NEW YORK – A booksellers' luncheon isn't the place you'd expect to hear a shouting match, but Al Franken (search) and Bill O'Reilly (search) got into a verbal war Saturday at BookExpo America in Los Angeles.
During the luncheon, which was broadcast live on C-SPAN, political humorist Franken took to the podium pushing his upcoming release Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (October 2003) in which he questions statements made by author Ann Coulter and O'Reilly, the host of Fox News Channel's highest-rated program, among others.
Franken launched an in-depth attack on O'Reilly, who was also on the panel to discuss his upcoming release, Who's Looking Out for You Now? (September 2003) about his statements in the past that his previous employer Inside Edition, a TV news magazine, had won the prestigious Peabody Award.
Franken said he looked into the claims that the show had won such an award and found no record of it. O'Reilly later told him he had misspoke and it was a Polk Award that was given to the show, not a Peabody.
As the book industry crowd nervously laughed at the unexpected showdown unfolding before them Franken chided: "Don’t you think it’s odd you got it wrong about a journalism award?”
But O'Reilly shot back at his attacker. "This guy accuses me of being a liar, ladies and gentlemen, on national television," O'Reilly said. "He's vicious, and that's with a capital V, a person who's blinded by ideology.
"All he's got in six and a half years is that I misspoke, that I labeled a Polk Award a Peabody."
As O'Reilly laid his case, Franken tried to interrupt but was immediately stopped.
"Shut up! You had your 35 minutes. Shut up," O'Reilly said. "We're supposed to be on here for 15 minutes and this idiot goes 35."
Franken snapped back: "This isn't your show Bill," creating an uproar from the crowd.
BookExpo moderator and former Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder seemed just as surprised by the spectacle as the lunch crowd.
"I think I need a whistle and a striped shirt here," she said, laughing. "I’m not meant to be a referee."