Howard Kurtz enters No Spin Zone

Media critic battles O'Reilly over NBC News' drone coverage


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 13, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Personal Story Segment" tonight. Last weekend Howard Kurtz on CNN said that I misspoke when criticizing NBC News analysis of the drone situation.


KURTZ: Well, that's kind of curious, given that it was an NBC scoop. So O'Reilly obviously misspoke and I thought he would just come back the next night and correct the record. Bill, the only reason there is a drone debate right now is because NBC News revealed that memo.

O'REILLY: Are you kidding me, Howard? Are you kidding me? Come on, man, the double standard of media coverage on waterboarding versus drones has been apparent for years. You don't know that? And don't give me any of this O'Reilly misspoke business. You know exactly what Beckel and I were talking about or you should know.


O'REILLY: All right, joining us now from Washington is journalists Howard Kurtz. So what I want to do here, Howard, is get inside your thought process. All right? I'm going to ask you a series of very foolish questions so we can walk through this so the audience may not have seen your show or my show and know what we are talking about.

First, did you see the original segment I did with Beckel the night it aired?

KURTZ: Well first when you were chastising me Bill you called me your old pal it was very touching I want to thank you for that. I saw it live. I saw what most people in America saw --


O'REILLY: All right.

KURTZ: -- which is you saying "you heard anything on NBC about the drones?"

O'REILLY: All right. So you saw it live. Do you remember how it was intro? What was the news peg to get into Beckel? It was clear to me you and Bob Beckel were talking about the outcry in the media and elsewhere about waterboarding during the Bush administration as well as the relative silence you would say about drones. I got that.


O'REILLY: Ok but -- but it wasn't set up that way. It was set up in a different way. Do you remember how it was set up?

KURTZ: Refresh my memory.

O'REILLY: Roll the tape.


O'REILLY: "Impact Segment" tonight will counterterrorism advisor John Brennan become the head of the CIA? He testifies tomorrow on Capitol Hill. But some liberals don't like him because he is the director of the drone program that kills terrorists from the sky. President Obama, very bullish on the drones.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These strikes are legal. They are ethical and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life.

O'REILLY: And here now to discuss his moral dilemma, over the drone issue, the co-host of "The Five" Bob Beckel.


O'REILLY: All right, so it was obviously set up as a discussion with a liberal, Bob Beckel over his condemnation of waterboarding. But the relative silence over drones. And I used NBC News analysis as an example to back that up.

So what's your beef?

KURTZ: Bill, I have already won this round on points because the other day with Bernie Goldberg you said yes I guess I should have mentioned it. The NBC scoop was the elephant in the room that kick started this debate. And on your larger point about the media and oh the media being hypocritical here with some exceptions, "Newsweek", "New York Times" had a big story last year about Obama's secret kill list -- a liberal law professor now picking the names for who is to be targeted by these drones.

I would certainly be willing to say that the mainstream media, much of it, giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt on national security issues in a way that was not true with George W. Bush.

O'REILLY: Ok number one I said to Goldberg "I should have mentioned it" only because it would have avoided all of this nonsense. All right? Not because it was done in a journalistic way. We were not talking about reportage. And you just lost points by confusing hard news reporting about drones with the "New York Times" editorial page. Which hasn't condemned, as far as I know, in any great measure, as they did with waterboarding the use of it what we were clearly talking about here, 48 hours after the NBC memo appeared was why the left doesn't condemn killing terrorists with drones, unilateral killing decision making with one man waterboarding that kills anybody.

You know and I know that it's hypocritical. Yet, you don't engage in that you come after me. It's ridiculous.

KURTZ: That was a very mild, carefully chosen critique of your performance. But here's the larger point Bill. In terms it of what you see is the relative lack of outcry there was a passionate debate in this country about whether waterboarding is torture led in part by John McCain. That was easy for the press and the commentators on the left to cover because it was so out there.

In the case of drones, it wasn't an issue in the campaign. Mitt Romney didn't talk about it. I didn't hear it in the debate. And so the press, including the commentators have been too passive in my view just like they were in the run up to the Iraq war rather than making this an issue. It should be an issue. It should be debated. You are right to bring that up.


O'REILLY: But why haven't you covered it then, why haven't you spent the time on it that you should have had. Look, you run a media show. And we -- we did, we traced back. Very rarely did you cover this? Why not?

KURTZ: I have done segment after segment going back to 2007 and 2008 on whether the media are too favorable too sympathetic to Barack Obama. The fact that the drone issue which conservatives support --


O'REILLY: No, no it's not about favorable to Barack Obama it's about one thing, hypocrisy. You left is screaming about waterboarding, yet they are muted about killing with drones because they are in the tank for Obama. And you know it and I know it and so does everybody watching. Right?

KURTZ: That might be -- that might be true.

O'REILLY: Might be true, Howard?


KURTZ: Well hold on. Hold on, come on, don't -- let me finish a sentence here. It probably is true of commentators who are marching in solidarity with Barack Obama. But it is not true for many in the mainstream media who while very soft in the 2008 campaign and I talked about this and wrote about it at the time have been more diligent in covering this president.

O'REILLY: There is a difference between hard news reporting and analysis and my discussion with Beckel solely was on analysis. We appreciate you coming on, a very lively debate. We are sure you will get a lot of e-mail on it run it on your program on Sunday and you'll get higher ratings. Being you because you're my pal.

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