Media Unfair to Michael J. Fox And Rush Limbaugh?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 25, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: 'Unresolved Problem' segment tonight. Every press survey ever taken shows most American journalists are pro-choice, as we mentioned. So the logical question is, is the media treating the Fox/Limbaugh controversy in a fair and balanced way? Our analysis of the three nightly newscasts says yes. The reports basically were fair, but on "Good Morning America," when Sean Hannity was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, there was little more edge.


DIANE SAWYER, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA:" Rush Limbaugh, even in his apology, said that Mike Fox was allowing his illness to be exploited, shilling for a Democratic candidate. If you have Parkinson's Disease and you believe embryonic stem cell research is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don't you have a right to speak up?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You have a right to speak up but he also has a right to be criticized. He's a guy that is very political. He wants the defeat of these candidates. You know, there is a little hypocrisy here.


O'REILLY: All right, joining us now form Miami, former CBS News correspondent Bernie Goldberg, and from Washington, former L.A. Times reporter Jane Hall. Both are FOX News analysts. Jane, I'll begin with you.

It was clear, and we're going to show another clip from Diane Sawyer, that Ms. Sawyer sympathizes in this situation with Mr. Fox. What isn't clear is if she just sympathizes because he, you know, is in a bad way or is she sympathizing on an ideological basis? What say you?

JANE HALL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I have no way of knowing what her state of mind was. I mean, from what you played, she asked John a question. He responded. I mean, I think it's interesting to get off the substance of what Rush Limbaugh did, which was to attack a guy and attack his integrity, say he was faking it, not apologize. He did not apologize and a lot of media people are reporting that he did. So I think she's right to throw the question out there. It's a tough question and he answered.

O'REILLY: We called his office today and I guess on a radio program today he did apologize for saying that Fox faked it or whatever.

HALL: But he said, if I'm wrong, I'll apologize but I think he's being exploited.

O'REILLY: Today he went further than that.


O'REILLY: How do you see it Bernie?

BERNARD GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS ANALYST: I think there's an important media question and it has very little do with Rush Limbaugh. Instead of focusing on Rush Limbaugh, which the media loves to do, it should be focusing on a very important question: Is the commercial that Michael J. Fox, the one he cut — and he has every right to do a commercial, let's get that straight — is it honest? Is it dishonest? Is it misleading? But instead of asking those questions, the reason the media won't is because Michael J. Fox is a sympathetic victim. And when you have a sympathetic victim, whether it's Michael J. Fox or a less sympathetic victim, like Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, or the Jersey girls who campaigned for John Kerry's run for the White House, but they lost their husbands on 9/11. Bringing out victims doesn't encourage debate. It stifles debate. And that's my problem with it.


O'REILLY: Go ahead, Jane.

HALL: Well I'm sure that if you're Rush Limbaugh, I'm sure that Karl Rove is not happy, you know, that this is what has become the issue. I agree with you. We should be debating the substance, but the Republicans are running commercials with Osama bin Laden saying vote for us. The stakes are so high, don't vote for the other side. I mean this is a very ugly campaign. We should be debating the substance. I noted several stories went to the Talent's campaign and got a response from him. And I think that's all you can do is try to get both sides when you are focusing on the controversy over one of these ads.

O'REILLY: OK, but, you know, a person like Diane Sawyer is very powerful and shapes opinion. And, you know, if she says to Sean Hannity, or anybody else, hey, this is ridiculous, you can't be doing this kind of stuff, then Americans lose sight of what the complicated is and boy is it ever complicated. They lose sight of that and they go well, here are the bullyboy Republicans — and the Dallas Morning News used that word bully, again. They use it to me all the time. I'm not even a Republican. And it's the bullyboy Republicans. Here they come, beating the hell out of victims and Bernie, that just raises all these flags.

GOLDBERG: Right. Because journalists love to show their compassion. And before my good friend Jane Hall could say that there is no liberal bias, let me ask a question. If Rush Limbaugh had cut a commercial and he cut a commercial saying I'm deaf, I can't hear, and maybe in the back of him somebody dropped a boulder and he didn't even hear it and he said I think we need more federal funds to research deaf problems and maybe we should take it away from welfare or maybe AIDS or something, do you think the same media would show Rush Limbaugh the same compassion that they are showing Michael J. Fox? The answer is obviously, no. And there's a reason for it. Because Rush Limbaugh is conservative and liberalism affects everything we do.


O'REILLY: I've got to stop you guys now and we'll bring you back. We'll have more with Jane and Bernie in a moment. And then Geraldo, an unbelievable crime in Atlanta. Apparently a lesbian teenager tried to kill herself by driving the wrong way on a busy highway.



SAWYER: Rush Limbaugh, your friend —

HANNITY: My friend, absolutely.

SAWYER: Rush Limbaugh, what is going on here? Attacking Michael J. Fox?


O'REILLY: All right, you see? Continuing now with FOX News analyst Bernie Goldberg in Miami, author of the paperback book "110 People who are Screwing Up America" and Jane Hall in Washington, D.C.

Look, I know Diane Sawyer and I know that she is not an ideologue, but she is certainly a liberal person. And you know, she shows the indignation. And Jane, this has an effect. It has an effect, particularly on women and they just stay...


O'REILLY: Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly and Goldberg and these barbarians, how dare they? How dare they?

HALL: You know, I think that Rush Limbaugh at the time that he was having problems, I remember reading that he said that a Newsweek piece and some other pieces were very fair to him, were very compassionate. I mean, he benefited from compassion. I agree with you, the media likes to show compassion, but I think that this is classic bullying behavior, and Rush Limbaugh needs to be held accountable for it. And if somebody else did it, I mean, I believe Michael J. Fox made a commercial in 2004 for Arlen Specter. He was not in the shape he apparently was in for this commercial. But we've yet to really get to a real accounting of saying, "You know what? Maybe I screwed up."

Now Rush Limbaugh is blaming the media. From what I read, and I didn't see today, he is. He's saying he's a victim.

O'REILLY: Look, no.

HALL: He is.

O'REILLY: He's saying, look, he does a long, complicated show. But the bottom line on this thing is you have Michael J. Fox, and Laura Ingraham just put it very well, Jane, that Michael J. Fox in his ad obviously wants these Democrats elected, obviously feels that the Democratic Party is going to be much, much friendlier to stem cell than Republicans.

And that's fine. I have no problem with that. But he doesn't mention the cloning and he doesn't mention a lot of things.

HALL: I actually agree with you on that point.

O'REILLY: When you get into that area where you don't mention a lot of things, like Hillary Clinton did this thing — parental notification — didn't mention that there was an abuse clause in the bill. She just didn't mention it. Now when you get into those waters then you become, you know, a valid person to be criticized. Do you not?

HALL: I actually agree with you. We should have more ad watches. He should be held to account. Michael J. Fox should be held to account on what's actually in the bill.

O'REILLY: Right.

HALL: If what Laura described is true, that should be reported. We shouldn't be fighting over who said what about whom.

O'REILLY: It's never going to be reported.

HALL: But you hand people a big fat pitch, like you attack a man who has this disease. It's going to get talked about.

O'REILLY: Did you think this was an attack, Bernie? Did you think it was an attack?

GOLDBERG: No. Let me tell you my bias. I love Rush Limbaugh. He made one mistake that I wish he hadn't. He did that spastic dance. If he didn't do that we wouldn't be talking about Rush Limbaugh, and neither would Diane Sawyer. And that's the point.

HALL: He said it was shameless and it was an act.

GOLDBERG: Because he's a victim, and a sympathetic victim. Nobody wants to see a young man like that suffering from that kind of disease. He's entered the political arena, but just like the other people who enter the political arena who are victims, we're not allowed to hit hard. I don't think Rush should have done that.

O'REILLY: Why don't we just concentrate — you just concentrate — hold it, Jane.

Bernie, if you concentrated on, look, here's what Michael J. Fox left out and not gotten into whether he was an actor or didn't take his medicine, all that, he would have gotten away with it?

GOLDBERG: Two things. I think that would have been best for Rush, and the media would have paid no attention to the story. They were never going to analyze whether Michael J. Fox was misleading the American people, because he's too sympathetic.

O'REILLY: Well, Jane, I'm going to give the last word on it. Go.

HALL: I think he is sympathetic. I think it is regrettable we're not debating the issue, but I think that we have yet to really understand, and Rush has not really said, what I've been reading, which is that you get tremors when you are on the medication. That is something that we still need to find out the truth of.

O'REILLY: All right, Jane, Bernie, thanks very much. We appreciate it. I think that was pretty fair and balanced, right? Were we fair?

GOLDBERG: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: And you know, I talked to Michael J. Fox on the phone, and I want to tell everybody that. And he's a very nice guy. And I know why he can't come into this forum. He wanted to come in. He's not ducking and running. He's not the Dixie Chicks. So I just wanted everybody to know that Michael J. Fox, I have respect for him.

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