Costas' Putin controversy

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Personal Story Segment" tonight -- NBC Sportscaster Bob Costas. As you may know there was some controversial over his comments about Putin during the Olympic coverage.


COSTAS: Just in the past year, Putin brokered a deal to allow Syria to avoid a U.S. military strike by giving up its chemical weapons and helped bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear intentions. And he has repeatedly showcased his confidence to take on the West particularly the United States.


O'REILLY: And that was on February 6th. Two weeks later, Mr. Costas said this.


COSTAS: While in many significant ways Russian citizens have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, theirs is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria and that's just a partial list. No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities.


O'REILLY: Here now is Bob Costas.

COSTAS: Hi, Bill.

O'REILLY: So you -- you don't think the initial Putin coverage to you, because you get attacked on talk radio on some cable.

COSTAS: Only in certain precincts predictably.

O'REILLY: Right but you know everybody gets it if you are as big as you are. But you don't think that was fair?

COSTAS: No because it was entirely out of context. I was reluctant to come on. I come on out of respect to you. You've always been fair to me. But I run the risk of amplifying which should be nonissue. This is a controversy only for those looking for the most flimsy pretext for a controversy and a kind of cut and paste thing that isn't even journalism.

That was not a profile of Putin. It was a set up to a conversation in which Putin would immediately be called an autocrat and his desire to expand the former Soviet empire, now the Russian empire, his desire to make his nation more and more influential and consequential on the international stage. That was the whole thing -- not an hour later, not after a commercial -- contiguous to it. All right.


COSTAS: So there was not -- there was nothing.

O'REILLY: But why get involved with politics at all. You guys were over there to cover the games. I mean why even bother with it?

COSTAS: In fact -- in fact, on behalf of my colleagues at NBC and Mark Lazarus who runs NBC Sports now, we did exactly what we said we were going to do. We would frame the back drop against which these issues -- against which these Olympics took place. Each of the first two nights in the first minute, in a broad sense, I laid it out.

Then we brought on David Remnick, whether people thinks he leans left or not, he is an expert on Russian history and Russian politics. And we talked about these being Putin's games. The 1984 Olympics weren't Ronald Reagan's games. They were Peter Uebberoth's. The 1996 Olympics were Billy Payne's not Bill Clinton's. The 2002 Olympics were Mitt Romney's not George Bush's. These were Putin's games.

And as I said in the last piece which you showed but only a portion of, if in fact they were successful, which briefly before what's going on in Ukraine they appeared to be on their way to being successful, it would burnish the image of a man and a regime whose image does not deserve to be burnished.

O'REILLY: All right and let me back that up with a clip. I mean because what you are saying is that you were critical of Putin.

COSTAS: Repeatedly.

O'REILLY: Even while discussing his influence on the games. Roll the tape we have.


COSTAAS: I don't know of any American, David, no matter where they may fall on the political spectrum, who views Vladimir Putin as some sort of peacemaker or a benign figure.


O'REILLY: Ok. Now once you got that out, were there any retractions? Anybody say look, we are sorry, we portrayed Costas as a left wing guy or all of that.

COSTAS: No. And as a matter of fact, all of that and much, much more is on was immediately. So far as I know is still there.

O'REILLY: All right so you got -- you think you got hosed by these guys.

COSTAS: I'm talking -- I'm talking about repeatedly and straightforwardly either in questions to guests including Thomas Bach the head of the IOC or in statements of my own I talked about corruption as endemic in Russia including as part of these games. I talked about the jailing of dissidents. I talked about their horrible human rights record. In fact I said to Thomas Bach are you comfortable having the Olympic flame burning over Vladimir Putin's Russia where they have such a horrible human rights record?

O'REILLY: What did he say?

COSTAS: He said we don't want to get into politics, blah-blah-blah.

O'REILLY: Right, right, right.

COSTAS: And I asked him about the last -- the two of the last four Olympics being in problematic regimes like China and Russia. I also talked about their alliances with Syria and with Iran. I talked to President Obama about whether or not he can possibly work with this truculent character. Obama had said he wanted to re-set the relationship with Russia.

O'REILLY: That's clearly not working.

COSTAS: No it's not working.


COSTAS: Even -- even things to tweet the U.S. like not allowing U.S. couples to adopt Russian orphans.

O'REILLY: Yes I mean all the way down to --

COSTAS: -- Vladimir Putin is -- is as most people here in this building believe -- this is not a left, right, or center thing.

O'REILLY: He's a villain.

COSTAS: Vladimir Putin is a former KGB operative.

O'REILLY: Yes he's a villain.

COSTAS: And he's a villain. He's an adversary -- period.

O'REILLY: Did you meet him? Did you deal with him?

COSTAS: I did I not meet him. We asked for an interview with him. Either me, Brian Williams, Matt Lauer -- he wouldn't do it.

O'REILLY: Did the Russian hierarchy that was you know skulking around give you guys a hard time.


O'REILLY: They didn't.

COSTAS: They did not.

O'REILLY: So you can do what you wanted.

COSTAS: Well part of -- part of the time just circumstantially I was confined to my hotel because I had that eye problem.

O'REILLY: Right so nobody wanted to be near you.

COSTAS: No one wanted to be.

O'REILLY: All right that's why Putin won't go.

COSTAS: Right including Kremlin operatives didn't want to be near me.

O'REILLY: Yes I thought you had leprosy.

COSTAS: Right I had for a while.

O'REILLY: You know I'm going to call the dose of Father Damian to heal you. All right I've got to -- I've got to hold you over again. Although I don't want to but I have got some more questions about how NBC in Russia dealt with this thing and whether you guys -- whether we should have the Olympics there anyway. All right so I'm going to hold Costas over.

And then Goldberg who Costas knows, actually dined with him. It's amazing.

COSTAS: I've dined with you as well.

O'REILLY: No, no you haven't.

COSTAS: Really? I have proof.

O'REILLY: I picked -- I picked up the tab. All right. Ok. There I blew my cover.


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