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Is Liberal Media Downplaying NPR Scandal?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 14, 2011. 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: Is the press doing its job well in the Japanese earthquake coverage? But first, the NPR situation.

As you may know, an undercover tape showing NPR fundraisers spouting anti-Republican stuff led to the resignation of NPR boss Vivian Schiller, the woman who fired Juan Williams. But the left-wing press played the story down. For example, New York Times columnist David Brooks, billed as a conservative, said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BROOKS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I think NPR has done a good job over the last 10 years of reducing that bias. I thought it was really biased 10 years ago, but now I think it's pretty straight. And the federal money for NPR doesn't so much go for the big stations. It goes so they can go to the rural parts of the country, which wouldn't have those stations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: All right. Joining us now from Miami is the purveyor of BernardGoldberg.com, Mr. Goldberg. It's no surprise that this wouldn't be a big story in the left-wing media, right? No surprise.

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, in that if it made liberals look bad, as this clearly did, they'd have less interest in it than if it made a conservative look bad. But, can I -- let me comment briefly on what David Brooks said. David Brooks is a smart, thoughtful guy. And if what he means by that is that there's no blatant bias on a regular basis on NPR newscasts, I don't have a problem with that conclusion. That's fine with me. But I think David Brooks misses a much more important point, and that is that nobody could argue that there's a liberal sensibility at NPR.

O'REILLY: But see, he's inured to that because he works in a place where there's a liberal sensibility...

GOLDBERG: Right.

O'REILLY: ... The New York Times.

GOLDBERG: That's right.

O'REILLY: And he doesn't mind that. I mean, he has a happy home there.

GOLDBERG: But the -- you're absolutely right. But the point is that the liberal sensibility matters. It matters in that it determines what you cover and what you don't cover.

O'REILLY: Sure, and tone.

GOLDBERG: What you play up and what you ignore.

O'REILLY: And guests you book. And look, there's a guy named Bob Garfield, no relation to the cat, who co-hosts the "On the Media" NPR program. Here's what he said. Go:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB GARFIELD, CO-HOST, "ON THE MEDIA": You and I both know that if you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and at all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd. Not uniformly, but overwhelmingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: Well, at least Garfield is honest. And as you said, it does bleed into the coverage.

GOLDBERG: Right. And he -- he made clear that he doesn't believe -- he doesn't believe that that necessarily means there's a liberal bias. His guest on the show, a liberal NPR person, said there is no liberal bias. But hold on. What Garfield said is a problem in and of itself. If you have a news organization that's overwhelmingly liberal, that presents problems. Does any NPR person out there who might be listening to this, does -- do any of you think that if NPR were overwhelmingly conservative that that wouldn't present journalistic problems?

O'REILLY: Well, they say that about Fox News though.

GOLDBERG: Of course it would.

O'REILLY: That's what they accuse Fox News of.

GOLDBERG: Of course, and that's the point.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: That if liberals think that Fox has a conservative sensibility and that's a problem, why isn't it a problem if NPR is overwhelmingly liberal, as he says? Those are his words and has a liberal sensibility.

O'REILLY: And how did it get to be that way? Right. And how did it get to be that way?

GOLDBERG: That should be a problem, too.

O'REILLY: Right. All right. Let's go to the Japanese situation. Bernie covered the Nicaraguan earthquake for CBS. I never really covered a natural disaster like this. I was in the San Francisco earthquake during the World Series and in the L.A. one up in north of L.A. but nothing like this. Very hard to cover these stories, correct?

GOLDBERG: Yes, very hard. In 1972, I covered the Managua earthquake in Nicaragua, and 5,000 people dead, a quarter of a million people homeless. And in those days, we shot the story on film. We had to figure out a way to get it out of a paralyzed country, you know, paralyzed by the earthquake, to get the film to Miami. I don't even know how we did it. Maybe we gave the film to a flight attendant. In those days you could do it. And they bring it to Miami and somebody meets them at the other end. Today, Bill, today you just flip a switch, and you can go live instantaneously from just about any place in the world. Now, I know a lot of television networks have cut down on their foreign bureaus, but technology has more than made up for it.

O'REILLY: The Skype thing. I mean, there's a whole bunch of things you can do. But just getting a story of this magnitude into some kind of perspective, which is what we try do here on "The Factor," is very, very hard. I mean, you know, you're one person -- and we're going to go to Shep Smith in a moment. He's in Japan for the big picture there and Adam Housley also. It's almost impossible for -- to bring any -- anything to the viewer that they don't already know.

GOLDBERG: Well, all -- no, you can do one thing. If you're in a particular village, just cover that village.

O'REILLY: Yes.

GOLDBERG: It's unfair -- it's unfair when an anchor in New York says to somebody standing out in the middle of what used to be a town in Japan and says, "Well, tell me about what's going on. Do they feel this in Tokyo? What about that nuclear reactor?" That person doesn't know all of these things. You could only report on the place that you are in.

O'REILLY: Yes, what you see.

GOLDBERG: And you could tell a story there, but it is -- it is very hard. You can't gather information about the whole story when you're out in the field.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: You could do that if you're in Tokyo in a newsroom.

O'REILLY: And we don't even know after four days what this nuclear thing is going to amount to. Nobody can possibly put it into any perspective because it keeps changing.

GOLDBERG: The story is still happening.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: The story is still happening and you have to be very careful, as Brit Hume said, not to go beyond what you know, especially about something as frightening as a nuclear reactor that either may or may not blow up.

O'REILLY: All right. Bernie, thanks as always. We appreciate it.

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