Brokaw and Jennings Defend Rather

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Oct. 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight, the investigation into exactly what happened at the CBS document gate situation is in motion right now.  There's no question Dan Rather and CBS News have taken a pounding.  And over the weekend, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings stood up for Mr. Rather at a conference sponsored by "New Yorker" magazine.


TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR :  What is I think is highly inappropriate is what's going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC ANCHOR :  We have no idea what the independent investigation is going to produce, but the one thing I feel quite strongly about and I've said this to Dan and I say it to everybody  else, I don't think you ever judge a man by one event in his career.


O'REILLY:  All right, with us now is "New Yorker" magazine media writer Ken Auletta, who moderated the event.

You know, I got criticized here because I wouldn't come down on Rather and tear him to pieces.  And you know, although the evidence is over the years that Dan Rather favors the Democratic party or at least the left spectrum.  I just didn't want to get in on tearing a guy to pieces.  And I think that was in play here with Rather and Brokaw, because it's kinds of a club, right?

KEN AULETTA, "THE NEW YORKER":  Well, there's no question.  These are not friends.  They don't come together that often except on panels, but Dan Rather was clearly down.  And he walked in very tense.  And I think there was a natural human reaction on the part of both Brokaw and Jennings to kind of lift him up.

O'REILLY:  Yes, they just felt sorry for him because all of us in the public eye broadcasting every day are under intense media scrutiny, intense pressure, criticized all day long.  And I was happy to see Brokaw and Jennings stick up for Rather.  And I think it was a good thing to do.

Brokaw took it a little bit farther in saying it was a right wing deal and they're pounding him on the right, correct?

AULETTA:  He blamed the bloggers.  He said the bloggers were going after him.  And he said they had a jihad against Rather and he disagreed with that.

O'REILLY:  The conservative people, though...

AULETTA:  Yes, he...

O'REILLY:  ...he particularly singled them out.

AULETTA:  He did single out the conservatives.

O'REILLY:  All right, because it's my contention that after Tom Brokaw leaves the anchor desk, that he will be the voice of liberal America like Walter Cronkite is, that he will go down that commentary  road.  Nothing wrong with that, but I believe that you will see his leanings come out after he leaves the desk.

AULETTA:  Well, I'm not entirely sure you're right.  You know, when I was doing a piece on the Bush White House and their relations with the press last winter, the Bush White House actually venerates Brokaw among the three anchors the most.  And he's the one...

O'REILLY:  I don't know if venerate is the word.  I think that they may...

AULETTA:  They respect him.

O'REILLY:  ...he gets a little bit more credit than the other two.  I had Bush on and said hey, do you get a fair shake from these guys.  And you could see it all over his face.  He doesn't get a fair shake.

Hey, I'm standing on a platform for the debate in Miami on Friday.  And Brokaw's right next to me, OK?  And you know how he opens his show?  On a day when there's chaos, and destruction, and death in Iraq, we are having the debate in Miami.  You know, you can frame anything you want, but I'm looking over at him going did you have to frame it that way?  That's the kind of stuff that these guys do all the time.  And that's why people watch Fox because we try to stay away from that.

AULETTA:  Wait.  Wait.

O'REILLY:  Go ahead.  You can reply.

AULETTA:  Fox stays away from this?

O'REILLY:  I don't think we frame -- in fact, if you watch the Shepard Smith broadcast, and I hope you do, I don't think you'll ever find framing like that on the introduction to an important news story.

AULETTA:  Well, I'm not arguing your framing point...

O'REILLY:  Right.

AULETTA:  But I mean, I've seen Fox -- I've watched Fox News.  And they frame things the way you accuse NBC of doing.

O'REILLY:  How, give me an example?

AULETTA:  Well, they talk -- when mission accomplished, last May 1...

O'REILLY:  Right.

AULETTA:  ...or a year ago May, I mean, that was treated on Fox News as if -- as a celebratory event.

O'REILLY:  Yes, because the forces -- you know, I think this has been misinterpreted as a political pep rally.  It was we were complimenting and acknowledging the great work done by our armed forces.  So -- and I think that was in context.

AULETTA:  There was actually a breathless quality to the coverage of the president.

O'REILLY:  Right, well, we can discuss that all day long.  But I'll always say that I think that we try to be fair here.  In fact, you know, the orders have come down, be as fair as you possibly can be.  And I -- you know, as an analyst, I don't have to be fair.  And I try to be.

But anyway, let's get back to Rather.  Do you think he's going to survive this?  I mean, you watch these guys as close as anyone?

AULETTA:  I mean, clearly, he knows that that there's this investigation going on.  And he doesn't know the outcome.  And no one at CBS knows what the outcome will be.  So they're worried about it.

And he -- I think he worries about that.  But I also think he worries about he's 72 years old, going on 73.  And is his career going to be capped by this disgrace?

O'REILLY:  So his legacy is on his mind?

AULETTA:  Well, of course, it would be.  Sure.  But I don't know what's going to happen.  And I know talking to people at CBS, they don't know either.

O'REILLY:  Do you think it's hurt him in the court of public opinion?  Can he come back from that?  See, Jennings' remark was very good.  He says you don't judge any -- you don't judge your whole body of a life's work...

AULETTA:  Right.

O'REILLY: one incident.  You don't judge a man by one thing that he does.  Do you think the American people are that forgiving, that they won't judge him by that?

AULETTA:  Well, I mean, people have had -- Richard Nixon had several different comebacks.  Abraham Lincoln had several different comebacks.  I think the American people are forgiving.  I think -- but it's very hard when you're 72 years old.  You're running out of runway.

O'REILLY:  That's right.  And it happened in a most emotionally charged atmosphere, a presidential election.


O'REILLY:  See, if that happened outside the election cycle, it just would be another.  All right, sir -- I feel bad, I have to say I do feel bad for him.  I'm not a friend of Dan Rather's.  And he was on here and I grilled him.  But I -- it could happen to anybody.

AULETTA:  On Saturday, the audience, when Peter Jennings said what he said with the clip that you showed, they gave him probably a minute ovation.

O'REILLY:  Yes, but that's a New York audience.  Come on.  You know how you guys are?

AULETTA:  No, no question, there was a liberal tilt to that audience.  No question.

O'REILLY:  Yes, liberal tilt.

AULETTA:  But Dan Rather just felt it.


AULETTA:  And you could just him relax.

O'REILLY:  Well, I'm happy.  I don't think anybody should glory in somebody's suffering.  Ken, thanks for coming in.  We appreciate it.

to say, well, we're willing to hear it.  We'll check back with you in two weeks to see what happens.

Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.