Rolling Stone Editor on Springsteen's Political Agenda

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 5, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O’REILLY, HOST: I don't have any trouble with Springsteen (search) campaigning for anybody or raising money for a political candidate. I actually applaud his interest. But don't be telling me you're not a partisan and don't be suggesting the government divide up anybody's wealth while sitting there in the Beverly Hills. You may have been born in the USA, Bruce, but I wasn't born yesterday.

Now for the top story tonight, another view of this. With us now is Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, who has written extensively about Mr. Bruce Springsteen. So do I have this guy wrong?

ANTHONY DECURTIS, ROLLING STONE: Well, I think that when Bruce says that he's not being partisan, that's a result of like his support of issues like when he was supporting, you know, people in the rust belt who were out of work. Those guys, many of them, were Reagan voters.

I think he understands that as part of his audience, as somebody who came out of the world that he came out of, there's — not everyone agrees with him. And so he has been issue-oriented. He's not necessarily been candidate-oriented.

O'REILLY: All right, but he says — I mean come on now, that may be true. You know him better than I do, but anybody who doesn't know him, reading this article, all right, says that, he says flat out, over the years, I've tried to think long and hard about what it means to be American. OK?

I've tried to write songs that speak to our pride and criticize our failures. That's fine. OK? But then he says, personally, for the last 25 years, I've always stayed one step away from partisan politics. Baloney. That's a fraud. He's been a Democrat since the early '80's by record. That's just not true.

DECURTIS: I think he's much more of an issue-oriented than he has been supporting candidates...

O'REILLY: But he's — look, you can't say that if the record contradicts you.

DECURTIS: But what is the record?

O'REILLY: Dallas Morning News, 1984, he's criticizing Reagan as being, you know, a hater...

DECURTIS: Reagan hijacked his song.

O'REILLY: I don't know know what Reagan did.

DECURTIS: Reagan started using "Born in the USA" Well, that's important. He took the song.

O'REILLY: He can say that.

DECURTIS: He distorted its meaning, used it at rallies. And that's what angered Bruce. Bruce was not...

O'REILLY: No, no, he was — Bruce Springsteen and the Dallas Morning News was attacking Reagan's policies on the poor.

DECURTIS: Well, his policies, of course.

O'REILLY: Right.

DECURTIS: He's issue oriented. It's not candidate oriented. That's the difference now.

O'REILLY: Mr. DeCurtis, any partisan is issue oriented. That's why you become a partisan, because you agree with one side's issues or the other. Now it's no shame to be a partisan, but Springsteen is trying to tell the readers of The New York Times that he is nonpartisan. He isn't. He's a committed Democrat. A far left individual.

DECURTIS: I think Bruce's positions have been like many people's positions, which is he's been — you know, he's done fund-raisers for...

O'REILLY: For who?

DECURTIS: ...patrolman's benefits. And he's done songs like he did one about...

O'REILLY: Let's be honest. There isn't a Republican in this country that Bruce Springsteen would vote for. Not one.

DECURTIS: You know, I have no idea if that's true or not at all. I don't know what his voting record is.

O'REILLY: It is. Now when he goes out and does this, he's so wealthy it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I mean, you know...

DECURTIS: It doesn't matter to whom?

O'REILLY: ...he's going to tee off a lot of people by what he's doing, but it doesn't really matter because he's so wealthy.

But when he goes out and does this, and as you know in his concerts, he's been waiving around the defamation books. He's been encouraging people to do, you know, partisan things all day long, what does he hope to accomplish? Does he think he's going to make a difference in the campaign?

DECURTIS: I think he hopes to make a difference. But I think he's galvanizing people. People at Bruce Springsteen's concerts, he's not the kind of guy who expects to meet — everybody agree with him. He's putting issues out there. He's taking a position.

But you know, I think as I said, you know, when he would talk about songs that he would sing, people boo some of the things he says. People cheer at some of the things he says.

O'REILLY: People boo him? I've never heard that.

DECURTIS: Oh, yes, when he played...


DECURTIS: ...the song he wrote about Amadou Diallo (search), people booed him. A lot of his fans. So...

O'REILLY: The Amadou Diallo — I have to explain that. Amadou Diallo was an African immigrant who was shot by police, shot dead here in New York City. And subsequently, the police were acquitted in an Albany trial. But Springsteen basically was very anti-police on that one.

DECURTIS: Well, if you listen to the song, it's a dramatization of the incident.

O'REILLY: Right.

DECURTIS: And people booed. Some people cheered. And I think Bruce accepted that. I don't think he feels — he's not the kind of guy who thinks, you know, if you disagree with me, I don't want to have anything to do with you. I'm sure there are many people, you know, close to him...

O'REILLY: What would be wrong with Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Brown and James Taylor and all of the others going on this concert tour, and they're going to the swing states, by the way. They're going to Missouri, and Wisconsin, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Florida, to try to influence the vote.

What would be wrong with them saying left wingers for Kerry, left wing musicians for Kerry, liberal musicians for Kerry? Wouldn't that be more honorable than to try to say, oh, I'm not a partisan guy, I'm just doing this for all the folks?

DECURTIS: I think that he's trying to dramatize certain issues. He's trying to galvanize people and voting groups that haven't necessarily been voting in big numbers.

O'REILLY: I'd respect him more if he'd just define himself. I really would, because we really researched his record. We really did. And he is as about as far left a guy as you can get.

DECURTIS: I don't know if supporting food banks is a left wing issue. That's a major, major cause.

O'REILLY: Well, if he would adjust that, I wouldn't make — but his statements over the years and his actions all point to the fact that he is a far left guy. But we appreciate your point of view, Mr. DeCurtis. Thanks very much. And if you see Bruce, tell him he's welcome anytime to come on here and set me straight.

DECURTIS: I think you should him yourself.

O'REILLY: We have, but we can't get through the gates in the Beverly Hill mansion. They're very thick.

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