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Media Responsibility in an Election Year

Drowning in a sea of mud.

Here's the fact. The memo controversy has now become a bigger story than what President Bush (search) actually did in the National Guard. And there are lessons to be learned as the partisan war continues this election year.

First of all, I have no idea whether CBS News used fabricated documents. I simply don't know and will let the forensic experts slug it out. If a smoking gun emerges in the case, we'll tell you about it.

I do not believe Dan Rather intentionally put fraudulent stuff on the air, but do I know that fraud is rampant among Bush haters and Kerry haters. These people will do just about anything to hurt the guy they don't like.

Thus every news organization has to be super careful about what it reports as fact. You remember it took us three weeks to interview John O'Neill (search), the anti-Kerry swift boat author. That's because we did our own investigation into O'Neill's thesis, independent of any and all ideology.

When we ran the interview last Tuesday, we got an enormous rating. And I think both Mr. O'Neill and Senator Kerry would say they were treated fairly by us. At least I hope so.

It is paramount for The Factor and every other media outlet, which wants to cover this presidential race honestly, to be very skeptical of all damaging information against the candidates. I mean, the talk radio people can run wild with speculation, but journalists should not. Talk radio is entertainment. News coverage operates with more stringent rules.

For example, blind sourcing. This evening, Seymour Hersh (searchwill be here promoting his new book on Abu Ghraib. There are many anonymous sources in that book. So I'm pretty skeptical and I'll challenge Mr. Hersh.

Likewise, Kitty Kelley's book whacking the Bush family. It's loaded with unnamed sources. So we asked you whether I should even interview Ms. Kelley at all in a billoreilly.com poll. About 50,000 of you voted and 58 percent say I should not talk with Ms. Kelley. Forty-two percent say yes.

As with the Michael Moore poll, you make the call. You wanted Moore, you got him. You don't want Kitty, OK. In this age of rapid information and rumor du jour, it's very difficult to cut through the partisan fog and get to the truth. Often people believe what they want to believe. And you can get big ratings pandering to one side or the other.

But the no-spin zone rejects that approach. And we will keep our word to you in this vitally important election. You'll get an honest and fair coverage of events from us, always.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

The Factor is approaching its 8th birthday in early October, and things have really changed for us. Now, many politicians actually want to come on the program, because they know their words will be heard by millions. However, there are some who continue to snub us.

Former President Jimmy Carter (searchis among them. We've been calling Mr. Carter for years, and finally, last week, we asked him point blank, "Will you ever have room in your schedule to come on The Factor, ever?" The answer? No.

I guess that's no spin. We are, of course, taking it personally. To not do so would be ridiculous. We're rescinding our invitation. Now you can't come on, even if you want to.

—You can watch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the FOX News Channel. Send your comments to: oreilly@foxnews.com

Bill O'Reilly currently serves as the host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) The O'Reilly Factor (weekdays 8PM/ET), the most watched cable news show for the past 13 years. He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York. Click here for more information on Bill O'Reilly

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