"Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing"

Friday, February 07, 2014


On Sunday before the Super Bowl kickoff,  President Obama sat down with Bill O'Reilly for a rare one-on-one interview. O'Reilly asked the President about the rocky roll out of Obamacare, the attack in Benghazi, and the alleged targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. What did we learn? Conor Friedersdorf, staff writer for the Atlantic, says... nothing much at all. Bob talks with Friedersdorf about the performance and spectacle in this presidential sit down.

Down to Earth


Conor Friedersdorf

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [9]

michael from philadelphia

Here is a link to a Wall Street Journal op-ed which starts "The mainstream press has justified its lack of coverage over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups because there's been no "smoking gun" tying President Obama to the scandal."

Mar. 02 2014 04:31 PM

Or how about following up on this, from this very week, on the "alleged targeting by the IRS."


Beginning in Feb 2010, 100% of the 501(c)(4)s targeted by the IRS were conservative.

Feb. 13 2014 03:19 PM

Perhaps this would be a good follow-up on this week's show:


Feb. 12 2014 07:45 AM
Chase from Texas

The dismissive comments about O'Reilly and Fox are par for the course with this program and I wouldn't expect OTM to question the President even one bit. But it is possible that a President dismisses scandals within his administration as a simple technique to avoid answering tough questions. If I were OTM and reviewed an interview where Obama compared himself to Nixon, saying Nixon was more liberal than he is, I might begin to wonder if there was some sort of Freudian slip happening there. Nixon made it clear in all his comments about Watergate that this was just a two bit burglary that meant nothing, until Woodward and Bernstein were able to discover an extensive program directed from the White House to crush his opposition in the presidential election. There were piles of cash that had been laundered from campaign contributions to fund these operations, there was an enemies list(sound familiar?) and a full scale cover-up was launched. Now, is OTM so complacent about these issues that it won't consider the possibility that the President has something to hide? It won't consider the possibility that a liberal president could be just as dishonest as a conservative one. Democracy works when you put away your biases and try to get to the truth. Is this the best you can do? Blind acceptance of explanations from leaders who have a vested interest in killing stories that could reveal a deeper program of acting "above the law" is dangerous.

Feb. 10 2014 11:30 PM

Bob starts off his interview characterizing Fox’s “unrelenting critique” of the Obama Presidency. The reason for that critique, of course, is all of the unanswered questions. We don’t have answers for why our embassy wasn’t secure on 9/11, for Pete’s sake. And where are those people held accountable for the attack – outside of being spotted by the press having a smoothie – for the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, information specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glenn Doherty and Ty Woods? Should we really think that because a 2-bit movie producer’s awful, cheap movie, we have the killers? And why were our embassy personnel there? Was there Syrian arms trading? And just this week we got closer to who gave Susan Rice those talking points. Why are these, as the AP said about the interview, only “Republican” problems?


The questioning on the IRS is NOT old or alleged. Indeed, Bob and his guest should know that this very week an email was uncovered that suggests that the IRS knew what it was doing with regard to investigating conservative groups as far back as 2012 – just Google for an email from Ruth Madrigal of the Treasury Department to Lois Lerner to investigate 501c4s “off-plan,” and you’ll realize O’Reilly SHOULD be asking these questions, as well as the rest of the press. And why would Lois Lerner take the 5th over mere bone-headed decisions made by OTHER PEOPLE – low-level types in Cincinnati – when there isn’t a smidgeon of corruption? Can you take the 5th against self-recrimination of “boneheadedism?” C’mon, Dave Camp laid out the evidence THIS WEEK that this was run out of Washington. The hearings this week completely contradicted the While House on this.


What O’Reilly accomplished was getting the President to advance the lies even further. “Nothing to see here Bill, move on . . .” In the meantime, the administration is restoring IRS performance bonuses. But we’re not supposed to know about that, I guess…

You know, so what if these questions have been asked 1,000 times by one network. No one has been fired and no one is held accountable on any of this stuff. Is that not the job of the media? Or is that only when there is a Bush in the White House?

Feb. 10 2014 05:18 PM
Mark Richard from WOSU

When Chris Matthews does a puffball interview of President Obama, the media establishment shrugs. When Bill O'Reilly does one, the mainstream media is all over it for being either rude, or irrelevant, or both. What guts! O'Reilly is criticized by media pseuds for not being a real journalist. What does that make his wanna-be left-side doppelganger Matthews?

Come to think of it, OTM has not had the nerve within my hearing to take a hard look at MSNBC and what its weakness for providing employment to buffoons and nasties like Matthews, Sharpton ('Freddy's Fashion Mart'), Harris-Perry (she did apologize, possibly sincerely), Baldwin, Bashir, etc., does to the 'NBC News' brand. Instead there is the usual quota of low-key sniveling at Fox, an outlet which provides better straight-forward news programs than MSNBC, and which permits opposing points of view, however roughly handled, in its opinion shows. Gee, I just can't imagine why. OTM should overcome its political biases and show some guts - but then those public radio donors (my station's fund-raising stretches sure feature a lot of appeals by Alec Baldwin, maybe yours do, too!) might turn on the show. Or the whole network.

Feb. 10 2014 01:19 PM

Nothing about Chris Matthews' interview of President Obama, on Thursday, December 5, on MSNBC. If ever there was a true dog-and-pony show of an interview, this was it.

Link to transcript here:

That was a "Hardball" interview. Stop laughing. It looks so bad as a transcript, even worse than the video. There isn't a single question that was intended as anything other than a serve for Obama's volley.

And on a somewhat unrelated note, this; Bill O'Reilly's questioning of President Obama was surely more polite and more broadly informative than the hostile cross-examination to which public radio's Terry Gross subjected O'Reilly on her WHYY program, "Fresh Air." For which Ms. Gross was rightly censured by the NPR Ombudsman.

Feb. 09 2014 12:38 AM

Now that Bill O'Reilly has obtained the information that Obama feels there is not a "smidgen" of impropriety or influencing at the IRS, we can go back to Obama's original statement on the affair. It is breathtaking, and thanks to O'Reilly, we now have "President Smidgen:"

By POLITICO STAFF | 5/15/13 7:00 PM EDT
As provided by The White House:

THE PRESIDENT: "Good afternoon, everybody. I just finished speaking with Secretary Lew and senior officials at the Treasury Department to discuss the investigation into IRS personnel who improperly screened conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And I look forward to taking some questions at tomorrow’s press conference, but today, I wanted to make sure to get out to all of you some information about what we’re doing about this, and where we go from here.

"I’ve reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report, and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives. And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe you’re from — the fact of the matter is, is that the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity. The government generally has to conduct itself in a way that is true to the public trust. That’s especially true for the IRS.

"So here’s what we’re going to do.

"First, we’re going to hold the responsible parties accountable. Yesterday, I directed Secretary Lew to follow up on the IG audit to see how this happened and who is responsible, and to make sure that we understand all the facts. Today, Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it’s important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.

"Second, we’re going to put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind of behavior cannot happen again. And I’ve directed Secretary Lew to ensure the IRS begins implementing the IG’s recommendations right away.

"Third, we will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role. And our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed. Congress, Democrats and Republicans, owe it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves and in a way that doesn’t smack of politics or partisan agendas. Because I think one thing that you’ve seen is, across the board, everybody believes what happened in — as reported in the IG report is an outrage. The good news is it’s fixable, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together to fix it..."

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/barack-obama-irs-statement-transcript-91445.html#ixzz2snaKCL00

Feb. 09 2014 12:26 AM
Marty Siegrist from michigan

I guess it would not have occurred to me to consider Bill O'Reilly to be a journalist, so it comes as no surprise that his questions and interviewing skills were lacking.

Feb. 08 2014 07:31 AM

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