'FNW' Panelists Break Down Bill Clinton's Explosive 'FOX News Sunday' Interview

The following is a transcription of the September 30, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, FOX NEWS HOST: On the panel this week are four people who wish Hugo Chavez would hold up their books at the United Nations — OK, five: Jim Pinkerton of Newsday; syndicated columnist Cal Thomas; Jane Hall of the American University; media writer Neal Gabler; and I'm Eric Burns.

Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace: Here they are from last Sunday's 15-round championship bout.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You did FOX's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job. What I want to know is.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Now wait a minute, sir. I'm asking a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: No, it was a perfectly legitimate question. But I want to know, how many people in the Bush administration did you ask this question of? I want to know, how many people in the Bush administration did you ask, "Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?" I want to know, how many people did you ask, "Why did you fire Dick Clarke?" I want to know how many people you asked…


WALLACE: Do you ever watch "FOX News Sunday," sir?

CLINTON: I don't — I don't believe you asked them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions.

CLINTON: You didn't ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: About the USS Cole?

CLINTON: Tell the truth, Chris.


WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there's plenty of stuff to ask, sir.

CLINTON: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you're going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch's supporting my work on climate change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you'd spend half the time talking about — you said you'd spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion plus in three days from 215 different commitments. And you don't care.



WALLACE: President Clinton, if you look at the questions here, you'll see half the questions are about — I didn't think was going to set you off on such a tear.

CLINTON: You marched in here — it set off on a tear because you didn't formulate it in an honest way, and because you people ask me questions you don't ask the other side.


BURNS: Jim, to set the record straight, I have read transcripts. In fact, Chris Wallace did ask very similar questions to Condoleezza Rice on that program and to Donald Rumsfeld.

Take it.

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: Well, also he began the interview by asking, Why do you want to help the Third World so much? And he gave him exactly the kind of question that Clinton wanted to begin a book.

AP summarized this best. They said, "Clinton Attack on FOX Energizes Partisans" — plural, OK? The FOX News audience and the left both are all hopped up over this. Everyone's in a big fight over this. You know, Clinton is a hero to the MoveOn.org crowd. And, you know, FOX News finds itself with its ratings going up. This is the best "FOX News Sunday" in three years.

So there's a term in political science called "objective allies," where people who might not like each other nonetheless both are raised with a mutual antagonism.

BURNS: Well, Neal, there's another term, too, here: "good news, good news."

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Well, I mean, look, let's be honest: This network's reputation precedes it, which is why Bill Clinton hasn't appeared on this network previously, and why he set very strict ground rules to make this appearance, they wanted at least half the questions talking about his global initiative.

You know, Chris Wallace did not frame the question properly. He asked, "Why didn't you do more," which is like asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Which is exactly what Clinton said to him: you didn't frame the question — it's a legitimate question; it wasn't framed properly. He could have said, "Could you have done more?" Which is not what he asked.

BURNS: Well, keep in mind, he's ad-libbing here, too. So maybe, you know.


GABLER: Well, I don't know. He also relied very heavily on facts about Somalia which were not facts, were utterly ridiculous.

On the other hand, let me say in Chris Wallace's behalf, that Clinton is wrong, and you are right. If you watch this program, Chris Wallace does ask hard questions. He is not a Hannity; he is not an O'Reilly; he is not a Brit Hume; he is not a Cavuto; he is not a John Gibson. He's not a shill.

BURNS: Could you one person on that list from another network.

GABLER: Well, I'm talking about this network.

BURNS: Please?

GABLER: He is not a shill for the Bush administration. And Clinton is wrong in acting as if he were.

BURNS: Then what do we make of the fact that Clinton reacted to the extent that he did?

I worked with Chris at NBC many years ago. He does not have the reputation of being a right-wing hit man. Was Clinton being, Cal, then in your view, premeditated for the purposes Jim told us earlier?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes. Two points to make on this: First of all, Clinton's top aide was quoted in The New York Times — so we know it's true — as saying that they were ready for this. He wanted to say this. That's number one.

Number two, the left has wanted for years to feel disrespected and have somebody to beat up on him. The right has succeeded because it has played the role of outsider. The medias hate us; the academic people hate us; everybody hates us. And so now, this — FOX has become a whipping boy for the left.

It's a great ploy. I congratulate Clinton. But for him to tell Chris Wallace to tell the truth, that is pretty amazing.

BURNS: Roger Ailes, who is our boss, has said that this interview is "an assault on all journalists."

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I'm glad I recently re-signed with this network.

THOMAS: Re-signed or resigned?

HALL: I actually don't agree with that. I mean, I think a very interesting aspect of this is, was Clinton prepared? Which I think he was. And, was he angry? Which I think he was. I think — we were talking earlier that he has great political instincts. I think to be fair to him, I don't think he was fair to Chris Wallace, but I think this network commentary has beaten up on him. The "Path to 9/11" miniseries beat up on Clinton; did not beat up on Bush. And commentary…

BURNS: Which, let us just say, that was an ABC...


HALL: But a lot of people on this network have been spinning that if Clinton — that there's a whole new narrative, Clinton didn't do enough. Meanwhile, the Bush administration just keeps declaring that we're winning the war on terrorism. I mean, they just keep saying the same thing.

So I think he was right. I think Roger Ailes was also quoted as saying, I would have paid him to come on, and speaking admiringly of Clinton's passion about this. And making the point that all these people have gotten to criticize FOX on FOX, which I think is interesting.

PINKERTON: The irony also is that Chris Wallace specifically said that he thought the "Path to 9/11" treatment of the Clinton administration was wrong. He said from his own experience at having seen his own father, Mike Wallace, misquoted and fabricated stuff, in the movie "The Insider" about 10 years ago, Chris Wallace said it is absolutely wrong to a made-for-TV movie that fabricates quotes in the mouth of Madeleine Albright or something like that.

So Wallace went out of his way to defend the Clinton point of view on exactly the issue of talking about the "Path to 9/11" made-for-TV movie.

THOMAS: I have watched conservatives, I have been a conservative interviewed on the broadcast networks, on CNN. The way people ask questions of conservatives — it's a lot more confrontational than the way they ask them of liberals.

HALL: Oh, but Cal, I.


BURNS: Wrap it up for his quickly, if you would.

GABLER: OK. What's really at stake here is that the right-wing media are frantically trying to rewrite history as a way of affecting the midterm elections, and also pulling President Bush's coals out of the fire. And they're trying to divert attention from Bush to Clinton.

PINKERTON: And Clinton.

GABLER: And Clinton's fighting back. Exactly.

PINKERTON: Clinton's trying to rewrite history, too. They're both trying to do it.

GABLER: Exactly. Exactly.

BURNS: That's it?

PINKERTON: Objective allies.


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