O'Reilly battles Gov. Lincoln Chafee over 'holiday tree'

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY: Now for the story tonight, last night we were able to talk with Governor Chafee and I admire him for coming on because he knows -- he know that I'm pretty fed up with his point of view.


O'REILLY: So governor, a holiday tree? A holiday tree, really, Governor? What's the tradition of a holiday tree? Where does the holiday tree come from?

CHAFEE: Well, last year when the subject came up about what we're going to do this time of year, I said just do what the previous governor did, we're not going to change anything. And that's what we did. Somehow this has all erupted into some kind of controversy but I did what the previous Governor did, call it a holiday tree and the governor before him. So this goes back to the `90s.

O'REILLY: All right, do you know the traditions of the tree and why it is used around the Christmas season? Do you know where that came from?

CHAFEE: Well, I've heard all the different scenarios, although some say it's some kind -- it has something to do with paganism. But the main thing it's a happy time of year.

O'REILLY: All right. And I'm happy and you are happy.

CHAFEE: And being a Christian of course having at my time, at having it at my house I have a Christmas tree. It's a happy time in my house and it should be here. But we also have to be conscious of changing times.

O'REILLY: We'll get to the changing times thing in a moment. Now the Christmas tree came from Germany, all right? That's where it first came from. And they decorated it for the children and then, you know, it kind of morphed into a Santa Claus thing you put in your card and you have Christmas gifts under the tree. There is a tradition to --

CHAFEE: So you're going to lecture me now on traditions?

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, Governor wait, wait, wait.

CHAFEE: Go ahead and tell me a story.

O'REILLY: There is a tradition -- there's a tradition to it that supersedes the Governors of Rhode Island with all due respect. There's a tradition to the Christmas tree, all right? It's there in context.

So guys like you come in and the previous governors and I'm sure there are people -- in other places say you know what? We don't want the Christmas tree tradition anymore and that's what tees people off.

You say you want people happy? They're not happy with you, Governor. They want you to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. There is no holiday tree. There is no tradition of a holiday tree.

CHAFEE: Do you remember? Did you have to go to public school and have to say the "Lord's Prayer" in public school? I remember it.

O'REILLY: No I went to Catholic school.


O'REILLY: All right.

CHAFEE: Ok, well, I did. And get this, first we had to say "Pledge of Allegiance" which was good but then all of us had to say the Lord's Prayer -- "Our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name". But then the Supreme Court ruled that that should not be. That all students and non-Christians have to say a Christian prayer and there was outrage just like there is now with this tree.

But now you look back on it and you think of course you can't ask non- Christians to say a Christian prayer in public school. So these controversies you generate them here but they really shouldn't be controversies. It's a public building paid for by everybody -- no, not at all. It's changing times.

O'REILLY: Yes, yes I mean Christmas tree is a secular symbol. It's not a symbol of religion. It has nothing to do with religion.

CHAFEE: This is a secular building. It's a public building it's paid for by people of all religions.

O'REILLY: Governor, Governor the "Lord's Prayer" is obviously a religious expression. A Christmas tree is --

CHAFEE: It used to be said -- I used to have to say it. Everybody used to have to say it in elementary school and public school. Times change.

O'REILLY: But you are making a -- you're making an invalid comparison between the religious prayer and a secular symbol. It does not make any sense.

CHAFEE: No, this is a public building. This is a public building paid for by people of all religion.

O'REILLY: Yes and you have a secular Christmas tree in a public -- look, the White House has a Christmas tree, ok? So what's the difference? The White House has a Christmas tree and Rhode Island can't have one?

CHAFEE: No it's a White House three, you are wrong, Bill. You're wrong they call it a White House tree.

O'REILLY: No it's a Christmas tree. Barack Obama calls it a Christmas tree. He is your guy. He calls it a Christmas tree.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know for 89 years presidents and Americans have come together to light the National Christmas tree.


O'REILLY: Governor.

CHAFEE: Well times are changing and here in this building previous governors not only me.

O'REILLY: Previous governor.

CHAFEE: And I just said continue what the previous governor has done and that's what I have did. You like to make a lot of controversy so all I can say is on this one you are wrong.

O'REILLY: Governor you're the guy making the controversy. All I want to do is keep the traditions of Christmas that make most Americans happy. The polls show 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas and they want to call it a Christmas tree.

You are in the minority. You are imposing your will and you're making people unhappy in a season of joy. That's not right. You are not doing the right thing, Governor.

CHAFEE: I don't make anybody happy. I just said do what the previous governors did.

O'REILLY: I know you are not making anybody happy. Everybody is unhappy with you. All right the atheist want you to burn the holiday tree.

CHAFEE: Merry Christmas.

O'REILLY: They want to just burn it. All right, come on you know I'm right -- you know I'm right, in your heart you know I'm right.

CHAFEE: No. Your show, Fox News you guys are too angry.

O'REILLY: I'm not angry.

CHAFEE: This is an angry network. Listen to you -- yelling.

O'REILLY: I want our traditions to be respected. That's all.

CHAFEE: Well, merry Christmas.

O'REILLY: All right, Governor. Thanks for taking the heat. We appreciate you coming on.

CHAFEE: Have a good day.


O'REILLY: And by the way, the Governor gave the good people of Rhode Island exactly 30 minutes today. 30 minutes to attend the tree lighting ceremony. Why the short notice? He didn't want protesters.

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