Can People Talk About Race in America Without Being Branded Racist?

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Continuing now with our lead story: the backlash against charges of racism. As you may know, liberal icon Geraldine Ferraro was branded a racist for saying she thought Barack Obama would not be where he is if not for his color. Ms. Ferraro was stunned by the reaction.


O'REILLY: So Ms. Ferraro, a liberal icon like you being attacked as a racist and called all kinds of names, what this has done, in my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I don't think I am, is set back race relations in this country because a lot of white people, and I'm one of them, I'm just not going to talk race with black people unless I know them very, very well. That is over. How do you see it?

GERALDINE FERRARO: The thing about it is if we can't talk about race in this country, I think it's a real problem. If we didn't — if Martin Luther King didn't talk about race and Lyndon Johnson didn't talk about race, you wouldn't have had the Civil Rights Act.

O'REILLY: But we can't.

FERRARO: Well, now we've got other things.

O'REILLY: Let's be honest here.

FERRARO: We have to, because there are still things that have to be addressed.

O'REILLY: No, that's where you are wrong. We don't have to, because individual people are going to protect themselves. When a liberal icon like you, with a long history of being sympathetic to civil rights and open-minded to African-American concerns, is branded a racist for saying something that you believe, true or not, that's what you believe, when that happens, Ms. Ferraro, people are going to say, hey, I'm not going to bother.

FERRARO: That's a shame.

O'REILLY: That's where we are.

FERRARO: That's a shame because I just — I am really concerned because there are things out there that have to be addressed. It has to be addressed in both white homes and black homes. We have to start talking to our children about race. And the people who are talking about race are people like Reverend Wright who are screaming from the pulpits their anti-white sentiments, their anti-American sentiments. Do we allow that to go on?

O'REILLY: You're calling Reverend Wright anti-white? They're going to attack you again for that.

FERRARO: Is that what he is doing?

O'REILLY: Of course that's what he's doing. But reality doesn't matter. Don't you get that?

FERRARO: But you know what? No, but we are saying well he can continue doing that, but nobody else should speak up and say that's wrong.

O'REILLY: Well, look…

FERRARO: And he's teaching young children in that church that this is OK to do. And if we keep on doing this from generation to generation to generation, Bill, we're never going to resolve the race problem in this country.

O'REILLY: As long as the media is dishonest in this country and will allow attacks on you, all right, to go unchallenged, which the media did…


O'REILLY: I hope you noticed that.



FERRARO: I did. In fact, it was aided by a lot of the black journalists.

O'REILLY: I was the one that stuck up for you. I told you on the radio, I stuck up for you on TV.

FERRARO: Yes. Let me just say to you this. That we can't continue to let this type of thing go on. They went after my voicemails, e-mails, letters. But in addition, they went after my job. They went after the board that I'm on to try and get me fired. I couldn't believe it. I blame the Obama campaign, because nobody would have picked up that comment to a little California newspaper if the Obama people didn't think of it and say hey, this is a good one; let's get Hillary on this.

O'REILLY: Well, I think Barack Obama would have done himself a favor if he would have come out and defended you.

FERRARO: Well, eventually, he did say I was not a racist and so did his white campaign manager, David Axelrod, who actually started this whole thing.

O'REILLY: Last question for you.


O'REILLY: What have you learned from this?

FERRARO: You know what, Bill? I feel very bad for people who thought I was a racist. I really do. This has been the worst three weeks of my life.


O'REILLY: Joining us now from Washington to react to that, Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. You feel sorry for Geraldine Ferraro?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE COLUMNIST: Well, you know, I think we need to back up a little bit first of all and say first of all you're right, Bill. Our work is thrown around much too much to a point where it begins to lose meaning. But it's also true that a lot of people claim to have been accused of being racist in order to defend their own positions. I don't know exactly who called Geraldine Ferraro a racist. I think these were people out there who don't know what they're talking about, frankly. But I think at the same time for her to say that Barack Obama is where he is because is he black is ludicrous. And that's the way Barack Obama treated it, like a joke.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't think anybody has a problem with disagreeing with the premise that Ms. Ferraro started with because she's a Hillary Clinton supporter. But, you know…

PAGE: Right.

O'REILLY: Clarence, I mean, this woman was...

PAGE: It's politics.

O'REILLY: ...just vilified on the Internet, in newspapers across the country. And you know it. Now do you feel sorry for her for what she went through?

PAGE: Well, you know, I feel sorry for myself, Bill, because I've been called a racist by some of your viewers on e-mails after I leave. I may be called that tonight. I don't know. But that…

O'REILLY: Are you sure they're my viewers, Clarence, or are they people pretending to be my viewers? You know, the disinformation…

PAGE: Well, they saw me on your show. I know that.

O'REILLY: Well, they might have seen you on YouTube because everything we do here is on the Internet instantaneously.

PAGE: I'm talking about right after the program, you know. And I'm not the only one. Mike Eric Dyson said the same thing and other folks.

O'REILLY: Look, there are nuts on the right as well as the left.

PAGE: When you're dealing in controversy, you're going to get some people to call you names sometimes. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a dialogue on race in the country.

O'REILLY: Well, how do you have a dialogue, when people are going, we're not going to buy — look, you still, I'm going to ask you again: Do you feel sorry for Geraldine Ferraro? Twice you deflected that. Now do you feel sorry for her?

PAGE: Well, I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for me, OK? But you know, I kind of wonder about her though in accusing the Obama campaign so flagrantly when they have both denied that she is a racist. And I'm wondering who is calling her a racist? She hasn't named any names.

O'REILLY: All right, well, all you've got to do is go on the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post and you'll find legions of people who are doing that.

PAGE: But you know, this campaign was avoiding race. Even Obama was avoiding race.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

PAGE: ...until the Wright situation forced them to bring it to the fore. And now he's calling for a national conversation. You know, we're having it, including on this show.

O'REILLY: We're not going to have it. The folks are not going to have it. We'll have it, Clarence, you and I will have it because this is what we do. This is what our job is. But I'll tell you, if you think that the folks out there are going to have this conversation, it ain't going to happen.

PAGE: Well, Bill, when you get together with your buddies at the coffee shop on Long Island, do you talk about race?

O'REILLY: No, we talk about sports.

PAGE: Right. You see, that's the thing.

O'REILLY: You know and…

PAGE: So many people want to avoid talking about it.

O'REILLY: They do, because they don't want…

PAGE: That's a fact.

O'REILLY: They are afraid to make a mistake, Clarence. And then be branded or have somebody's feelings hurt. That's why. And you know it.

PAGE: Well, it's not true of everybody, Bill.

O'REILLY: Not everybody.

PAGE: A lot of folks have been…

O'REILLY: But it's the dominant feeling in the country right now.

PAGE: ...quite straightforward about it. You know, I remember when you were accused of being insensitive after complimenting the table manners of folks…

O'REILLY: That's right.

PAGE: a restaurant.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

PAGE: But the fact is that a lot of folks did talk about it, and said well, you know, why is that so bad?

O'REILLY: It was bad because my family and I were branded in an evil way. And that will never happen again because now...

PAGE: But those were by people who were angry at you for other things, I'll bet you.

O'REILLY: Absolutely, Clarence. And there are a few honest guys like you that will point that out. But a very few, a very few. Always good to have you on.

PAGE: Well, you know, that's why you educate people, right? This is what we are supposed to be doing in the media.

O'REILLY: OK. Always good to have you on the program.

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