Which Discount Department Stores Are Saying 'Merry Christmas'?

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 15, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Investigation" segment tonight, how America's largest department stores are marketing Christmas this year.

Last week, we told you that Sears, Kmart, and Kohl's will not use the term "Merry Christmas" in their advertising. All the other major department stores say they will.

On the discount front, here's how it looks:

- Wal-Mart is not using "Merry Christmas" in its marketing. The chain says "Happy Holidays" is sufficient.

- Costco will not use "Merry Christmas." Again, it prefers "Happy Holidays."

- Target will not use "Merry Christmas."

- As far as we know, the same is true for B.J.'s. No "Merry Christmas" at B.J.'s.

So all in all, on the discount department storefront, no "Merry Christmas." Bah humbug.

Joining us now from Washington, Jackson Bain whose company counsels corporations, and Tobin Smith, FOX News contributor.

All right, Tobin, I'll begin with you. I am sensing, through e-mails and radio calls, a growing anger among the nation's Christians that their holiday is being denigrated by, particularly stores, that want their business over Christmas. How do you see it?

TOBIN SMITH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Bill, first off, 92 percent of Americans in every poll, including polls that we do, have said they like the words "Merry Christmas." So who are you offending is my question?

The same question, if you look at the statistics, 50 percent of people from a Jewish heritage participate in a Christmas activity.

So who's left? The atheists and the agnostics? You don't make business decisions based on a small, small microscopic group of loud, angry people. You make it on the right decision. So it's not just the right. It's more than that.

O'REILLY: OK. But look, Sears, Wal-Mart, Costco, these are enormous retail operations.

SMITH: Sure.

O'REILLY: You would think that they would do surveys and that they would know before they make policy that they would be hurt or not hurt by saying or not saying "Merry Christmas." They would use data.

SMITH: Well, let me give you — yes, but let me give you an example. Federated Stores last year chose not to use "Merry Christmas"...

O'REILLY: Right.

SMITH: ... particularly in the store, and they lost business. So guess what? This year they're doing it the right way.

O'REILLY: Federated is absolutely on the "Merry Christmas" bandwagon this year.

SMITH: Yes. Yes.

O'REILLY: When we did the research on the — particularly on Wal-Mart and Costco and B.J.'s, these are heartland operations.

SMITH: Sure. Absolutely.

O'REILLY: I mean, these are Bible Belt, down south, Mr. Bain, wanting the 85 percent of Americans who call themselves Christians to come on in that door. And yet they are not going to use the words "Merry Christmas" in their advertising. I'm just stunned.

JACKSON BAIN, COMMUNICATIONS COUNSELOR: It seems to be — Bill, it seems to be a confounding decision when you look at the percentages. But despite the numbers — I mean, forget the numbers for a second.

A lot of these people are making their decisions based on the fact that they know that they can't really afford to offend anybody. They don't know — I'm certain that they have done surveys in their own communities. Don't think about the national polls, think about the local ones.

And I'm sure they've done surveys in their own communities that say, you know, "Maybe it's better because we have such a large Jewish population or a Hindu population or a Buddhist population or whatever, that we..."

O'REILLY: I've got to break it to you, at Wal-Mart headquarters down in Arkansas, not a lot of Hindus. Not — not a lot of Jewish people down there.

BAIN: It's not the headquarters. It's the local store.

O'REILLY: No. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. It comes from the top. These decisions are made at the very top of these corporations.

BAIN: I know that. Well, a lot of these people are looking at their customer base and saying, "You know, we have a really diverse population here in the United States. And let's honor everybody who comes through the door."

O'REILLY: You can honor everybody by saying...

BAIN: What's wrong with "Season's Greetings"? What's wrong with "Season's Greetings?"

O'REILLY: Let me answer that, and then I'll let you go, Tobin.


O'REILLY: Look, nothing wrong with "Season's Greetings." But you can say "Season's Greetings," "Happy Hanukkah," and "Merry Christmas" in your advertising.

BAIN: And "Happy Kwanzaa" and...

O'REILLY: If you want to go into Ramadan and Kwanzaa, go right ahead.

BAIN: Sure.

O'REILLY: But to say that "we are not going to use the words 'Merry Christmas' in our advertising, retail advertising," is teeing off, trust me, millions of customers — Tobin.

BAIN: Bill, I don't need to tell you, and you've trumpeted this more than any other person in America these days, this country was found on a foundation of religious tolerance. Part of this...

O'REILLY: Yes, I've got to let Tobin in on this, Jackson. Got to let Tobin get in.

SMITH: Here's the issue: what's next, Bill? We can't say Easter? "Happy Easter"? I mean, Christmas is like baseball in America. This is part of our heritage. This is our culture. And if you understand American culture, they'll understand this.

BAIN: Tobin, if you want to go to the most Christmassy place on earth, go to the Ginza in Tokyo. That's where they have more Christmas decorations there than any place...

O'REILLY: But I'm still not getting — I'm still not getting, and Ill give you guys a breath to think about it, because I want this question, I want your opinion on it.


O'REILLY: I am 100 percent convinced, and listening to both of you, I think you are, as well, that the policy of not advertising, using the words "Merry Christmas" will hurt the bottom line of these stores. It will hurt their sales.

SMITH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Why do they want to do it?

SMITH: There is a — there is a backlash that's forming, Bill. And you know what? You don't see backlashes until it hits you right in the face. Federated saw it last year. And you're not going to see this, Bill, until about December 28. And then the chief executives are going to bring the advertising people in and say, "What the heck were you thinking?"

BAIN: I hope — I hope one thing. I hope a lot of stores discover for real this year whether or not saying "Merry Christmas" hurts or helps their business.

But the second thing I hope is that everybody who's working in those stores and everybody who comes in to shop there has more Christmas inside than they have outside. That's really important.

O'REILLY: Well, that's nice. I'm starting to tear up here. But you know, look, the bottom line on this is 30 years ago in this country, unheard of. We would not be having this conversation.

SMITH: Absolutely right.

O'REILLY: Every store in the United States was going "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays" "Happy Hanukkah. We hope everybody's happy.

SMITH: This is my — this is my...

O'REILLY: I'm getting the last word here. It's my show.

Now there is an anti-Christian bias in this country.

SMITH: Yes, there is.

O'REILLY: And it is more on display in Christmas season than any other time.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

SMITH: Bill, you're right.

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