Feb
10
2009

D'Oh! Reilly Factor

After President Obama's press conference last night, Fox host Bill O'Reilly saw one to scorepoints against the White House–by mocking Obama forrelying ona list of pre-approved journalists when he took questions.

Unfortunately for O'Reilly, his guest at the time was former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, who had to point out that this was… well, exactly the way Bush did things.

O'REILLY: Look, he had those guys listed, written down, who he was going to call. Now, in other press conferences, they just look around, and they go, "Oh, right, right, right!" And they go, "This one, that one, this one." Correct?

FLEISCHER: Well, George Bush never did that. I don't know how Bill Clinton did it, but it's a bad idea to reward the guy with the loudest voice.

O'REILLY: OK. So….

FLEISCHER: Writing it down gives the president what to call (ph).

O'REILLY: George Bush came in with a list of guys he was going to call on?

FLEISCHER: Yes, I used to prepare it for him. I would give him a grid, show him where every reporter is seated. And there are some reporters, you know, in that briefing room, you can imagine, Bill, you get a lot of dot coms and other oddballs who come in there. They're screened.

O'REILLY: Like the Huffington Post.

FLEISCHER: And I used to seat them all in one section. I would call it Siberia. And I told the president, "Don't call on Siberia. Just stay right here and call on these people on the grid in front of you."

Like O'Reilly, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz also seemed to think the breakthrough question asked by Huffington Post blogger Sam Stein was a little weird. Where O'Reilly suggested Stein was an "oddball," Kurtz wrote that he asked a question about a "a cause popular on the left"–by which he means the same thing.

Also like O'Reilly, Kurtz got the history of press conference protocol wrong, writing:

Some journalists are miffed that Obama decides the day before news conferences whom he is going to call on — the fortunate ones are notified in advance–reducing the other reporters to the role of mere extras. Past presidents have generally worked their way around the room, starting with the wire services, networks and major newspapers.

Too bad Kurtz didn't have Fleischer with him to let him know that such an open-ended press conference system would be a "bad idea."

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.