This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 27, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: This is a FOX News election alert: A seven-year-old radio interview between Barack Obama and a Chicago radio station making headlines today, just eight days before the election. That interview is providing fresh ammunition for critics who believe that the Democratic presidential nominee has a socialist-like agenda, a charge that even the McCain camp has made recently.
An excerpt here from that 2001 interview:
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, RADIO WBEZ.FM IN 2001)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and served more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And one of the — I think — the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused. I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways, we still suffer from that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KELLY: Well, late today, the Obama camp released a statement on the plot, slamming not those who released the tape but FOX News saying, quote, "This is a fake news controversy drummed up by the all too common alliance of FOX News, the Drudge Report and John McCain, who apparently decided to close out his campaign with the same false, desperate attacks that have failed for months."
Bill Burton is the man who released that statement and he is with us now in Chicago.
BILL BURTON, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Hi, Megyn. I hope you had a nice weekend.
KELLY: I did. Thank you.
Although, I tell you what? I come back here on Monday and there you are, again, slamming FOX News Channel.
BURTON: It's so funny.
KELLY: You could blame the folks who released the tape, you could blame the folks who posted the tape, you could blame your candidate for making the statement. Instead, you've chosen to blame us.
BURTON: Well, you know, it's funny because I thought when I saw on FOX News this morning that you, guys, were promoting, you know, this interview and saying that McCain was going to attack, well, McCain actually had not attack and even though the chyron on the screen said, in fact, McCain was attacking us on this, he wasn't. I thought there, "You know what? There goes FOX News again just doing the same thing that they've been doing this entire election."
KELLY: And then you felt bad when you saw that McCain did, in fact, reference it and that it did hit several Internet sources and TV sources, and you realized, indeed, this is not a fake news controversy. Many Americans actually do care very much about the question of whether Barack Obama has socialist-like policies.
BURTON: I wouldn't say that I felt bad because this was, indeed, an issue that has been driven by the FOX News Channel, and, you know, look, I think that you played the audio of that interview, which obviously, I appreciate, because it points out that what John McCain was trying to say about it, I think, is by any fair reading just not accurate.
KELLY: You know what, Bill? It seems that when I have you on and we talk about tough issues, issues that maybe potentially tough for your candidate, this is what you do, you blame FOX. You come out with the best defense is a good offense and start ripping on us.
KELLY: You should know that in the polls as recently as this month, one taken by Rasmussen, the majority of Americans think that FOX is the least biased network out there.
KELLY: And that NBC was first, CNN was second, FOX was last in terms of bias. Your guy is believed to be getting helped by 70 percent of the press corps according to the latest Pew Poll, but you complain when FOX has the nerve to confront your candidate with his own words?
BURTON: No. I think that what my complaint is and what I think any fair-viewing of your channel would be is that, you know, we spend a lot of time out on the campaign trail talking about the issues that are important to the American people. We talk about the economy and foreign policy, the key differences with John McCain. And you know, on Wednesday night, we're actually going to have a half an hour that folks can watch, it will be about Barack Obama.
KELLY: Don't slip in to the infomercial, Bill — on that point.
BURTON: No, right. And it costs quite a bit of money, but it's something that John McCain gets for free every single day from FOX News Channel ads. You continually trump up these fake controversies and, you know, have folks on to talk about things that don't have anything to do with the issues that are important to the American people.
KELLY: I see. FOX News gives — OK, just so you know, Bill, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that since the conventions, the coverage of John McCain has been 65 percent positive on the network news channels for Barack Obama. Guess how much they have been positive for John McCain in the network news, 36 — 36.
BURTON: Sure. I did see that study and I think that John McCain pays a price for...
KELLY: Rasmussen is saying that FOX News is the least felon, Bill. Here's the bottom line, I think that viewers...
BURTON: Sure, I get your point. I get your point, Megyn.
KELLY: Let me finish my point. The people who watch FOX News like our coverage, as you know, those are the people who are watching you right now, more than 1 million people for that matter, they think this coverage is fair and balanced. You may not like it, Bill, but answer the substantive question, because a lot of viewers have concerns...
KELLY: ...about whether Barack Obama, his comments in 2001, his comments to Joe the Plumber and his past comments about economic justice should give them pause, should give them cause for concern.
BURTON: OK, Megyn. All right.
KELLY: Because they worry about the redistribution of wealth.
BURTON: I appreciate the political speech that you're making here that is obviously to help FOX News Channel...
KELLY: When you attack, I'll defend.
BURTON: ...and to help John McCain. But look, you know, the bottom line is that the American people know that Barack Obama has been crystal clear about his economic plans for this country, and if giving a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans is socialist — I just don't think that the American people agree with that.
And so, this notion that somehow FOX News has been fair on these points, it just does not holding up to the reality of the sort of coverage that it's been getting. And I think that this morning, and the reason I put out that statement, is because it is really so crystal clear when FOX News in and of itself is driving its own specific agenda, helping John McCain, frankly, more than John McCain sometimes helps himself.
KELLY: I'm sorry, Bill. But your candidate and John McCain seem to think that Joe the Plumber and his exchange with Barack Obama was relevant and newsworthy and that was about "spreading the wealth around."
BURTON: Right. And I think that's a misreading of that you continue on this channel.
KELLY: These comments from 2001 also raise the issue of "redistribution of wealth." That is — you can try to talk over me, but I'm not going to stop.
BURTON: No, Megyn, I think what you're actually doing is talking over me because I was making a point here about the fact.
KELLY: No. No, I was making my point, Bill. Don't interrupt me.
BURTON: We have a very specific economic policies that we think will help the middle class...
KELLY: Quiet and then I'll let you respond.
BURTON: ...as opposed to John McCain who wants to help.
KELLY: Bill, pipe down, let me make my point and then you can make yours.
BURTON: Megyn, go ahead.
BURTON: You've made your political speeches, just make another one. Go to town.
KELLY: Listen. As you know, I don't appreciate your sarcasm.
BURTON: I know you hate that.
KELLY: You save that for your friends over in the other channels, we don't put up with that here. What I'm saying is that your candidate has made several comments about redistributing the wealth. I get the e-mails, Bill — I get e-mails from Republicans, Democrats, and independents who like — who are concerned about that notion, who understand that right now in this country, the top 25 percent already pay 67 percent of the income taxes and they're worried about shifting that balance even more. Go ahead.
BURTON: OK, Megyn, we have tried these policies for eight years where you give tax cuts to the corporations, you give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. It's not working, that wealth is not trickling down. What we think we need to do is help the middle class, give tax cuts to hardworking men and women of this country so they get help to deal with higher energy prices, higher healthcare costs, the fact that people are worried about losing their homes in this mortgage mess. And that's what Barack Obama is focused on.
And I don't think that the fact that John McCain has made similar comments about the fact that he couldn't stomach George Bush's tax cuts in 2001. Nobody is accusing him of being socialist then because he said that there was an unfair amount of benefits given to the wealthy.
KELLY: All right.
BURTON: Nobody said that he was socialist. I don't hear you talking about that, but Barack Obama in an interview seven years ago when he's making a point that has nothing to do with the one you are making, I think, all of a sudden becomes banner news on the FOX News Channel.
And you know what? I understand. You've got an agenda here. We just think that the American people ought to know that we very specifically have a plan to help the middle class and grow the entire economy.
KELLY: We don't have an agenda. Our agenda is to report the news fair and balanced, Bill. I understand you don't like it and sometimes your candidate has complained, but that's what we're going to do.
BURTON: OK, go ahead. I understand you don't like to be interrupted but go ahead and interrupt me at this time, Megyn.
KELLY: You may have the rest of the media in the tank but FOX News reports it straight, fair and balanced, as always.
Bill Burton, thanks so much for being here.
BURTON: All right, Megyn.
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