This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 12, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the Top Story tonight. Senator Robert Torricelli appearing in a Muslim event nine years ago. At that event were men who had been linked with possible terrorist groups, men like Professor Sami Al-Arian, Ahmed bin Yousef and Ramadan Shallah, the current head of Islamic Jihad. Here's what Senator Torricelli said at that conference.
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SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: America has little to teach and much to learn.
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O'REILLY: Wow. The senator is in Israel tonight. He didn't want to speak with us, but his chief of staff, Danny O'Brien, says Torricelli had no idea any terrorist sympathizers were in the audience. But we would like to know what the senator meant about America has little to teach and hope he'll be with us later on this week.
Joining us now from Washington is Kirk Victor, a correspondent with the National Journal. So, Torricelli is in jeopardy. His seat is in jeopardy. According to the polls in New Jersey, the race with Douglas Forrester in November is tightening up. Think this will hurt him?
KIRK VICTOR, CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, actually, I don't. I think the elephant in the room is the charges involving Mr. Torricelli's relationship with a one-time friend and lobbyist named David Chang. The Senate Ethics Committee recently severely admonished him, et cetera.
And the problem for Mr. Torricelli is to convince voters to put that in the past, look to the future and, meanwhile, try to make his opponent, Mr. Forrester, the issue because he made lots of money from pharmaceutical drug industry. He was the head of a company that managed prescription drug plans for employers. So I don't think a speech that was nine years ago, which Mr. Torricelli has responded to charges about, is really...
O'REILLY: OK. But let me stop you there. He responded in 1996 when the incident wasn't nearly as hot as it is now. Come on. I mean, we've got three guys in there, three guys, at least at this conference, that are major, major questionable characters, let's put it that way. But, the thing is, you know, what do you mean, America has got little to teach and much to learn? I mean, we need to have a clarification of that in the current atmosphere, do we not?
VICTOR: I think that Mr. Forrester should and will try to pursue that, but again...
O'REILLY: Well, we'll pursue it here on The Factor.
VICTOR: Absolutely. But the bigger factor is going to be the incident that I described.
O'REILLY: I agree with you on that. I mean, I'm not making this -- we must say to be fair that Senator Torricelli basically said, look, he reaches out to all groups. FBI Chief Mueller talked in front of the American Muslim Council and he didn't know anybody was there, and this was when he was a Congressman and on and on and on.
VICTOR: And, in fact, just to interrupt you, I mean, in fact, he responded to the charges when his opponent, Congressman Zimmer, in 1996 tried to make this an issue. And he said the Muslim community is not monolithic, and he said it sounds like an ethnic slur. So, he got the best of both worlds because he also said he never would have spoken there had he known that there was anyone linked to terrorists.
O'REILLY: Yes, and I believe him. I mean, I don't think he knew who Sami Al-Arian was or Shallah or anybody else. At that point, Shallah was teaching at the University of South Florida. But the fact remains that the statement is dubious and we need to know what that is. And the senator, I wish he was on right now to tell us what he meant by that, but perhaps he'll come on later on.
Now, this is important for all Americans, not just to the people in New Jersey, because there's a brutal, desperate hand to hand combat about controlling the Senate. And if Torricelli goes down, you know, President Bush could get the majority in the Senate.
VICTOR: No question about it. Every one of these contests, there are about maybe 15 that are very, very close, and that are going to be knock-down, drag-out battles. This is one of them. Torricelli knows it. he is Senator Torricelli. He's a very combative, tough, tenacious campaigner. Mr. Forrester is a novice, has never run a statewide campaign, and this will be one of the brutal contests that we will be -- political reporters and observers will be enjoying from the sidelines. But it is all about control of the Senate. The Republicans need to pick up just one seat.
O'REILLY: And the Senate Ethics Committee, of course, did Torricelli a favor by keeping this secret, all the hearings and what he said, what they said, which is a disgrace. And the American people have a right to know what was said in these hearings. Don't you agree with that?
VICTOR: Well, in fairness, the reason that they kept that secret, and I prefer everything to be disclosed as a journalist, we always have a preference for disclosure. But, this was grand jury testimony. It is confidential. And so I think the committee felt obliged to keep it secret.
O'REILLY: Well, not all of it was grand jury testimony. The testimony between the individual senators on the ethics committee and Torricelli back and forth certainly isn't protected.
VICTOR: Absolutely. And the senator could disclose that, as he's been urged to...
O'REILLY: The committee could disclose it. The committee could disclose it.
VICTOR: That's right. But he could say he has no objections.
O'REILLY: Of course, he doesn't want it out there. I mean, the committee is at fault here. I mean, if I were Torricelli, I wouldn't want it out there either. I mean, what's your suit size and all of that, come on.
We all know what happened here. He took stuff he shouldn't have taken and the powerful protect each other, as usual in Washington. The people don't have a right to know exactly what happened. It's a disgrace. It keeps going on and on and on.
Mr. Victor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.
VICTOR: Thank you.
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