Friday, January 13, 2012

O'Reilly's Defense Of His "Angry Woman" Comment About Michelle Obama Falls Flat


by Todd Gregory/Media Matters
On January 11, ABC's World News did a report on Michelle Obama's denial of accusations that she is an "angry black woman." As an example, ABC used a clip of Bill O'Reilly saying in 2008 that "there is some validity" to the statement that Michelle Obama "looks like an angry woman."
On the January 12 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly reacted indignantly: "For ABC News to paint me as critical of her is flat-out dishonest."
O'Reilly's defense of his comment focused mainly on the fact that the clip of him was from 2008, and that since then, he has been "generally favorable" to Michelle Obama:
O'REILLY: Well, that sounds kind of bad, does it not? But here's the context. That interview was done about three and a half years ago -- three and a half years ago, when the country was still getting to know Mrs. Obama, who did have some problems in the beginning. You'll remember the "proud of her country" remark. My interview back then was with Rebecca Johnson, who wrote a profile on Michelle Obama for Vogue magazine.
[...]
O'REILLY: As usual, I did my job. I asked the tough questions about Mrs. Obama because there was a perception -- and everybody knows it -- that she was not happy-go-lucky. In fact, she told CBS News she's tired of being labeled an angry black woman. That's what she said. On the Factor, Ms. Johnson was given plenty of time to set the record straight as she saw it. That's why we had her on.
Subsequently, since the Obamas have occupied the White House, I have been generally favorable to Michelle Obama.
O'Reilly then showed a series of clips of him saying nice things about the first lady.
Here's the problem: This defense doesn't make any sense. As O'Reilly said himself, "the country was still getting to know Mrs. Obama" in 2008. During that getting-to-know-you period, O'Reilly did indeed say that Michelle Obama "looks like an angry woman." In doing so, he obviously helped create a perception in his viewers' minds that she is "an angry woman."
O'Reilly may have said otherwise since then, but he can't honestly claim that he had no role in creating the "angry woman" image of Michelle Obama.
O'Reilly also dragged Media Matters into his complaint: "ABC News also did not tell its audience that it got the clip it used on me from the far-left website Media Matters, which is in business solely to smear non-liberal media people."
This doesn't make much sense, either. O'Reilly didn't dispute the authenticity of the clip or the context of what he said back in 2008. The clip is accurate, and where ABC got it from is irrelevant.
During a tease of this story at the top of the show, the graphic read "Taken Out of Context":
O'Reilly also made a form of this argument during a subsequent discussion with Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham:
O'REILLY: And here's what happened. I worked at ABC News, and here -- here's exactly what happened. They had some inexperienced correspondent -- I don't know even know who she is -- on it. But they had a producer. Producer was lazy. Producer looked at -- you know, Googled Michelle Obama. Bing, Media Matters comes up right away. He takes the thing right off. Doesn't do any contextual about it. When did it happen? Why did it happen? What was the --
INGRAHAM: Oh, that's so -- why are you surprised? Why are you surprised by this?
O'REILLY: No, I'm not, but I want the people to understand this is what happens all the time. So then ABC News on their World News broadcast reaches, what, 8 million people? OK, they throw my picture up there with the Fox News Channel underneath. And how are they supposed to know? How are these people supposed to know what the history of it is? They don't.
If O'Reilly is suggesting that ABC deceived its viewers by not telling them the clip was from 2008, he's wrong there, too. The image ABC that used with the audio of O'Reilly noted it was from "Sept 2008":
Full transcripts of O'Reilly's segments on the story are below.
From the tease at the top of the show:
O'REILLY: The O'Reilly Factor is on tonight.
MICHELLE OBAMA [video clip]: That's been an image that people have tried to paint of me, that I'm some angry black woman.
O'REILLY: ABC News, reporting on a new book about the Obamas, portrays me, your humble correspondent, as hostile to the first lady.
[begin video clip]
CECILIA VEGA (ABC News correspondent): The image of an angry Michelle Obama has long been fodder for critics.
O'REILLY [audio clip]: I have a lot of people who call me on the radio and say she looks angry. And I have to say there's some validity to that. She looks like angry woman.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: And guess where they got that clip? The far-left website Media Matters. Did ABC News tell its audience? We will tell you.
From O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo":
O'REILLY: The media race-baiting begins. That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. As you may know, there's a new book out about the Obamas in which the first lady is discussed at length. ABC News reported on the book last night and used me, your humble correspondent, to represent pundits critical of Michelle Obama.
[begin video clip]
VEGA: A new book called The Obamas paints a portrait of a first lady, who, in the beginning, was frustrated and unhappy with life in the White House. The image of an angry Michelle Obama has long been fodder for critics.
O'REILLY [audio clip]: I have a lot of people who call me on the radio and say she looks angry. And I have to say there's some validity to that. She looks like angry woman.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: Well, that sounds kind of bad, does it not? But here's the context. That interview was done about three and a half years ago -- three and a half years ago, when the country was still getting to know Mrs. Obama, who did have some problems in the beginning. You'll remember the "proud of her country" remark. My interview back then was with Rebecca Johnson, who wrote a profile on Michelle Obama for Vogue magazine.
[begin video clip]
JOHNSON: I found her lovely, actually. Very bright, very thoughtful, and, you know, an impressive person. Intelligent. She was great. I was impressed.
O'REILLY: Now, I have a lot of people who call me on the radio and say she looks angry. And I have to say there's some validity to that. She looks like an angry woman. Did you ask her about that?
JOHNSON: Don't they say that about you, too?
O'REILLY: Yeah, but I'm not running for -- I'm not going to be the first lady. I hope not, anyway.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: As usual, I did my job. I asked the tough questions about Mrs. Obama because there was a perception -- and everybody knows it -- that she was not happy-go-lucky. In fact, she told CBS News she's tired of being labeled an angry black woman. That's what she said. On the Factor, Ms. Johnson was given plenty of time to set the record straight as she saw it. That's why we had her on.
Subsequently, since the Obamas have occupied the White House, I have been generally favorable to Michelle Obama.
O'REILLY [video clip]: The president and first lady were very gracious to me. This is the first time I've spoken to Michelle Obama, and I was impressed. She's charismatic, articulate, and beautiful.
O'REILLY [video clip]: Ms. Obama was participating in the healthy kids fair, and the hula hoop is good exercise for the midsection. For being hoop conscious, Michelle Obama is a patriot.
O'REILLY [video clip]: For trying to help American vets, the first lady is a patriot.
O'REILLY [video clip]: But don't you think that Michelle Obama speaking out about healthy food is -- I think it's noble. I think it's a good thing.
O'REILLY [video clip]: Then they brought her into the White House, Michelle Obama, and they basically placed her in a position where she's glamorous. And she is. She's like Jackie Kennedy.
O'REILLY [video clip]: I believe Michelle Obama is a good woman who wants the best for all Americans.
O'REILLY: But those statements did not fit into the narrative that ABC News wanted to present last night -- that of guys like me hammering Michelle Obama.
ABC News also did not tell its audience that it got the clip it used on me from the far-left website Media Matters, which is in business solely to smear non-liberal media people.
Now, we brought the situation to ABC's attention today, and they say from now on, they'll call people like me who are injected into their news coverage. And I think it's important. Because I'm simply not going to let -- I'm not going to let the presidential campaign degenerate into a race-baiting media propaganda exposition. All who participate in that, and there are plenty of them, are going to be called out on it.
From my vantage point, Michelle Obama has been a fine first lady, helping kids and articulating important issues like nutrition. For ABC News to paint me as critical of her is flat-out dishonest.
All of us have a lot riding on the presidential election this year. It's about America's future. So, let's cut the crap, shall we?
From O'Reilly's discussion with Ingraham:
O'REILLY: Now for the top story tonight, reaction. Joining us from Washington from the Ingraham Angle, Ms. Laura. You're not surprised at this, are you?
INGRAHAM: No, Bill. And, frankly, I'm shocked that you would be accused of saying anything critical of the first lady because, if you remember, the summer of 2010, rewind. When I was on for The Obama Diaries, with my book where I wrote, you know, these accounts of what Michelle's thought process was in the White House. I made the point that I thought the whole mom-in-chief thing was a big cover and a big ruse -- that yes, she's glamorous, of course she's smart, of course she's charismatic, all of that's a given, seems to be a great mom -- but that she was really aggressively pushing policy in the White House. Immigration reform, The New York Times now tells us. I was focused more on this child nutrition thing, which ended up being a big payoff to SEIU with the way it's being regulated in our schools. And you rose to the first lady's defense and you said, "Oh, now the garden is a problem, Ingraham." So if they should be coming after anyone, Bill, I'm happy to take the bullet for you.
O'REILLY: Well, that's right, but I'm the big dog, you see.
INGRAHAM: I'm a pretty big dog.
O'REILLY: And here's what happened. I worked at ABC News, and here -- here's exactly what happened. They had some inexperienced correspondent -- I don't know even know who she is -- on it. But they had a producer. Producer was lazy. Producer looked at -- you know, Googled Michelle Obama. Bing, Media Matters comes up right away. He takes the thing right off. Doesn't do any contextual about it. When did it happen? Why did it happen? What was the --
INGRAHAM: Oh, that's so -- why are you surprised? Why are you surprised by this?
O'REILLY: No, I'm not, but I want the people to understand this is what happens all the time. So then ABC News on their World News broadcast reaches, what, 8 million people? OK, they throw my picture up there with the Fox News Channel underneath. And how are they supposed to know? How are these people supposed to know what the history of it is? They don't.
INGRAHAM: Well, Bill -- Bill -- but here's what I -- here's my question, which I think is more interesting. with all due respect. Why do you think that there's no validity to this point that Michelle Obama is aggressively and somewhat effectively meddling in policy, even though she's an unelected official? That's what The New York Times book states on immigration reform and health care, that there was this big tension.
O'REILLY: I didn't read the book so I can't know -- I didn't read the book so I can't know that.
INGRAHAM: Well, yeah, but you're making this --
O'REILLY: Look, and that's a debatable issue. Look, she may be --
INGRAHAM: Yeah, but look, all I'm saying is I think -- I think you are a little more correct the first time you said what you said than you are in your kind of three and a half years later.
O'REILLY: I don't think she -- look, I don't think she's an angry black woman I don't. All right, I didn't know her --
INGRAHAM: No but nobody is talking about black. Who is talking about that?
O'REILLY: Three and a half years ago -- three and a half years ago nobody knew her. And she had made that comment that everybody went crazy, "the first time I'm proud of my country." So we're probing to find out who she is, and a I asked the question. But look, you raise an interesting point. It could be that Michelle Obama is the power behind the throne --
INGRAHAM: Yeah, it sounds like it.
O'REILLY: -- and that she's doing a lot of these things to put forth a political agenda. Absolutely that could be true. We're open to that discussion anytime. I'll give you the last word.
INGRAHAM: She has sharp elbows, Bill. She has sharp elbows, but she's also glamorous. The two can also, you know, can coexist at one time. She can be beautiful and a great mom, but she can also be a radical leftist who has a bit of an entitlement mentality, using the taxpayers' jet to go off a couple days early and not stay behind with her husband when a lot of people are struggling in this country. That doesn't look good to Americans who want to believe that the first lady and the president empathize with their plight. I think that's a legitimate discussion point, and I think that's, you know, that's a question.
O'REILLY: Here's the bottom line: You should have been on that report, not me.
INGRAHAM: Good. I -- no, the black thing has nothing to do with it. That's a game that they are playing, and that's an old game, and you called them out on it.
O'REILLY: All right. Laura Ingraham, everybody.
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