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Ted Koppel on the worthiness of cable news

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, FNC HOST: "Personal Story Segment" tonight, legendary broadcaster Ted Koppel not a big fan of cable news. In fact he thinks it has harmed journalism in America. Writing in "The Washington Post" Koppel said, quote, "The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, but the trend is not good for the republic," unquote.

The big mistake Mr. Koppel is making is putting me your humble correspondent in that category of speaking to the choir. I don't. You know it. So I had to convince Mr. Koppel of that. I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: So why don't you define for the vast FACTOR audience your beef with me and Fox News. What's your beef?

KOPPEL: Well, I don't have a beef with you. I really don't. Let me modify that a little bit. I think there are times when you are -- what's the phrase you like so much -- a bold and --

O'REILLY: Fresh.

KOPPEL: -- and fresh.

O'REILLY: Piece of humanity.

KOPPEL: Sometimes a little too bold, sometimes a little too fresh, sometimes a little too intolerant of allowing people to complete an answer.

O'REILLY: Does that -- does that offend you?

KOPPEL: Does it offend me? It offends me when you're rude. It offends me when you -- when you ride over people, which you have a tendency to do.

O'REILLY: But I only do it when they filibuster or when they lie, as Barney Frank did that one time. I don't do it when somebody is sincerely trying to answer my question. It's not like it used to be.

KOPPEL: Fifteen years ago, there was a crying need for a network that focused more on conservative issues. Fox has done that.

MSNBC has now come along and tried to provide not because it saw the need for an ideological balance, but because it saw the balance sheet.

O'REILLY: Yes they were getting their butt kicked. But there is a big difference between Fox News and MSNBC. You know what the difference is?

KOPPEL: Well, tell me.

O'REILLY: No but do you know what it is?

KOPPEL: I'm asking you. What do you think it is?

O'REILLY: So you concede you don't know what it is?

KOPPEL: I don't know what it is, no.

O'REILLY: We actually do hard news here from 9:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon.

KOPPEL: Yes.

O'REILLY: Eight hours of hard news.

KOPPEL: Right.

O'REILLY: All right, MSNBC doesn't do one hour of hard news. It's all let's push the liberal Democratic agenda, from sign on to sign off. So this is a news agency here.

KOPPEL: I don't think anyone is going to be confused as to the ideological belief of most of the people who appear on Fox.

O'REILLY: I think that's grossly unfair to the hard news reporters. Ok? If you look at our bureau system and the people we have reporting, the network is more traditional, I think that's a fairer term than the other network news and they give weight to people, the commentators and the people that they hire.

Now, if you look at all of the journalists and we can tick them down if you want, all right -- Rather, Brokaw, Cronkite, they're all left-wing guys, all of them; and you know that.

KOPPEL: Hold on. I would argue that back in the day, you didn't know what Cronkite was.

O'REILLY: If you were in Iowa you didn't know. But if you're working at CBS News you damn well knew because I worked there.

KOPPEL: You -- you may have known what he was off camera, but you didn't know what he was on camera.

O'REILLY: But decisions were made about personnel, story coverage and point of view by Cronkite, Brokaw and Rather who were committed left- wingers.

KOPPEL: Bill -- and Koppel, you might as well add him into the mix.

O'REILLY: You weren't, you know, I think you were just in a daze all the time. I don't think you really interfered that much. I was at ABC and I heard the scuttlebutt about you. You weren't a big interferer. You weren't. And Jennings wasn't either. Jennings didn't like all that ideology. He didn't.

KOPPEL: Yes you know --

O'REILLY: That's why I didn't bring his name up.

KOPPEL: You know I'd rather you criticize me because your compliments are more damaging and more devastating --

O'REILLY: Well, I got to tell the truth, Mr. Koppel come on.

KOPPEL: I mean, Bill what is it you think that I have said about the network or written about the network?

O'REILLY: You think that we have corrupted the sanctity of fair news coverage.

KOPPEL: I think --

O'REILLY: That's what I think.

KOPPEL: I think that ideological coverage of the news, be it of the right or be it of the left, has created a political reality in this country which is bad for America. I think it's made it difficult if not impossible for decent men and women in Congress, on Capitol Hill to reach across the aisle and find compromise.

And if we can't -- and if we can't do that, Bill, we're going to be in -- and -- and we have been, I think, for the last few years, in a terrible situation in this country where politically we can't make deals anymore.

O'REILLY: So you're blaming me and the Fox News Channel for the deterioration of Congress. If they don't have enough guts to do what's best for the country by compromising, all right, they don't deserve to be there. You can't be on top for as long as the Fox News Channel has been on top and sell a product that's inferior or dishonest. It's impossible in this country.

So therefore, I want you to re-evaluate our network, watch it a little bit more and then we'll talk in about a year. Last word.

KOPPEL: The last word is how many people are watching the Fox Network at 10:00 o'clock in the morning or 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon or 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon roughly?

O'REILLY: I don't know how many people.

KOPPEL: Well, you should, you work for the organization.

O'REILLY: You know, we have millions of people watching us from sign off to sign on.

KOPPEL: You know, you know, yes. But you do not have millions of people watching at 10:00 in the morning or noon or 1:00 in the afternoon. The millions of people are watching you, Bill.

O'REILLY: And they're better for it.

(CROSSTALK)

KOPPEL: The millions -- the millions of people are watching those of you with a particular point of view.

O'REILLY: That's the way the country works. That's the free marketplace.

KOPPEL: That's the free marketplace and I'm perfectly content to leave it on that -- on that note. It's a business. And it's operating as a business. And once upon a time, you and I actually thought journalism was a calling.

O'REILLY: But I still think that I'm doing something noble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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