your criticism of O’Reilly, but first, let’s get your reaction to what Bill said about you.
DM: Well, look, I, you know, whatever, I think I read that he also said he doesn’t do personal attacks moments before launching into that. And look, we can have a difference of opinion about the merits of the interview, of ideology, of politics, but if he’s saying there’s something factually wrong, I’d like to know what it is so that I can correct it because…
HH: Let me correct, by the way, I saw that got out on the internet. What Bill said in the interview is he doesn’t do personal attacks on the Factor. Quite clearly, he does personal attacks on radio shows
DM: Okay, good, on your show, okay.
HH: Yeah, okay, so now, I want to go to the substance of this, because this is very important. Do you know what President Obama did on the night of Benghazi? Do you have any idea where he was?
DM: No, I think that would be a terrific question to be asking. This is why I don’t understand the business of Susan Rice and the cover-up. Why aren’t people drilling in on what happened that night, why didn’t they get in motion to send some, at least attempt to send forces there to Benghazi to do some good in real time? I do not understand why the emphasis coming from the administration’s critics is on what happened after the fact and whether they called it extremists or a terror attack or al Qaeda. I want to know what happened that night and could they have stopped it. That’s a scandal if they could he done something and they didn’t.
HH: And do you know what Secretary of State Clinton that night after she hung up the phone with the number two guy in Tripoli?
DM: I would like to know a lot more about what all of them were doing. I think those are the questions that should be asked.
HH: And so why aren’t they being asked? You are a card-carrying member of the Beltway-Manhattan media elite. Your colleagues go into the pressroom every day, and they never demand this. Why has your side of the partisan media laid down the battle to find out actually just what did the President know and when did he know it, and when did the Secretary of State run and why did she run?
DM: Well, you know, look, I’m a columnist that doesn’t fire questions at a briefing, but I, so I can’t really speak for the entire press corps. I have asked these questions in columns, saying much like what I just said to you, why are we focusing on the supposed cover-ups since they wouldn’t have gained much from a cover-up anyway. Why aren’t we focusing on what happened that night? I guess if I’m going to speak for the whole media, I’m guessing that they are satisfied with the Congressional, whatever the Congressional inquiries have found and what the investigation that the administration has done. You know, I don’t sit there in the briefing room asking the questions.
HH: I want to go back to what O’Reilly had to say about your assessment. One more question before I do. What was Secretary of State Clinton’s accomplishments as Secretary of State?
DM: Well, she, I suppose what she accomplished for her reputation was, she increased her standing to the point of invincibility. I…
HH: But what did she actually do, Dana Milbank?
DM: Well, I don’t know. What did Lawrence Eagleberger do? You know, I don’t believe we had any major peace treaties under her. We didn’t, we had some, a, brief military actions, but basically cleaning up the ones that were in place. So I don’t, you know…
HH: You’re a columnist. I’m just asking. Do you think she accomplished anything? Or was she basically a non-entity at State?
DM: I think she was successful in the sense of projecting a strong American image abroad, but, and restoring American standing and reputation in the world. But these are nebulous…
HH: Dana, how do you get there? How do you measure that? I mean, what, under that talking point, what are the data points?
DM: Well, right, what I was saying before you said that is these are, this is, that’s sort of a nebulous notion of American standing. So…and whether we are more popular in European and foreign capitals, I’m not sure whether that particularly matters. But you know, I mean, I certainly didn’t come on this call to be a defender of Hillary Clinton.
HH: Well no, but that, the reason I did it, the reason I did it is because I interrupted you four or five times. And your beef with O’Reilly is that he interrupted the President. The President is the world champion filibusterer. He would have used ten minutes, wouldn’t he? Do you agree with me? He never answers a question ever in under five minutes if you let him.
DM: I have, look, and that’s a fair point, and I have, the same thing has happened to me and many other people. You know, but I think it’s a fair question do you want to be sitting there with the president of the United States, shaking your head and waving your pen and pointing your finger at him? I would submit that whoever that president is, you know, it could be President Bush and certainly to behave in that way, even as he was filibustering me. But it just seemed that you could ask the questions without the body language.
HH: But Dana, this is a genuinely sincere question. When Vice President Cheney shot his hunting partner, you appeared on TV in an orange vest.
HH: Was Bill O’Reilly more disrespectful to the President than you were to the Vice President?
DM: Geez, I certainly didn’t go to interview the Vice President in an orange hat.
HH: But I thought O’Reilly was perfectly respectful of the office. He was just, he was attempting to ask questions that weren’t being answered.
DM: And they’re, and we can, and you and your listeners, and me and my readers, we can have a different view of what is the proper level of respect there. But what we shouldn’t have a dispute about is if I said something that was factually wrong, I’d like to know what it is so I can correct it. But I don’t believe that he or anybody else has come up with anything. I mean, I suppose we can look at the 42 and say well, was that really an interruption or was that something else? I don’t know, but at least I’d like to hear if that’s what the argument is.
HH: No, I think it was the word nasty. I think that he believes it was a very respectful interview, and you don’t. You thought it was combative. Did you think it was nasty?
DM: Yeah, I’m not sure that actually the word nasty was in my column, but certainly it was a combative interview.
HH: Yeah, I just couldn’t disagree with you more, Dana.
DM: Well, you know, I think it’s where you’re, it has to do with where one is coming from in terms of how you would regard the President in that sort of interview.
HH: Okay, last question, is O’Reilly a good journalist?
DM: You know, as you probably know, I wrote a whole book about Glenn Beck and contrasted O’Reilly very favorably with him, so I do think O’Reilly has the potential to be, ask good questions and be a good reporter. I would note that he doesn’t seem to have gotten a whole lot more out of the President asking the rapid fire questions than anybody else has.
HH: Has anyone at the Washington Post gotten more out of him in an interview with the President than Bill O’Reilly got out on Sunday?
DM: Well, probably Bob Woodward, but that’s sui generis, I guess.
HH: Okay, I’m, I guess you’re saying that we wouldn’t know, because he never tells us when someone’s on the record. Dana Milbank, thanks for short notice. I appreciate you coming on.
End of interview.