Fair Reporting?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 31, 2006, 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: "Impact" segment tonight, reporters are supposed to report, analysts are supposed to analyze. But last night, the lines were blurred when CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said this.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The war in Iraq has basically turned out to be a disaster. And journalists have paid for it, paid for the privilege of witnessing and reporting that, and so have many, many other people who have been here.

And I think that's terribly, terribly difficult for us. And unfortunately, for some reason which I can't fathom, the kind of awful thing that's going on there now on a daily basis has almost become humdrum.


O'REILLY: Joining us now from Durham, North Carolina, journalism professor Napoleon Byars, the former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.


O'REILLY: And from Washington, Colonel Oliver North, FOX News military analyst and host of the weekend program, "War Stories." Because your opinion is different from Ms. Amanpour's, Colonel North, I'll let you begin. Go ahead.

COL. OLIVER NORTH, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first, those of us who pray for the wounded ought to include Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt in their prayers for a quick recovery. It strikes me, Bill, that the purpose of going out there, have now been there seven times, is to cover the war, document what's going on, perhaps if you will, prepare the first draft of history as Rupert Murdoch's father did at Gallipoli.

Second, when one makes the kind of observation that Christiane Amanpour made last night, it crosses the boundary, it seems to me, from journalism into being a commentator.

That the war in Iraq is a disaster is her opinion. And quite frankly, the facts on the ground don't support it. The dictatorship has been removed. And it's now on trial. They've had three elections. The first constitutionally elected government in all of the Arab world is now in power. And the Iraqi military is becoming increasingly effective. I don't know what her definition of.

O'REILLY: Well, I think she's talking about the chaotic terror of bombings that occur on a daily basis with, you know, horrible casualties. I think that's what the woman is talking about, Colonel. And surely, you understand that there are analysts. Some of them do work for FOX and feel that the war is not going that well and that the ultimate outcome is still in doubt.

NORTH: But they shouldn't describe themselves as the chief foreign correspondent when.

O'REILLY: No, I got that. I got that. I just want to let the viewers know that we don't have a slam dunk victory there right now. OK.

NORTH: And Bill, I certainly understand that. But understand also, everybody going out there, to include Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt know, covering a war is very risky business.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

NORTH: And the hubris of a reporter saying now that one of us has been hurt, 61 of them, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists has been killed in Iraq, just because.

O'REILLY: Well, Ms. Amanpour clearly feels from her vantage point, and she's been there as well obviously, a brave woman I must say, clearly feels that this is not going well for USA. How do you see it, Professor?

BYARS: Well, I think in the context of reacting to the injury of Bob Woodruff, which we all regret. We regret when anybody gets injured in Iraq.


BYARS: It's clear and understandable that she said that in that one instance. But I think if you look at the body of her work and the body of her work up until that moment, it's dispassionate, it's objective. And she is very well traveled in the Middle East. She knows the situation on the ground. From a journalist's point of view, we're not asking her to be a general and to give a military appraisal of what's going on there, but I think.

O'REILLY: Do you think she made a mistake saying that the situation was a disaster? Would that be a mistake?

BYARS: Well, I think — let me think about that for a second. I think if you look at metrics for the war, war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, and even the Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld can't come up with a common set of metrics to judge the...

O'REILLY: No, I know that. But look, you have to look at it, professor and I'm sure you know this because you do this every day in the sense of how she's now perceived in her coverage on CNN. I mean, she's declared herself to say it's a disaster. So you can draw by that that she has a rooting interest in it being thus.

So if it is successful in three weeks, she's going to look like a shmo.

BYARS: Well, I think we all have points of view.

O'REILLY: But when you're a reporter, you're not supposed to. You might have one.

BYARS: But Bill, you have a point of view.

O'REILLY: But I'm an analyst.

BYARS: Every reporter.

O'REILLY: I'm an analyst.

BYARS: Yes, but every reporter, we're all humans. Humans are born with points of view.

O'REILLY: All right. Mistake or not, journalistically?

BYARS: Journalistic, I believe it was not the best thing to do.


BYARS: Now as a human being reacting to.

O'REILLY: Look, absolutely. People make mistakes there. I make them every night. I make them every night. People make mistakes. We're not trying to condemn anybody here.

Now Colonel, do you believe that Ms. Amanpour, as Professor Byars does, has been a fair correspondent in this conflict?

NORTH: Well, quite frankly, no, I don't. And I think that her bias has been demonstrated consistently since - actually the war, before it began.

I mean, this is not a network, unfortunately. And full disclosure here. My first paycheck in this business came from that network. But this is not a network that has an Ernie Pyle working for it. This is not a network that has Marguerite Higgins or Dickie Chapel, who was killed with the Marines in 1965 covering the war in Vietnam.

This is a network that has, remember, a former vice president, Easton Jordan, who accused the American military of committing murder against reporters. And without any substantive fact behind it.

O'REILLY: But they dismissed him for that.

BYARS: Christiane Amanpour is one of the best foreign correspondents in the world.

NORTH: Then she ought to describe herself as such.

BYARS: Now let's.

NORTH: ...and try to report the news by covering what's happening.

O'REILLY: All right. Here's what I want to do. Here's what I want to do. Hold it, hold it, hold it.


O'REILLY: It's more instructive for the audience to have Colonel North give one example of the perceived bias of CNN. And then you to answer it. And you both have 30 seconds. Colonel, go.

NORTH: Well, I will leave you the facts. The facts on the ground did not substantiate what Christiane Amanpour said about it being a disaster.

If the metric is deposing a dictatorship that was brutal beyond words, replacing it with a constitutionally elected government that has now had the people hold three elections, and the Iraqi police and armed forces becoming increasingly more effective as we documented last Sunday night on this network, then I would say.

O'REILLY: All right.

NORTH: ...her definition of victory is wrong.

O'REILLY: And you have the last word, professor. Go.

BYARS: That cannot be the only metric. How much electricity is being produced there every day?

NORTH: More than they did before.

BYARS: How many — let me finish. How many Iraqi civilians are dying every day from other Iraqis killing them? How many sewage treatment plants develop? How is construction going?


BYARS: I mean, all of those are negative signs. The metrics clearly points out.

O'REILLY: All right. Gentlemen, very interesting. I appreciate both you guys coming on the program.

And by the way, what led to Ms. Amanpour's remarks was a segment on Bob Woodruff and David Vogt, the ABC News guys who got hurt.

Our billoreilly.com poll question asks did the media overdo the coverage of that situation? Yes or no? Both men are now back in the USA. And of course, as the colonel said, our prayers are with them.

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