This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, March 4, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript. 

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In a New York Times column last week, Nicholas Kristof writes that Sami Al-Arian may be a victim here, and his freedom of speech is being intruded upon.  Kristof writes, "The larger point is that a university, even a country, becomes sterile when people are too intimidated to say things out of the mainstream."

Nicholas Kristof joins us now.

So I'm saying he should be out right now.  Where am I wrong?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST:  A couple of points.  First of all, the -- what you referred to as a fund-raising letter wasn't actually a fund-raising letter, it was a private communication that he sent.

And I certainly agree with you that one can disagree about anything that he wrote, but he wasn't fired for any of these things, he was fired because of the reaction that was generated when he came on THE O'REILLY FACTOR.

O'REILLY:  That's true.  But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) let me give you the first one.  This letter that he wrote to Ismael al-Strati (ph) was designed for this al-Strati, who's a wealthy man, to give money to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  You don't call that a fund-raising letter?

KRISTOF:  The Kuwaiti fellow wrote to him, he wrote back.  In other words, it wasn't a larger, some kind of a fund-raising appeal.

O'REILLY:  Well, this is the only one we have.

KRISTOF:  Right.

O'REILLY:  We assume he sent others out.

KRISTOF:  Well, the FBI went through all of his communications.  The FBI went through all of his fund-raising.  There were three major investigations of them -- of him.  None of them came up with any evidence of any wrongdoing.  And I think that until there's some evidence of wrongdoing, there's...

O'REILLY:  Well, what about this letter, though?

KRISTOF:  ... unfair to fire him.

O'REILLY:  I mean, even if...

KRISTOF:  That -- that...

O'REILLY:  ... this was the only letter...

KRISTOF:  Well, that was gone through in this statement, this 56-page report by a federal judge.  And he looked at that, he referred to it, and he found "no evidence of wrongdoing."  And that's indeed his quote.

O'REILLY:  Well, waywowowowo.  But I don't care what the judge said or the FBI.  This letter, to you and me as journalists, is clearly a fund-raising attempt by a man working at a university, being paid by the taxpayers, to raise money for terrorist people.  It's clearly that.  There's no doubt about it.

KRISTOF:  I -- there's plenty of doubt about it, and indeed, this report by this federal judge, as well as an investigation by a grand jury, by the FBI, as well as a third report by a former president...

O'REILLY:  What's the doubt, though?

KRISTOF:  ... of the University of South Florida, they all came to the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing, that this was a private communication with a Kuwaiti, that it was not vio -- it did not violate any federal law or any state law.  And so you have three investigations...

O'REILLY:  Well, maybe that's true, maybe that's true.  But ethically, all right?   This is a fund-raising letter designed to get money for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  Now, I'm telling you that it's wrong...

KRISTOF:  Hm...

O'REILLY:  ... for a guy at a state university...

KRISTOF:  Yes.

O'REILLY:  ... to be raising money for terrorists, and you're, and you're throwing an investigation at me.

KRISTOF:  Well...

O'REILLY:  I'll concede that.

KRISTOF:  Ethi -- ethically, no...

O'REILLY:  I'll concede it.

KRISTOF:  ... ethically I think you -- I would not want to disagree about the ethics of it.  I certainly disagree with Professor al-Arian on a lot of things.  But I don't think that somebody should be fired because we disagree with him.

O'REILLY:  Because he's raising money for terrorist groups?  I mean, Hamas kills babies.

KRISTOF:  Well, but he's not, but he's not.  In fact, if you look at the FBI...

O'REILLY:  He's not?

KRISTOF:  ... study --  No, he's not.  If you looked at the FBI agents who looked through all of the -- who took the flow of funds in his organizations, who spent months and months investigating this, they found no evidence of this, three different studies, all (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know how politics intrude on investigations.  I got the letter here.  All right?  This letter clearly asks this man, al-Strati, to give money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  It's named here.  And you're telling me this isn't a fund-raising letter for terrorists?  Then what is it?

KRISTOF:  What I'm saying is that three different studies...

O'REILLY:  All right, I know, I know that.

KRISTOF:  ... all looked at this...

O'REILLY:  But what's this letter?

KRISTOF:  It's a letter, a private communication he had with a Kuwaiti.  Now, I don't want to defend...

O'REILLY:  Come on!

KRISTOF:  ... I don't want to defend him, and I don't disagree, I don't agree with him on these points.  But I do think that it's deeply unfair to fire somebody for...

O'REILLY:  All right.  Let's personalize...

KRISTOF:  ... his -- for coming on this show...

O'REILLY:  ... it.  If you're the president of the University of South Florida, and I hand you this letter and I say, Dean Kristof, while this man was being paid by Floridians, OK? he wrote this letter asking for money for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and you of all people know what Hamas and Islamic Jihad are.

KRISTOF:  Sure.

O'REILLY:  You know.

KRISTOF:  Yes.

O'REILLY:  You're going to tell me that this comes under the banner of free speech by a professor?

KRISTOF:  Yes, I spent much of my career in Asia, in countries like China, where there was no free speech, and I deeply value that right to have people disagree.  And the university did not fire him for writing that letter.  They fired him...

O'REILLY:  I understand, they should have...

KRISTOF:  ... specifically for being in your show.

O'REILLY:  ... fired him for writing this letter, not -- I...

KRISTOF:  Well...

O'REILLY:  ... look...

KRISTOF:  Yes.

O'REILLY:  ... your point is correct.  The university caved in to the pressure that came after THE O'REILLY FACTOR appearance.  And we said that was wrong.

KRISTOF:  Yes.

O'REILLY:  This is...

KRISTOF:  I...

O'REILLY:  ... why he should have been fired.  Look...

KRISTOF:  It's perfectly appropriate (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... if you wrote a letter, Mr. Kristof, on "New York Times" stationery, or I wrote a letter on Fox News stationery...

KRISTOF:  Yes, but I don't think anybody was saying it was written on stationery.  I think nobody argues that.  And people can see that it was a private letter.

O'REILLY:  All right, say we don't, but say you write a letter asking for money for Hamas tomorrow, and you're working at "The New York Times" and I do it at the Fox News Channel, you think we're going to keep our jobs?

KRISTOF:  I don't think that somebody who writes a private letter that says...

O'REILLY:  We're not going to...

KRISTOF:  ... even pretty outrageous things...

O'REILLY:  We're not going to keep our jobs.

KRISTOF:  ... should be fired, should lose their job.

O'REILLY:  If you wrote a letter asking money...

KRISTOF:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... for Hamas...

KRISTOF:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... and that letter...

KRISTOF:  ... and people (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... got into public...

KRISTOF:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... you would be fired.

KRISTOF:  ... you know, I think that it's very appropriate to argue about it, to criticize him, to blast him for writing things, to blast him for the things he says.  I don't think it's fair to fire him for -- because his appearance on this show generated a lot of opposition.

O'REILLY:  That's right.  This letter is enough to fire him.

KRISTOF:  But he wasn't fired for writing that letter.

O'REILLY:  No, he wasn't.

KRISTOF:  And he wasn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  But he should be fired for writing this letter.

KRISTOF:  Well, then you disagree with the FBI...

O'REILLY:  I -- of course, I disagree with them all the time.

KRISTOF:  ... and you disagree with (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  And, you know, the university -- the state of Florida wouldn't even investigate.  They were so frightened about it they wouldn't even investigate.

Your point is correct...

KRISTOF:  Look...

O'REILLY:  ... he shouldn't have been fired because of the heat that came down on him...

KRISTOF:  Right, but...

O'REILLY:  ... after this, this alone.  And if you did it or I did it, and those letters were made public, and you with "The New York Times," me at Fox News Channel, we would be fired for raising money for terrorists, flat-out, period.  And he's being paid for by the taxpayer.  I'll give you the last word.

KRISTOF:  OK, it's -- apparently there was no violation of the law in writing this, according to what the FBI came up with and this other federal judge.  Now, it may indeed be completely inappropriate, he may have said very inappropriate things, but fundamentally, again, it comes back to firing somebody for what he says, and that makes us all worse off...

O'REILLY:  All right.  We'll let...

KRISTOF:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... the audience decide as always.  Mr. Kristof, thanks for coming in.  Nice to see you again.

KRISTOF:  Sure, my pleasure.

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