CBS Pulls The Reagans

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, November 7, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Neil Gabler sitting in for Alan tonight. Neil, good to see you. Welcome aboard.

NEIL GABLER, CO-HOST: Thank you very much.

HANNITY: The decision by CBS to pull their mini-series on former President Ronald Reagan (search) and stick it on cable is being hailed as a victory for conservatives.

But does the whole episode expose the Reagan hating liberal leaning tendencies of the mainstream press?

Joining us now is the president of the Media Research Center (search), Frank Bozell and by FNC contributor and Newsday columnist, our good friend Ellis Henican.

All right, Frank, let me go to you. You actually did a lot of research here that frankly stunned me.

This CBS, CBS has a history of Reagan bashing. Leslie Stahl, historians are going to be totally baffled, she said, how the American people fell in love with this man and followed him the way we did. She said bottom line largest deficits in history, largest debtor nation. Can't fix the housing emergency.

And Ed Bradley some other statements. This has been going on for years.

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Well, it has been. And everyone is entitled to his opinion. But when you give your opinion and call it news, then we've got a problem. And when you do a made for TV movie where you purport to show the life of Ronald Reagan and then make up things about him -- and I will underscore over and over again, the man is dying of Alzheimer's and can't defend himself -- then you've really performed like a piece of slime in my book.

HANNITY: It's not just Leslie Stahl and Ed Bradley saying those things. They had their morning TV critic, who once said, "Reagan took the AIDS plague less seriously than when Gerald Ford (search) had taken the swine flu. And after all, he didn't need the ghettos and he didn't want the gays."

ELLIS HENICAN, NEWSDAY COLUMNIST: Wacky scholarship, Sean. The notion that you can go through somebody who's had a 40-year career and pick a half dozen quotes and prove something like this is absurd. You know what the equivalent would be? If somebody went out and dug out a bunch of quotes from Alan Colmes and Neil Gabler and Ellis Henican and Susan Estrich and proved that the Fox News Channel is a left wing organization.

Come on. This is ridiculous. Anybody could say -- Reagan was in public life for almost half century. This is silly. This is silly.

HANNITY: Maybe to you it is.

HENICAN: It doesn't prove anything.

HANNITY: When you go after the president, who is a beloved president, one of the greatest presidents...

HENICAN: Beloved by some, loathed by others.

HANNITY: Wait a second. Then deal with the controversy fairly and accurately. Don't manufacture statements that he never made, Ellis, which is what they did here. Wait a minute. Don't manufacture statements.

And No. 2, don't treat him like a buffoon, the way they did here.

HENICAN: Here's the -- Have you seen it? None of us has seen it. Nobody's seen it.

HANNITY: I interviewed Michael Reagan (search), who saw it.

HENICAN: Listen, and he has, obviously -- We're not going to edit the father's decisions through Michael Reagan.

Here's the problem, though. It isn't that we can't have differing views on this, because we do. The problem comes when one side wants to silence the view of the other, to throw it off the air. Make it go away.

HANNITY: Demanding accuracy -- demanding accuracy and fairness...

HENICAN: You're only trying to gain a code of silence.

BOZELL: Can I say something?

GABLER: First I want to correct the record on his media reality check. Those statements, only two of the seven statements that he cites, looking with a fine-toothed comb through CBS's record, only two of those statements were made on CBS. They were made by people who at one time were employed by CBS, but they weren't on CBS.

But anyway, let's go to the Mel Gibson story, The Passion. Now, you can't have it both ways.

BOZELL: Can I just go to what we said before?

GABLER: But let me just ask this question and respond to both. Do you believe that the people that are protesting The Passion, Mel Gibson's movie that some say disparages Jews, should not be shown because some people are offended by it?

BOZELL: Well, let's look at it this way. First of all, and what your guest said a minute ago, it's absolute 100 percent bunk. Absolutely nobody was opposed to CBS doing a movie on the Reagans.

HENICAN: You didn't want this movie.

BOZELL: What we are opposed to is...

HENICAN: You wanted to stop it because you didn't like the movie.

BOZELL: Can I please say something? Can I please say something? What we're opposed to is inserting things that are simply not true, meant to defame and malign the man, deliberately. And CBS got caught, simple as that.

And let me tell you something, for you folks who are on the left. Anybody on the left who's now attacking conservatives for having caught you lying is looking rather silly.

HENICAN: Brent, it is a mini-series, first of all. You need to need to chill out just a little bit. This isn't journalism here.

BOZELL: Still, it's a mini-series.

HENICAN: We're going to disagree about the legacy of Reagan. Let's just accept that. But I don't want to silence your version of it, and you shouldn't try and silence other people's. It makes you look like a censor.

BOZELL: My friend, do you want to have a debate on what Reagan's policy was on AIDS (search)? Fine.


BOZELL: You want a debate on what his policies were on religion, fine. But you know what? Ronald Reagan didn't go around calling himself the antichrist. Don't put that into the script.

HENICAN: I don't want to gag you. You shouldn't try and gag anybody you disagree with. Don't rip it off the air.

BOZELL: Can't we agree that someone should not lie? Can't we agree that you ought not to lie about someone? Can't you give me that much?

HENICAN: The answer to speech you don't like is more speech, not less speech. More speech.

BOZELL: You can't do that. Listen to you folks. Listen to you.

HANNITY: All right.

BOZELL: You're saying it's acceptable to lie.

HANNITY: Yes, that's basically it.

BOZELL: That's all it is.

HANNITY: And by the way, CBS...

BOZELL: There's nothing more to say here.

HANNITY: CBS is supposed to be fair. That's the difference. That's the distinction.

BOZELL: And not to lie.

HANNITY: Thanks, Brent. Good to see you.

Ellis, appreciate it.

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