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'Factor' Follow-Up: The Decline of NBC News Continues

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 29, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight the decline of NBC News continues with a scandal involving high-profile business reporter Maria Bartiromo, the so-called "money honey."

As we reported NBC News has taken a sharp turn to the left under executive Jeff Zucker and Robert Wright with elements at NBC News now actually using propaganda from far left web sites as primary source material. Unbelievable.

In this week's New York magazine, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch implies if he would still in charge he'd fire Zucker. GE is the parent company of NBC.

Now, the latest embarrassment concerns Miss Bartiromo flying around on a private jet owned by Citigroup. That company has fired executive Todd Thomson over the situation, and gossip columnists are implying the relationship between Ms. Bartiromo and Thomson was unprofessional.

NBC News denies any wrongdoing. But there is no denying trouble at NBC News headquarters here in New York City. ABC News may over take NBC's evening newscast, and CNBC and MSNBC have major rating problems.

Joining us now from Washington, Tim Graham, who follows TV news for the conservative Media Research Center. And here in New York Charles Payne, a financial analyst for Wall Street Strategies.

One footnote on the story. Very few financial analysts want to talk about what's going on at CNBC.

You know, we're happy to have you, Mr. Payne, on the program. We called a dozen of the top analysts and it was run for cover.

CHARLES PAYNE, FINANCIAL ANALYST: Yes.

O'REILLY: Why?

PAYNE: Listen you mention that CNBC's ratings have gone down. Yet they're still — they're not the 800 pound gorilla, but they're the 500- pound gorilla. Nobody on Wall Street wants to take them on, because they're the only game in town right at this moment.

O'REILLY: What do you mean take them on? All this is is a definition of what happened there, why it's wrong. I mean what do you mean take them on? Are they afraid CNBC would attack them?

PAYNE: Not necessarily an attack. But whenever you have a new product, IPO or whatever, you send people there to appear on the channel — it's still a prestigious thing on Wall Street to appear on CNBC...

O'REILLY: OK.

PAYNE: ... even though the audience has dwindled. Nobody wants to mess that up right now.

O'REILLY: It's not good, you know. This is — We're not supposed to deal with that.

Now, you followed the story. And again, NBC News says they didn't do anything wrong. This woman was — I guess they reimbursed $4,000, $5,000 on a $50,000 flight to Beijing, and there have been other flights. Does this raise your eyebrows up?

PAYNE: Well, obviously, what I've got to tell you is what's really interesting about this to me. If Maria Bartiromo could interview Maria Bartiromo, she would nail her on this thing. Imagine if an analyst had gone on a flight with a company that he or she covered. CNBC would nail that person to the wall. Particularly after everyone lost their money [in the stock market bubble] and they sort of changed the tone.

Because you know, pre-market crash they were really rah-rah about the market. But after that, a lot of people felt, you know, "I lost money watching CNBC." They really turned a corner and they became really tough. Tough interviews. I didn't even know why some CEOs...

O'REILLY: Because Bartiromo covered Citigroup or could have covered it. She should not have been taking anything from them.

PAYNE: Well, let me tell you, on Wall Street you can do anything as long as it's disclosed. I mean, if she wanted to take the flight fine. But somewhere along the line she should have said, "Listen, I've been on a private plane with these guys."

O'REILLY: OK. Now Mr. Graham, it looks to me like if something like this could happen there's nobody in charge at NBC News. Because this is a breach of journalistic etiquette as well as — etiquette -- Journalistic standards as well as business standards. Is it not?

TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Well, they certainly can't complain and try to suggest this is not a story. You might remember way back in 1991 it became a huge issue when the first President Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu, was controversial that he was taking corporate jets. The first network on that story beating John Sununu into resignation was NBC News.

O'REILLY: What do you believe is going on over at NBC? You know, my opinion is fairly well-known. We've been tracking them for more than a year now. We've seen a dramatic shift to the left. And I think it's a business decision, trying to get the left-wing audience to come in.

A little bit of a bump up for one of their cable operations, primarily because of that. But you know, when you get into that territory where you're taking a product, which you know, is the morning, the evening news and all that and you're taking it in a direction, that's dangerous territory. Is it not?

GRAHAM: I think so. Look NBC, you know, in the last week or two has tried to be more positive. They did a story on the night of the State of the Union address about how the soldiers weren't getting enough medals. -- Maybe they're running scared from you.

But I think overall, their message right now has been "President Bush is in a bubble, he really should just resign, he doesn't have any authority. Nobody's listening to him any more." And they run polls and they ask these questions about why is — you know when he gave the State of the Union address, "why is anybody listening to this man any more?"

And I think the question some of us ought to be asking is why is anybody listening to NBC any more?

O'REILLY: Are they any worse than CBS or ABC?

GRAHAM: Well, it sort of depends on what night it is. Certainly, in the morning the "Today Show" has been more biased, more aggressive in going after Bush than the other two morning shows, partially because the other two morning shows have more fluff.

But also, again, you know, Tim Russert's bringing on his pal, Bob Woodward, to run down Bush. And neither one of them are asking — are answering questions about what they knew in the Libby case. Still waiting for them to try to handle that hot potato.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, Mr. Payne, when you have a situation like this, where the gossip columnists, and believe me, you know, I think that's the worst part of journalism. Really the lowest. But now they're on it. You know? And they're implying certain things that we're not going to get into here. But this story, then, has the potential to get a lot bigger and take people down with it.

PAYNE: Obviously, has taken one person down or played a part in it. I don't think Maria is going anywhere. If you were to speculate you would say, you know what? There were talks before this she wanted to go to "The View". She's trademarking the "money honey" thing. Maybe she wants to do other things, and that would be purely speculation. But I don't think she's going to lose her job over this.

Certainly, though, it looks a little funny that they're supposedly, you know, the voice of reason on Wall Street right now. They are — you know, they're the ones who make — they make everyone come clean or at least that seems to be the role they take.

O'REILLY: You don't think the tabloid press is going to run with this?

PAYNE: They're going to run with it.

O'REILLY: Whoa.

PAYNE: There's absolutely no doubt about it. But I don't know that CNBC is going to get rid of Maria Bartiromo.

O'REILLY: Because it wasn't just one flight. There were a lot of interactions between Ms. Bartiromo and this Citi...

PAYNE: More than likely this is the tip of the iceberg. However, I think they're going to stand by her, no matter what.

O'REILLY: All right. Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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