Why is France's Ambassador Criticizing Fox News?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 16, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "Impact" segment tonight, as we told you in the  "Talking Points Memo," the French Ambassador to the U.S.A., Jean David Levitte (search) says that Fox News is being too tough on his country and calls it a "racist" campaign.

Joining us now from Washington is Loick BERROU, the D.C. bureau chief for French television.  The ambassador was not available to speak with us  today.  So he goes out to UCLA and he tells the students out there that Fox and me are being racist because we disagree with the way France handled the run up to the Iraq war.  I'm almost speechless.  What do you think?

LOICK BERROU, TFT FRENCH TV:  First, Bill, let me tell you that I'm not a spokesperson for the French government nor the French ambassador, but I have to tell you on this precise point I agree entirely, 100 percent with him.

O'REILLY:  You think we're racist?  And what do you mean racist?  Who am I?  Anti-what?

BERROU:  No, no, no.  I think your channel has been the chief crusader with some deputy sheriffs in the New York tabloid press of a crusade that was opposing the French government, which is  absolutely your legitimate right.  And I'm not -- I don't agree with the French government on every occasion, but also targeting the French people and the French products.  And that was not fair and balanced.

O'REILLY:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Our boycott was directed toward your  government, [French President Jacques] Chirac, because we believe his actions led to the deaths of Americans.  And I think a boycott in a free society is certainly a tool that can be used.

Now we don't have any power to enforce that.  Millions of people go along with us because you know why?  Because they saw what happened after the first Gulf War, when we liberated Kuwait and American soldiers died in the sand.  And then you got a dictator who violates the cease-fire...

BERROU:  French soldiers died, also, Bill.

O'REILLY:  Yes, a few of them, but nothing on the scale that we did.  And then you got a dictator that violates the cease-fire 17 times.  And your government basically says you know, we're not going to really go along with Britain and the U.S.A. to remove him.  And that, you know, People are upset about that, Mr. Berrou.  But I don't think we should be called racist because we have a difference of opinion with you about it.

BERROU: I didn't qualify you as a racist, Bill. My ambassador did. And I really want to split things. The point is that the French government thought that Saddam Hussein (search) was a bad boy.  The French government thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them as the U.N. did.

The difference we had was the means.  We thought that putting -- Chirac thought -- I'm not thinking anything here -- Chirac thought that putting Saddam Hussein in a box, he was not -- he was just a harm for his own people, which is bad enough.  And this is a question of opinion to -- bad enough to intervene, but containment was the solution.  And that he was not harming anyone else.

And what -- actually what Chirac said to President Bush on numerous occasions is that you're going to win the war.  It's pretty easy.  You might not going to win the peace.  And what is happening now?

O'REILLY:  OK.  You may be proved right as far as tactics are concerned, but an ally is an ally.  Now I wouldn't mind if you guys just sat on the sidelines, but you didn't.  Chirac sent people down to  Africa to try to persuade people on the U.N. security council  to vote against U.S.A.  You were proactive.

See, we didn't call for a boycott of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. You know, I mean, they don't have anything we want anyway over there, or Schroeder.  But France led the way.  So I said now look, that was disrespectful to our country, to our dead, and you deserved it.  But I understand you don't agree with me.  I understand the ambassador thinks I'm crazy.  But he doesn't have the right and he's totally off it if he thinks this is racially driven.  He didn't have anything to do with that.

BERROU:  You know, Bill, I've been living in this country for five years with my family.  Now I've been through 9/11.  I've been through red code alerts.  I've been through sniper shootings.  And I don't feel comfortable with whatever -- with everything that the French government did.  And I don't feel comfortable about the way they made us appear as supporting Saddam Hussein, because I've been myself in Iraq 10 years ago during the first Gulf War.  And I know what this regime is about.  And I know what Saddam Hussein is about.

But we've been following you in Bosnia.  We've been following  you in Kosovo.  We've been following you in Somalia.  We've been following you in the first Gulf War.  Should we follow you if you jump off the bridge?

O'REILLY:  No, just stay on the sidelines.  Don't actively undermine us.  But anyway, look, I just want you to deliver this message to Ambassador Levitte.  I like him.  I talked to him.

BERROU:  Call him, Bill, call him.  I'm not...

O'REILLY:  But I did call him.  But he's not -- come on.  But this racist business, that's cowardly.  He shouldn't do that.

Mr. Berrou, thanks very much, we appreciate it.

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