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Embedded Reporters a Bad Idea?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Nov. 18, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight, many Americans believe the press should stay away from the battlefield entirely in Iraq and everywhere else. I get letters like that all the time.

Joining us now from Washington is Congressman Silvestre Reyes (search) from Texas who actually quizzed the commandant of the Marine Corps yesterday.

I have the quiz here. You look like you're skeptical about the embedded reporters. Would that be accurate, that you're skeptical about them?

REP. SILVESTRE REYES (D), TEXAS: Well, I — first of all, I don't advocate any kind of censorship. And I certainly recognize that the press provides a very valuable service in letting the general public know what's going on in Iraq and in the conditions that our men and women are enduring in combat.

But I do think that given the incident over the weekend that perhaps we ought to step back and re-evaluate this embedded program, and at least — at least consider what other potential possibilities might be, because, you know, for those of us that have had that terrible experience of combat, we don't know exactly what the circumstances were that put that young Marine in this case in that situation.

O'REILLY: No. Look, I know, I know. But I mean, here's the issue. Whenever you have embedded reporters and cameras in combat, you're going to capture combat. And that's what happened in this case.

Now you ask the Marine commandant. And he said he didn't have any problem, even after the incident with the embedded guys being with them.

Now the danger here, I think, is that you get a situation where the Marine actually — and you know, we've shown it time and time again — has to react very quickly. And most Americans, as just you pointed out, they don't understand what it is and the adrenaline flow, the split second, you're in danger, you're wired. And then we start to make judgments about things we don't know about.

I think that it's got to be more of an editor's point of view than a banning of the cameramen reporters. The editors have to take responsibility.

REYES: Oh, I agree with you. And that's why I wanted to make it clear I'm not advocating censorship or banning reporters or correspondents from the battlefield, because they — generally, they face the same kinds of dangers, although they're not engaged in the combat itself. I'm sure...

O'REILLY: Absolutely. And you get your head blown up real easy in one of these places.

REYES: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: But we have to have some kind of definition. Now the Army, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, they don't have any objection. They want, you know, transparency. I think that's a good thing.

Because here's the deal, congressman. We, the people, through you and your district in Texas, we have to decide, we decide what wars we fight here. You know, it seems like the president and the Pentagon decide. That's not true. We decide. And we decided by voting President Bush back in, that we want to continue this Iraq conflict. If we didn't, Howard Dean (search) would be president.

So we have to know what's going on in the conflict in order to make intelligent decisions. That's why we need the press there. Am I right?

REYES: You're right. And you know, regardless of whether or not we agreed with going to war in Iraq, we're there now. And we cannot afford to leave there without the job being finished.

So I absolutely don't have a problem with that. What I think and what I was asking... was how about reassessing exactly the circumstances that would put a young soldier, young Marine, and his or her family through the kind of trauma that...

O'REILLY: But how can you do that? You have to come up with a reason. Do you want to censor the tape? Do you want everybody to look at the military tape? That's what they did in World War II, that if there was any kind of footage or anything like that, the Army looked at it and said you can this, you can't run that. But that's censorship if you do that.

REYES: Well, and that's not what I'm advocating. What I do want us — or want them to think about is re-evaluating that policy.

O'REILLY: But what — you got to have a plan. Re-evaluate doesn't mean anything. You either want them there or you don't, you either censor or you don't.

REYES: Well, look, I was never an advocate for the embedded reporters when we went to war in the first place in Iraq, because I felt that we were reducing this terrible experience of combat to an entertainment forum where, because of all of the embedded reporters, every evening you could sit in the comfort of your home and your living room and watch this terrible thing play out. I agree that there is a role to be played. There is an important part of passing on the information, and the experience and the great job they're doing, by the way. I...

O'REILLY: All right. So you want some kind of limitation, then, on the embeds?

REYES: Well, I think it bears looking at.

O'REILLY: All right.

REYES: And in the final analysis, if we look at it and we say, look, here are the pros, here are the cons, we don't think we can change any of it, well, at least we looked at it and we saved a family...

O'REILLY: And talked about it.

REYES: ...or potentially more families from the trauma that I'm sure...

O'REILLY: They're going through now.

All right, but we're protecting the identity of the Marine. And believe me, congressman, we're not going to let this Marine get hung. We are not going to allow that to happen. It will not happen. I can guarantee you that right now.

REYES: Well, I hope not, because...

O'REILLY: It won't.

REYES: ...we don't know what experience he was having before.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. The investigation is fine, but this thing will be done fairly to this Marine and his family.

Congressman, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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