Policing the Press: Bernie Goldberg and Jane Hall on Imus Controversy

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 10, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:Let's bring in our two ace media analysts, Jane Hall in Washington, Bernie Goldberg in Miami, whose new book, "Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right," comes out next week, and has an Imus component.

How fortunate for you, Mr. Goldberg.

BERNARD GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Yes. Who would have thunk it, right?

Let me talk quick, because I know I have got a lot to say here. First of all, there's no subject in America, Bill, that journalists are more frightened of than race. And it's not just journalists. It's liberals in general, and it's also the wimps on the political right, the politicians who are afraid to talk about race.

Let's stipulate that Don Imus said something stupid that he should apologize for, which he did. I have also met Don Imus on three occasions. For me, in my opinion, he is a mean-spirited guy.

Having said that, having said that, the idea that the moral crusade to get him fired is being led by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, two world-class race-hustlers, is beyond preposterous. And — and you will never see in the media the following: These two guys are totally incapable of fixing the real problems that plague parts of black America.

And Don Imus, as nasty as he is, isn't one of those problems — 70 percent illegitimacy rate, men who don't take care of their babies, 15-year-old girls having babies, a 50 percent high school dropout rate. Sharpton and Jackson don't have a clue as to how to fix this. But they do know how to go after a guy for making a stupid comment that really isn't as bad as any of the things I just mentioned.

It makes them feel as if they're still powerful and still relevant.

O'REILLY: All right. So, what you are saying, it's an easy target...


GOLDBERG: And the media...

O'REILLY: You're saying it's an easy target, to go after Imus — I agree with that — and that Sharpton and Jackson don't really have solutions to the African-American dilemma in the USA. Now, we're going to have Sharpton on tomorrow night to reply to what Bernie says.

It's a legitimate point, Jane. But you have an explosive situation here, a situation that — on the radio today, we had a number of African-Americans call, deeply hurt. And I think it has to be addressed by the corporations. Am I wrong?


And, you know, I want to disassociate myself from what Bernie just said. I mean, you can — I don't think we want to get into a discussion about the illegitimacy rate in this country and Al Sharpton and whether he is or is not a valid leader.

I think the point is, this is a pattern. And this is — Don Imus and his executive producer have said many racist, sexist, homophobic things. And I have got to tell you, I would make a different point, which is the allegedly liberal mainstream media have gone on there, Tim Russert, David Gregory, Tom Brokaw, John McCain, Lieberman , people have gone on that show because it reaches an audience.

And people have not — people in the media have not disassociated themselves, until he got caught! And that is something I think is really a media point we should be talking about.

O'REILLY: Well, John McCain says he will still go on, because he believes in redemption.

Now, let Bernie reply to that, that Sharpton himself — you know, there is only so much he can do, Bernie, and that this is something that he can do.


GOLDBERG: Sure, of course.

But my point is that, since he can't fix real problems, he tries to look powerful by fixing this thing. Look, in the book...

HALL: Bernie, this is a real...


O'REILLY: Jane, let Bernie — let Bernie make his point, please.

GOLDBERG: In the book, Don Imus said something — he said something a year ago, which I write about in the book, that is far stupider than this "nappy-headed hos" business, and far more dangerous.

He said that — he told Charles Barkley, the former basketball player, that not much has changed in America, in terms of race, since 1965. This is — since the march in Selma in 1965. This is breathtakingly dumb. But it's how white people talk to black people.

They say: You see, I'm not a racist. I'm not a bigot. I will say something as dumb as that to show my racial manners.

And, then, we never have a serious discussion about race in America. And what Imus did then was far more harmful than his stupid, stupid comment last week.

O'REILLY: Why — why was it far more harmful to say to Barkley, who himself has made racial comments, that Imus, in his opinion, didn't think that the United States had come very far in race relations?


GOLDBERG: No, that's not what he said. He said not much has changed since 1965.

There's not enough hours in the day, Bill, to tell you how much has changed, in terms of race...


GOLDBERG: ... since 1965.

O'REILLY: All right.


GOLDBERG: And it just takes us away from any serious discussion about race.

O'REILLY: All right, let Jane jump in.

HALL: Hey.

O'REILLY: Go ahead, Jane.


O'REILLY: Jane, jump in.

HALL: OK. It's hard to have a serious discussion when someone is insulting and assaulting you. These were not public figures. These were young women who had just achieved something. And it is the worst kind of sexist, racist insult. You think you're something? You're a whore.

That is what he said to them. You can't have a discussion with somebody. And that is serious, to think that's humorous.

O'REILLY: But, Jane, is this a bulletin to you?

I think what Bernie's trying to say — and it's a very interesting point — is that Imus has been on the record for many years about saying controversial things, whether you agree with him or not.

This isn't — I wasn't surprised when he said this.

HALL: This isn't controversy.

O'REILLY: Were you surprised?

HALL: This isn't controversy.

This is major corporations endorsing the worst kind of racial epithets. And we want a discussion about race? Let's get past how we're describing people in — I mean, that — that wouldn't even go in the Jim Crow South. I mean, this is serious .

O'REILLY: And what would you do, Jane?

GOLDBERG: This is not nearly as serious...


O'REILLY: Well, let — I want to know what Jane would do. And then I am going to ask you the same question, Bernie.

What would you do now, Jane?

HALL: What would I do?

I would let the Rutgers people, who graciously said they would meet with him, meet with him. And, unlike Mel Gibson , who I don't know what he has ever done about trying to take back what he said, let's see if we can have a dialogue. Let's see if Imus can learn.

O'REILLY: Would you fire Imus? Would you fire him?

HALL: No, I would not fire Imus.


HALL: I would not.

O'REILLY: How about you, Bernie? How would you handle it?

GOLDBERG: Let me pick up on what Jane said. I will answer it that way.

Yes, let's have a discussion. But, for a change in this country, let's have an honest discussion about race, and say, Don, you said something stupid, but it's not nearly as serious as the stuff that's keeping parts of black America behind the 8-ball, not nearly as serious.

O'REILLY: All right.

In a moment, Bernie and Jane will come back and analyze Rosie O'Donnell's demeanor today, which was very interesting.

O'Reilly, Rivera, O'Donnell, and Imus in the body language segment. Don't miss it — upcoming.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with FOX News analysts Jane Hall in Washington, Bernie Goldberg in Miami.

As I mentioned, Rosie O'Donnell returned to the ABC airwaves today, but did not directly mention her controversial anti-American remarks. Instead, there was this exchange with actor David Hyde Pierce :


DAVID HYDE PIERCE, ACTOR: In all honesty, that — especially your opening Imus conversation, was so vigorous, and so many amazing points of view about free speech and responsibility and everything, I thought, look at this. It's bunch of women talking about this. God bless America!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly right. It's about time.

PIERCE: There are so many countries where we couldn't talk about those issues and women wouldn't be talking about it. So...


ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST: And I think it's threatening to some men, still, in this country, that, sometimes, our words are taken and edited and put on male shows in order to make our opinions seem different than they are. I think it's a scary thing, women actually having a platform, like this show, for some people.



O'REILLY: So, now it's male thing.




O'REILLY: Really, I mean, it's just — it's great. I just — she had to hire somebody to spin it that way.


O'REILLY: Number one, I won a dinner in the newsroom, because I said Disney was going to tell her, don't even go near the frame-up of the Iran hostage thing, the preposterous scenario she laid out before she left on vacation, and the 9/11 inside-job stuff, Jane.

So, now it's a male thing. The men are after her. I mean, how are you processing that?


HALL: Well, you know, I think it's very interesting. It was hard for me to tell whether she was defending Don Imus or defending herself about free speech and major corporations. I mean, I think it's very interesting. She — that was definitely a sly attempt to say — you know, basically make you into Donald Trump , you know, which is: I'm with you women. These guys over here don't think we're serious. We don't have opinions.

David Hyde Pierce set it up that way. And she happily said: Yes, that's who I am. I'm over here with you women, and we're not taken seriously.

O'REILLY: How did you see it, Bernie?

GOLDBERG: Oh, Bill, you're killing me.


GOLDBERG: David Hyde Pierce says that, in some countries, women couldn't have a discussion like this.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: He is absolutely right.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: Those countries are largely in the Middle East, and they are Arab countries. So, what does Rosie say in the very next sentence? Yes, a lot of men in this country are still afraid. They find this threatening — in this country.

I mean, if she's not — you know, it's always something about us that's wrong in this country. Bill, I'm telling you. I said this before. This is the last time saying it.


GOLDBERG: I would rather do hard time in a Saudi prison than ever watch that show again.

O'REILLY: All right. Listen...

GOLDBERG: Don't make me do it.


GOLDBERG: Please. I'm begging you. Seriously, I'm begging you.


O'REILLY: But there's a bigger — there's a bigger picture here. And that's almost — it's parallel to the Imus discussion we just had.

The major corporations, Bernie, OK? You have got General Electric. You've got Disney. You've got Viacom. You have got huge, huge conglomerates allowing people to run wild, Bernie. Run wild.

GOLDBERG: Yes, you are right about that. And I think you were absolutely right in your "Talking Points" where you said the marketplace, as it always does, will sort this out, because broadcast executives are not known for standing on principle, most of them. They stand for money. I understand that. And they will do whatever makes money.

If Rosie makes money, no matter how preposterous her statements are — we're not talking about things that you and I may disagree with. We're talking about America blowing up one of the World Trade Center buildings. They'll stand by that, if it makes money. And, the second it doesn't, the second she becomes a liability, then she's gone.

By the way, same with Imus.

O'REILLY: Well, that's right.

I mean, you know, when they threw Rush Limbaugh overboard for the remarks about Donovan McNabb at ESPN, ESPN didn't suffer monetarily, because he was just an added attraction to the football game.

But Imus brings in revenue, so he gets two weeks.

But, Jane, you had to laugh at the male-bashing there, didn't you? Didn't you get a chuckle out of that? I thought that was the best line in the hour.

HALL: I thought it was pretty funny, because I thought, OK, she's spoiling for... I mean, if you would just get a comb-over, you could really have a good fight with her.

O'REILLY: It's just — you have got to give her credit, or whoever is writing her material. I mean, what a great spin. It isn't about anti-American comments. It's not about anything I ever did. It's about those...

GOLDBERG: It's our fault.

O'REILLY: ... nasty guys, who are just...

GOLDBERG: Me and you, Bill.

O'REILLY: Yes. And...

HALL: Well, and I'm surprised that, if she was defending Imus, that she didn't see, as a woman, how offensive his remarks are.

O'REILLY: All right.

HALL: I mean, she's having it both ways.

O'REILLY: Bernie and Jane, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

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