Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 22, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, a tale of two Democrats.  As you may know, we have good relationships with a variety of Democrats, including John Kerry (search), John Edwards (search), and Joseph Lieberman (search), just to name a few.  But we do have trouble with the Clintons who don't seem to approve of the No Spin Zone and some others, many of whom live on the far left fringe.  Joining us now from Washington is the former chief of staff to President Clinton, John Podesta, who apparently is mad at me for some reason.

Now I'm just going to quote the CyberNews (ph) service here.  I don't know whether this is true or not.  You can set me straight.  This is a quote. "John Podesta also took a jab at FOX News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, when an audience member asked about the possibility of filing lawsuits against news outfits that quote, 'propagate direct lies,' unquote, Podesta responded, what about television?  It's time to sue Bill O'Reilly." The crowd of liberal activists showed their approval by erupting in applause.

Well, what are you going to sue me for?

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, that's a little bit off, Bill.  I said that one of our fellows, Eric Alterman, was contemplating a lawsuit against you because you told a lie about him.

O'REILLY:  And what lie was that?

PODESTA:  You said on this show that he was a confidant of Fidel Castro.  That's not true.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Did you see that show?

PODESTA:  It's in your transcripts.

O'REILLY:  OK.  You saw the transcript but you didn't see the show.

PODESTA:  I did not see the show.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Would you like to hear it?

PODESTA:  You have gotten a letter...

O'REILLY:  Yes, we got some dopey letter from his lawyer.  And they are going to sue.  But  you, John PODESTA, former chief of staff to a president of the United States, you firmly believe in your heart that I told a lie about your pal, Eric Alterman, is that correct?

PODESTA:  You called him a confidant of Fidel Castro.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Let's roll the tape.


O'REILLY:  Now, Jane, you're in academia.  You teach at American University.  Do you know Orville Schell, the dean of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California Berkeley?

JANE HALL:  I don't know him, I know who he is.

O'REILLY:   You know Orville, right?  How would you categorize him as far as politics are concerned?

HALL:  I would say he was probably to the left and liberal.

O'REILLY:   Yes, around Fidel Castro, right?  Somewhere in there?


O'REILLY:  Somewhere in the Straits of Florida, because we have had Dean Schell on the program.  And he wanted to take my car and I wouldn't let him.  Anyway, he reviews a book by Eric Alterman, another Fidel Castro confidant, "What Liberal Media?", and Orville loves it.


O'REILLY:  OK.  And I was obviously being facetious.  And you can see the laughter and the smiles and all of that.

PODESTA:  But you know, Bill, you can blow all this stuff off by saying, it's all a big joke.  But Eric Alterman is an anti-Castro liberal.  He has got a strong record of it.  And you're making him seem like he's a confidant of Fidel Castro.

O'REILLY:  OK.  So you believe, John Podesta, former chief of staff to a president of the United States, that I was actually accusing Mr. Alterman of being a confidant of the dictator of Cuba?  You believe that?

PODESTA:  Bill, look, you know, you could...

O'REILLY:  Wait, wait, Mr. Podesta, do you believe it after hearing the tape or not?

PODESTA:  I believe that that's your description of him, and you owe him an apology for it.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Now look, fine, we'll let the audience -- they all saw it, they all saw the context.  And you believe that I should be sued for making that remark, correct?

PODESTA:  Bill, I think all Eric wants is to set the record straight and say that he is an anti-Castro liberal.  If you're just willing to admit it...

O'REILLY:  All right.  And you...

PODESTA:  If you're willing to admit it, we could let this thing go.

O'REILLY:  Oh, OK, sure.

PODESTA:  You do it all the time, Bill.

O'REILLY:  All the time?

PODESTA:  You do it all the time.

O'REILLY:  What do I do all the time?

PODESTA:  Well, you compare Bill Moyers to Mao Zedong.  You say that's a joke.  You compare Al Franken to Joseph Goebbels, you know, the Nazi propagandist...

O'REILLY:  That was Michael Moore, by the way.

PODESTA:  ... you say that's a joke.

O'REILLY:  That was Michael Moore.

PODESTA:  You know, it's all a big joke to you, Bill.

O'REILLY:  It's satire.  You know how that satire thing goes now, don't you?

PODESTA:  That's not funny, Bill.  It's just not funny.

O'REILLY:  Oh, fine, I mean, you may not think it was funny.  But it was done in jest.  It was done to make...

PODESTA:  Watch "The Daily Show," put on Comedy Central, watch "The Daily Show," you will see what funny is.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Fine.  But you do know that many, many people watching you now are going to say you're totally unreasonable, this was a joke, he was being facetious, and you, Mr. Podesta, a man of esteem, all right, took it out of context, ran with it, used your little Web site to say O'Reilly did this, he's an evil guy, he's a liar.  Now, I'm not...

PODESTA:  I didn't call you a liar.  And I didn't say you were an evil guy.

O'REILLY:  Yes, you did.  You used the word on this interview, Mr. Podesta,  that you told a lie about Eric Alterman.  And that's what you guys trade in all the time.  And that's what I object to, sir.  Go ahead.

PODESTA:  Hey, you know, it's a two-way street here, buddy.  You do this all the time as well, you label people, you smear people.  And we're just asking for the record to be set straight.

O'REILLY:  Can you give me one example where I smeared someone?

PODESTA:  How about referring to Al Franken was Joseph Goebbels?  That was...

O'REILLY:  I did not refer to him as Joseph Goebbels.

PODESTA:  You compared him to him.

O'REILLY:  That was Michael Moore.

PODESTA:  Come on, you do this...

O'REILLY:  Look, I asked you for one example where I smeared somebody.  You just misstated what I said.  I said that Michael Moore is a propagandist just as Joseph Goebbels is a propagandist?  Would you deny that?

PODESTA:  I think that comparing Michael Moore to a guy who set up the propaganda for the Nazi regime that resulted in the killing of 6 million people through the Holocaust, yes, I think that's an over-bloviated...

O'REILLY:  I said that Michael Moore is a propagandist and so is Joseph Goebbels.  And then I explained what propaganda is.  Now Michael Moore has called the president of the United States in a time of war -- Michael Moore has called the president of the United States in a time of war a deserter.  Is that OK?

PODESTA:  You know, I'm not here to defend Michael Moore...

O'REILLY:  Well, that's good.  Is it OK for anybody to call the president of the United States a deserter, in your opinion?

PODESTA:  That does not compare him -- that does not equate him to Joseph Goebbels, which is your -- you know, that's what you do.

O'REILLY:  I mean, I did it in the sense that they were both propagandists.  I didn't equate what they do.  I said, here's a propagandist and that's another propagandist.

PODESTA:  And that's what we seem to be engaged in now, your propaganda to try to smear these people.  And I think it's...

O'REILLY:  I'm not trying to smear them.  Would you deny that Michael Moore is a propagandist, are you denying that?

PODESTA:  Michael Moore is a documentarian, whether you want to call him a propagandist or not is your opinion.

O'REILLY:  You wouldn't call him a propagandist?

PODESTA:  I haven't seen this film so I...

O'REILLY:  No, I mean, based on his statements and his other work, you wouldn't call him a propagandist?

PODESTA:  Yes, well, I think he's a man of strong views who disagrees with most of what I believe in, including -- he said the other day that he never voted for Clinton, he doesn't vote for Gore.  He's a pretty far left-wing guy, I don't know.  But I don't equate him with Joseph Goebbels.  I think that's really unfair and out of bounds.

O'REILLY:  Well, the allusion was made to explain what propaganda is and where it emanated from.

PODESTA:  Oh come on.  You know that that's not why we...

O'REILLY:  And we have got the transcript.  We've got the transcript.  I can do just what I did with Alterman if you want.  But anyway, I've got one more question.

PODESTA:  Then put it up.

O'REILLY:  I want to talk to Bill Clinton.  Is there any way on this earth that I can talk with him?  Would you ask him to come in here?  Because we have been pretty respectful of him.

PODESTA:  Call his staff.

O'REILLY:  We haven't (ph) called.  They said we're on the list, I think we're right below Al-Jazeera in line for that interview.


O'REILLY:  Well, why wouldn't he come in to chat with me?  Sell a lot of books, could change some minds.  We have by far the biggest audience in cable news.  Why won't he come on in?

PODESTA:  Well, I think you ought to take that up with him.

O'REILLY:  Would you recommend that he come on?

PODESTA:  I think that he's out talking to -- I think he's out talking to millions of American people through the media outlets that he's finding.  I think he's doing just fine.

O'REILLY:  Yes, but he's cherry-picking, though.

PODESTA:  I don't know, it depends on whether or not you will admit that Eric Alterman isn't...


O'REILLY:  I will play the same clip.  I mean, I was fooling around there.

PODESTA:  Would you admit that he's anti-Castro?

O'REILLY:  Sure.  Eric, baby, you're anti-Castro.  All right?  That was a joke, Eric.  I'm having a little fun at your expense.


O'REILLY:  All right, Mr. Podesta, when you see Bill and Hillary, tell them, look, here we are, and we want -- ready to believe them.  Thank you, sir.

PODESTA:  I will do it.

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