CBS Won't Run an Anti-Bush Commercial

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 16, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the "Impact" segment tonight poll numbers for Howard Dean continue to decline in Iowa.  And any one of the four candidates could win there on Monday, so nothing has really changed.

One of the reasons Dean is slipping is that he's perceived to be a mean and has aligned himself with the far left, which brings us to the far-left Web site,  Recently, it sponsored a contest asking people to create anti-Bush ads.  Some of them compared Bush to Hitler.  You remember that...

Now the winner was supposed to run on commercial television on the Superbowl, no less, which would have cost Moveon about $2 million.  That's the kind of money they have, courtesy of [philanthropist] George Soros (search), but CBS says there's no way they're running the ad.

Joining us now from Sacramento, California is Wayne Johnson, a Republican political consultant.  Are you surprised CBS isn't running this deal?

WAYNE JOHNSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT:  No, I'm really not surprised.  They've tended to shy away from doing issue advocacy ads.  They've done, I think, one that I can think of in the past.  There was an anti-tobacco ad at the Superbowl, but it's not inconsistent with what they've done in the past.

O'REILLY:  Yes, they don't want to offend anybody.  And they know they can sell the spot to somebody else.  But $2 million, I mean, that's big clout.  A Web site going to spend that on a 30-second spot?  Thank you, George Soros, right?

JOHNSON:  Well, I think certainly there's an awful lot of soft money in the process these days.  And George Soros, I think, has made a commitment of $5 million.

O'REILLY:  He -- look, if he can get his propaganda out, there's no  limit to what he's going to do.  All right now, look, I want to tell everybody that we vetted this ad. We're going to show it to you for free. No $2 million. Moveon doesn't have to send us a check.  There's no speaking on the advertisement.  Okay?  All right, it's just purely what you'll see on the screen.  So let's roll it now.


(MUSIC) Video of children working at jobs...


O'REILLY:  Okay.  That's the winner?  It basically says guess who's going to pay off the $1 trillion deficit.  And there were little kids running around and they're going to pay it.

You know, look, that's a legitimate political point.  You want to make that point, that's fine.  It's not offensive.  I didn't think -- there was no Third Reich in it.  Nobody is saying the f-word, which is, you know, what's come out of this organization in the past, not that they -- to be fair, to Moveon, they didn't sanction the Hitler stuff, but they certainly do sanction the far-left loonies, no question about it.

This ad now, if CBS turns it down, that means probably the other networks are going to start to turn down the advocacy ads as well on both sides.  So you know, the Soroses of the world and the right-wing people who are pumping big money, they may some trouble getting their message out.

JOHNSON:  I think that's a real concern.  I'm the vice president of the American Association of Political Consultants (search).  I'm the Republican.  And our president is a Democrat.  But all the members that I've spoken with, we have over 1,000 members, and a number of them I've talked to, and I think we're all concerned about the limitation of political speech.  Television is...

O'REILLY:  Yeah.  I was surprised that CBS turned this down.  It's not offensive, makes a legitimate point politically.  And they go, look, we just don't want to get involved in this controversy.  I mean, CBS obviously got, you know, obviously whacked with the Reagan movie and Michael Jackson and all that.


O'REILLY:  The last thing they need is political controversy.  And as I said,  they can send -- but you  know, I see the fact that you guys out there are marshaling your money to attack people with soft money through, you know, media campaigns.  You may have trouble getting your message out, Mr. Johnson. -- I'll give you the last word.

JOHNSON:  Well, I think that that's certainly true.  Television is the public square today.  It is the way...

O'REILLY:  You bet.

JOHNSON:  ...that you express the First Amendment privileges, but it's also -- broadcast is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the pie.  There's so many other ways that people are receiving information.

O'REILLY:  But not the big bang.

JOHNSON:  Doing Internet blogs.

O'REILLY:  Not - yes, but not the big bang.

JOHNSON:  That's right.  That's right.

O'REILLY:  This is the big bang on television. It'll continue to be.  Mr. Johnson, thanks very much.  We appreciate it.

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