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Bill O'Reilly, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Debate Wall Street Protests, Poverty in America, Attacks on Herman Cain

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Are the poor and middle-class Americans getting hosed? This week on PBS, Tavis Smiley running a series that says yes, they are.

First some stats. There are about 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, 15 percent of the population. In 2010, $560 billion, 16 percent of the entire federal budget, was spent trying to help the poor. That's up an astounding 5,400 percent since 1970.

But here's the stat that may provide some perspective on poverty. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about nine percent of Americans have some kind of substance dependence. Most of those people cannot earn a living.

So let's do the math: 15 percent poor, nine percent addicted. Maybe poverty is not exclusively an economic problem.

Joining us now from Los Angeles are Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West, who teaches at Princeton University. So professor, we'll being with you. Where am I going wrong here?

DR. CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, I think you're going wrong because I think the lens that you're using still is not acting on fact that one percent of the population on 40 percent of the wealth. We've had 100 percent income growth go to the top 10 percent and one percent of population had 81 percent of the income growth in the last 25 years. What does that mean?

Those brothers and sisters there at the plaza, I was just blessed to be there with them. I'm blessed to be part of their movement. They're not calling for entitlements. They want jobs with a living wage. They know that one out of four corporations do not pay taxes. There's $2.1 trillion of offshore tax havens for the well to do. It's working people who must both pay the taxes and they're also losing jobs. So you have to look at, my dear brother, Bill, from the vantage point of poor and working people and the ways in which the oligarchs and the plutocrats that you tend to want to promote rather intensely not only doing well but been too greedy, much too greedy my brother.

O'REILLY: We're chasing -- if we're chasing Stanley O'Neal down the street, I don't think I'm promoting anybody who is doing untoward things about capitalism. Look -- it's not that the --

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: We're not talking about isolated individuals. We're talking about chronic --

O'REILLY: Wait a minute, professor. No filibustering here. It's not that the message is wrong. It's not that the message is wrong. We do need to tighten up the loopholes. Everybody knows that. Barack Obama has chosen not to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: What do you -- what do you mean by tighten?

O'REILLY: You have to basically have a flat tax where everybody pays. There aren't these kinds of dodges. You can't park money overseas, that kind of stuff. Yes. But what these -- many of these protesters and maybe you -- but I want to direct my next question to Tavis – want is you want the government to forcibly seize the assets of the oligarchs, as you put it, and then distribute it to other people whom they deem worthy of the money the oligarchs have. That's socialism and that's not going to work here. What do you say, Tavis?

TAVIS SMILEY, PBS BROADCASTER: Three things. No. 1, it wasn't socialism apparently when we bailed out the banks in the first place. That pretty much fits a textbook definition of socialism what we did for the banks that you don't want to acknowledge, no. 1.

No. 2, you're right about the fact that Stanley O'Neal respectfully should have been chased down the sidewalk. He should be asked to account which raises a couple of questions.

No. 1, I know you did not mean --

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: What do you mean I lied about it? Wait a minute, Tavis. Don't call me a liar on this program. What did I lie about?

SMILEY: Bill, I said you were right, r-i-g-h-t, you were right about.

O'REILLY: Oh I was right about. I apologize.

SMILEY: Yes, calm down. Calm down.

O'REILLY: We have a remote here in Faneuil Hall. I'm calm.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: Everybody lies. Bill, you lie, too, brother.

O'REILLY: I don't lie, professor. So there you go.

WEST: Oh I don't know about that.

O'REILLY: All right. I'm right about -- I'm right about O'Neal. But I had to correct the professor who is saying that I'm promoting that and I'm not promoting it.

(CROSSTALK)

SMILEY: You're right about --

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, stop.

SMILEY: I haven't answered your question yet, Bill.

O'REILLY: All right, let's get down about what --

SMILEY: I haven't answered your question yet.

O'REILLY: -- what these protesters want. And President Obama himself --

(CROSSTALK)

SMILEY: I was trying to answer your question.

O'REILLY: His policy is income redistribution, Tavis. That's what it is. And that's what you and the professor want. You want forced income redistribution.

SMILEY: I'm still going to finish my point. You're right to go after Stanley O'Neal. I know you didn't mean to do this. I don't want to believe you meant to do this, but Stanley O'Neal, there are four or five black CEOs in this country. You choose a guy at Merrill Lynch to make him the poster guy for all the folks on Wall Street.

O'REILLY: Oh Tavis knock it off with the black business, will you? Oh stop.

(CROSSTALK)

SMILEY: Bill, why -- why Stan O'Neal as opposed to all the other guys who do this?

O'REILLY: This is one of the most egregious things that happened. We -- we treat everybody the same here, Tavis.

SMILEY: But no you do not.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter whether they're black or white.

SMILEY: Bill, the bottom line is what we're talking about here is fairness. We're talking about justice here. We're talking about not protecting Wall Street. Not one -- they've been arresting protesters, Bill, left and right, arresting protesters left and right. now the talk on Fox News is that it's costing taxpayers money for police to do their job. Not one bankster, not one Bill, they can arrest hundreds of protesters but not one banker has gone to jail to pay for his crimes.

O'REILLY: Because they didn't violate any laws, Tavis.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: Brother, Bill, how do you know? How do you know?

O'REILLY: OK, hold it. Hold, all right, knock it off.

WEST: There's been no investigation of all the predatory lending. (INAUDIBLE) Why would you say something like that, brother? You don't even have the evidence. You don't know.

O'REILLY: Professor, hold it. If you're going to make an accusation, professor, as a learned academic that O'Neal or the other fat cats on Wall Street broke the law, back it up. What law did they break? Yes.

WEST: If we were able to engage in investigation and look at what was going on between 2007 and 2008, my hunch is we would find some criminal behavior, my brother.

O'REILLY: Your hunch?

WEST: Yes, but we can't get to it.

O'REILLY: All right, well, maybe that's right. But you can't make an accusation on a hunch.

SMILEY: Oh Bill, Bill there have been --

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: You just heard --

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: It's got major text out there. A major text out there, you're a reader. You're a reader. You know that.

O'REILLY: You guys come up, you take your law school at Princeton or wherever else, you develop an illegality and I will put it on the air.

Now, Tavis, poverty in America.

SMILEY: Yes.

O'REILLY: This is the focus of your PBS series this week. I just presented stats that show that show that poverty is not just an economic problem. It is a social problem and a social responsibility problem, personal responsibility problem. You know that's true. Yet, you don't mention that.

SMILEY: No. First of all, that's not true, Bill. You're not, here again, do your homework. You just told Dr. West to do his homework. You do yours. You've not obviously seen the special. You've not read the transcripts. We talked to persons who are substance abusers this week. So you're wrong again, my friend. We do talk about that issue in the special. Check it out, no. 1.

WEST: That's right.

SMILEY: No. 2, it is a social problem but it's also a political problem. The ranks of the poor in this country are growing exponentially, most of them women and children. When almost 50 million Americans are living below the poverty line, it's not just substance abusers. And the bottom line is that the worst thing you can do to any human being of all races, of all colors, of all creeds is to make them feel invisible, to make them feel disposable an afterthought --

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: OK, very specific question. I have 30 seconds.

(CROSSTALK)

SMILEY: If poverty doesn't -- if we don't eradicate it.

O'REILLY: All right, Tavis.

SMILEY: Yes.

O'REILLY: Tavis, you calm down now.

SMILEY: Yes.

O'REILLY: You told me to calm down. You calm down. I got 30 seconds.

SMILEY: I'm good. All right.

O'REILLY: Nine percent are addicted. All right? They can't work. They're going to be poor. You know it. All right? Also, child abuse, 70 percent of it is because of substance abuse. What do you do with those people, Tavis? Do you let them -- does the government pay them? What does the government do? Real quick.

SMILEY: Let me -- I can answer -- I can answer in 15 seconds. One, you don't demonize them as you have done. Two, you don't criminalize poverty as you like to do and number three, you find programs that work for those who have problems but the majority of -- the majority of Americans, again, of all races, Bill, of all colors, of all creeds are not substance abusers. They don't have work because Wall Street raped and pillaged the national Treasury.

O'REILLY: All right. And then I'm just going to give you one more stat to think about. The unemployment rate among college graduates is 4.5 percent.

All right, now we're going to have more with the guys and it's a lively discussion. And we appreciate them being here and engaging in the debate. We're going to discuss why Herman Cain is being attacked by some African-Americans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'REILLY: Continuing now with the "Personal Story": how to deal with the bad economy and handle poverty. As you may know, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain a big self-reliance guy, and now some in the African-American community are going after him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER/ACTIVIST: Herman Cain is just the latest incarnation of what is totally false to the needs of our community and the needs of our nation. I think he's a bad apple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: Once again from Los Angeles, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. Here's what I don't get. If you disagree with Herman Cain -- and I disagree with him on some issues -- why do you have to personally attack him? "Bad apple" and he said other things that I just didn't even run -- Belafonte. Belafonte is an uber leftist. Why can't you disagree respectfully?

SMILEY: Bill, I totally agree with you and I try to engage in respectful and civil dialogue but let's be clear about this. Herman Cain struck the first blow. When you tell black folk that they're brain-washed, when you tell the poor if you don't have a job and you're not rich blame yourselves. When you start making those kinds of comments, you should expect to have Americans push back on you. So that's not disrespecting his entrepreneurial genius. I respect the fact that he's a cancer survivor. He's done some good work but you don't pick up votes by insulting people. That strategy is not a winning strategy.

O'REILLY: OK. And I agree with you.

WEST: Also, at the human level --

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait, professor, let me pose a question.

WEST: OK.

O'REILLY: I agree with you, Tavis, that he should be challenged if you disagree with what he said.

SMILEY: Right.

O'REILLY: But, Belafonte is not challenging him. He's denigrating him. He's trying to hurt him, professor. And that's what we have to get away from. That was a subject of the Arizona speech by President Obama. Knock it off if you want to debate like we are debating here, you two guys and me, all right, that's what the folks want to hear. They don't want to hear Belafonte cheap-shot at Herman Cain.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: No, but the point is, you know, first, Herman Cain when he says racism is not leaving anybody back as if indigenous people, as if the immigration laws to brown brothers and sisters, as if the stop and frisk policy in New York, 600,000 young people stopped, 83 percent black and brown, 2 percent are arrested. That's a small example that are chronic and still at work. So then in that sense for you to say somehow that it's personalizing allows both him but also you, Brother Bill, to trivialize the suffering that's out there. And that's what I've said. Brother Tavis and I think about it. It trivializes the suffering that's out there.

O'REILLY: I'm not trivializing anything. I give away more than a million dollars a year to help the poor, professor.

WEST: We're not talking about philanthropy. We're talking about justice. We're not talking about philanthropy. We're talking about justice.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: You said that I don't feel sorry for the poor, that's exactly what you said two seconds ago.

WEST: No, I said you trivialize the suffering.

O'REILLY: I'm not trivializing anything.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: What I'm saying here -- wait, wait, wait. Hold it. Hold it.

WEST: Do you believe what Cain believes?

O'REILLY: I'm speaking up for the freedom of Herman Cain to speak his mind.

WEST: He has the right to be wrong. He has right to be wrong.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. And Belafonte and the other zombies don't have a right to run him down --

WEST: Belafonte is not a zombie, brother. You just attacked him personally. He's not a zombie.

SMILEY: Now, see --

O'REILLY: He's an intellectual zombie and you know it.

WEST: No way.

SMILEY: One minute you're calling for civility, the next minute you're engaging in name calling. That's not fair, no. 1. It's not right. It's not just.

O'REILLY: I'm describing his mindset.

SMILEY: The second thing is this, I absolutely hear your point and I told you earlier, I agree with you. We must have respect and civil dialogue in this country about our policies. And the question for you if I might is this. When Herman Cain insulted black folk and said they were brainwashed, when he said to poor people if you're poor and you're not rich and you don't have a job, blame yourself. Did you check Herman Cain the way you want to check Belafonte now?

O'REILLY: Hold it. I disagree with Herman Cain on a lot of things. But on this one, I'm giving --

WEST: On this issue, do you agree with him?

O'REILLY: Listen to me and I'll give you the last word, Tavis. He said a third of the African-American community is politically brainwashed because they vote Democratic every time. That is a point worth discussing. I'm not running a man down for that. Go ahead Tavis. Last word, go.

SMILEY: OK, last word -- Dr. West.

WEST: One is he's not going to get the third -- and black people are not brainwashed. Everybody else is not brainwashed. Even if you disagree with somebody, not a matter of being brainwashed. But you have to acknowledge that when you disrespected President Obama in the interview that was a certain kind of personal attack, too. And we didn't --

O'REILLY: How did I do that? How did I disrespect him?

WEST: By not even allowing him to answer when you have an exchange. Everybody acknowledged and agreed to which your disrespect was unjustified, brother.

SMILEY: Just cut him off, Bill.

O'REILLY: Professor, Tavis, that's your opinion on the Obama interview but you know who liked the Obama interview? Obama.

SMILEY: I'm not saying you can't ask tough questions. I'm saying play the tape. Everybody in America saw you keep disrespecting him by cutting him off. You wouldn't let him answer your question.

O'REILLY: Oh, baloney. I interrupted President Bush just the same way because there's a time limit for these interviews, and I --

SMILEY: All right.

WEST: Praying for you. Praying for you. Praying for you. Praying for you.

O'REILLY: I'm glad you love me and you're praying for me because I'd hate to see if you hated me.

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