Joe Conason's Journal

Bill O'Reilly enters a real no-spin zone -- and loses.


Salon Staff
June 4, 2003 4:45PM (UTC)

O'Reilly in the real no-spin zone Bill O'Reilly wins almost every argument in the Fox News environment created by Roger Ailes, who manages more fixed fights than the mob ever did. But venturing forth from the Ailes-controlled arena can be quite perilous, as O'Reilly discovered last Saturday afternoon when he showed up for a panel at the L.A. Book Expo with Molly Ivins and Al Franken. The moderator was former Rep. Pat Schroeder. (Tucker Carlson was unavoidably absent, leaving O'Reilly to cope with the kind of odds that liberals invariably face on Fox.)

All three authors went to Los Angeles to promote their new books. Franken's forthcoming tome, sassily titled "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," features a cover photo of O'Reilly among the pack of prevaricating wingers.

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So Franken began to tell, almost midway through the panel presentations, how he exposed O'Reilly's fibs about winning the Peabody Award a couple of years ago. (FAIR offers a version of the same tale on its Web site here. "Inside Edition" did win a George Polk Award, which is remarkable enough, but that was after O'Reilly had left the show.)

While O'Reilly sat visibly steaming on the dais, Franken cheerfully exposed his repeated spinning and falsifying about the Peabody, the most prestigious award in broadcasting, which he claimed to have won while working at the "tabloidy" "Inside Edition."

According to Franken, he was so astonished after hearing O'Reilly claim to have won the Peabody that he phoned the people who give out those awards. "Did you guys give 'Inside Edition' a Peabody?" he recalled asking. Pause. "There was some laughter ..."

There was some laughter from the audience in L.A. as well, but the effect of this story when recounted in full is so devastating that one almost had to feel sorry for O'Reilly. Almost, that is, until a few minutes later when he bellowed "Shut up!" at Franken. That was pretty much his entire "rebuttal."

I can't quite do this whole scene justice, particularly because Franken's shtick is so sharp. See it for yourself, either on the Book TV Web site, or when the tape is rebroadcast on C-SPAN next Sunday.

If you're watching on RealPlayer and can't wait for the confrontation, skip ahead 41 minutes from the beginning; then rewind to hear the rest of Franken's presentation and the mighty Molly, who was just plain superb.
[8:12 a.m. PDT, June 4, 2003]

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