Interviews

Bernie Goldberg on Bill Clinton's Comments About Sen. Byrd's KKK Past

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 6, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Weekdays with Bernie" segment tonight, two hot topics. We begin with Bill Clinton's comments on Sen. Robert Byrd, who passed away last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: There are a lot of people who wrote these eulogies for Sen. Byrd in the newspapers, and I read a bunch of them, and they mention that he once had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan. What does that mean? I'll tell you what it means. He was a country boy from the hills and hollers of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected, and maybe he did something he shouldn't have done, and he spent the rest of his life making it up, and that's what a good person does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: And joining us now from North Carolina, Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg, purveyor of BernardGoldberg.com.

So when you heard that sound bite from Mr. Clinton, you thought what?

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, first I thought the obvious: You don't use a funeral to unload on the dearly departed. So I understand why Bill Clinton, you know, did what he did to some extent. But he went way, way, way too far.

First of all, you heard the sound bite just then. Bill Clinton says, "Well, he was just a country boy from West Virginia, trying to get elected," as if -- as if, what, that somehow justifies joining the Klan? Even in the 1940s, Bill, decent people didn't join the Ku Klux Klan.

And by the way, Robert Byrd wasn't just a regular bigot in the Ku Klux Klan. He was a special bigot. He was a klegal (ph), which means he recruited the other morons who joined the Ku Klux Klan. And imagine if today, today some politician felt that he had to bad-mouth or bash black people in order to get elected. Do you think Bill Clinton would be so cavalier, or anybody else for that matter, as to say, "Well, come on, he's just a country boy who's trying to get elected"? Of course not.

And then the second thing Clinton said is that Robert Byrd spent the rest of his life making it up. That's not even true. In 1964, Robert Byrd not only voted against the Civil Rights Act, but he filibustered for 14 hours. One year later in 1965, he voted against the Voting Rights Act.

Now, in fairness, later on in life, Robert Byrd championed making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. We'll give him that. But this leads to one of two possibilities. Either he had a genuine change of heart, which is possible, or he is simply made another political calculation. Just as he joined the Klan for political reasons, maybe he realized that being a bigot wasn't going to work anymore. I'm not saying that you use the funeral to bad-mouth the guy, but Bill Clinton, ever the statesman, could have compromised and just said a little bit less.

O'REILLY: Now, we are a nation that believes in forgiveness and redemption. I don't think the media would have been so kind had Robert Byrd been a Republican.

GOLDBERG: Exactly.

O'REILLY: You know? I think everyone knows that. However, the media largely gave Mr. Byrd a pass because he did apologize. In fact, Alan Colmes, we just had on the program, he apologized and said he was wrong and said it was immature, and then, as he got older, he realized, you know, the error of his ways, whatever. So I'm willing to give the late senator, you know, forgive him. And I think that's what we do in our Judeo-Christian tradition.

GOLDBERG: I'm not -- this isn't about the senator. This is about Bill Clinton.

O'REILLY: Yes, I didn't have a major beef with him, with Clinton on that. I think Clinton -- Clinton -- I think Clinton chose to be compassionate. It's OK with me. So anyway.

Now, Larry King, 76 years old. The guy has had a great career. But he is the face of CNN, and -- which was once the most powerful cable operation in the world. He's -- now no longer. Fox News has replaced it in that regard. So Larry King clearly didn't want to give up the program but had to under ratings pressure and other pressures. What does it mean? Does it mean anything at all to the nation?

GOLDBERG: Well, to the nation, I mean, it means something to people who watch television. Look, remember that poem, Bill, by John Dunn that no man is an island? No TV show is an island, either. This isn't -- Larry King wasn't alone in this. Everything or certainly just about everything on CNN is going south. And I think this is true for two reasons.

One, in 1980 when CNN was born, it really was special. Larry King was special. It was the only place you can get news 24 hours a day. Well, that's not true anymore. You can get it -- you can get it on other cable stations. You can get it on your computer. You can get it on your cell phone. You can get it on your underwear. You can get it any place.

And the second reason is we are a much more politically polarized nation today than we were in 1980. And in that atmosphere, bland -- which is the worst thing you can be on television, is bland -- bland just doesn't cut it. So, at 9 p.m. at night, you know, people are watching Sean or two or three people are watching MSNBC. But just about nobody is watching CNN, because they either want to watch this side or that side. But bland down the middle isn't entertaining anymore. It isn't -- doesn't cut it anymore.

O'REILLY: But here's what the -- here's what the journalistic pundits will say: that the news shouldn't be entertaining; that you have a responsibility to tell the folks in a free society what's happening without any bias, without any agenda. Now, I don't believe for a second that CNN operates that way. But I will say they have a very talented crew, very good reporters. Their reportage in Haiti, for example, was excellent, really first-rate.

GOLDBERG: OK, Bill. You can have that position. Not you, but one could have that position. But you have to pay the price for it. We've spoken often about how we have become a very entertainment-oriented culture.

O'REILLY: Right. You've got to move it along.

GOLDBERG: It just isn't entertaining. And it's one thing, by the way, to watch hard news all day. You can make that case. But in primetime -- and I'm not saying this because I'm on Fox, because I would criticize Fox if there was something I wanted to criticize. But it is the much more entertaining to watch Fox and get a passionate debate with this guy and that guy and you have Alan Colmes and you have, you know, Brit Hume and you have all these people than to watch something that just as entertaining.

O'REILLY: Are you going to miss Larry? Are you going to miss him?

GOLDBERG: What do you mean? Am I going to cry myself to sleep at night? When I was in Miami, I produced his television show.

O'REILLY: I didn't know that.

GOLDBERG: He was on the CBS affiliate, WTBJ, in Miami. There was a four-part interview on the weekend news. I produced that.

O'REILLY: All right. You are not a -- I don't learn a lot from Larry's interviews.

GOLDBERG: My favorite -- let me say briefly my favorite question he ever asked was when he asked Paris Hilton, "Paris, have you ever had dinner with Joe Stalin?" I thought that was a fascinating question, Bill.

O'REILLY: There you go. Bernie Goldberg, everybody.

GOLDBERG: He didn't do that. He didn't do that.

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