We're kind of accustomed to seeing Jon Stewart pretty much mop the floor with Bill O'Reilly every time he goes up against him on Fox -- even when O'Reilly tries to carefully edit the tapes. And of course, it was no different last night when Stewart took up O'Reilly's challenge to debate him over the latest fake controversy ginned up by the network's smear-scandal mills.
In two short segments, O'Reilly walked through his case, responded to factual charges of hypocrisy with some fairly sad parsing and then, when desperate, with rank "pettifogging," to use a term bandied by both men. Meanwhile, the "Daily Show" anchor's rebuttals were striking because, even in this casual mode on a minor item, he was more persuasive than the vast majority of people who are called on to represent a progressive view on TV.
The highlight came when O'Reilly, the past master of the Wurlitzer propaganda organ, accused Stewart of "pettifogging" the issue -- and then found himself promptly busted for pettifogging himself.
Stewart basically reiterated the points he'd already raised in The Daily Show's own rebuttals of the Fox fakery -- namely, Fox is hypocritical in its criteria for denouncing White House guests, especially given the network's own predilection for hosting people with violent backgrounds.
STEWART: It sounds like what you're saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong because I don't want to be wrong when I'm with you, 'cuz you know I got mad love for you -- that's a rap phrase...
O'REILLY: I got it.
STEWART: Correct me if I'm wrong. What you're saying is, if an artist supports someone that has been convicted of killing a cop, they should not be allowed to go to the White House. Is that a reasonable paraphrase?
O'REILLY: No, it's a little bit more than that.
STEWART: OK, say it.
O'REILLY: I am saying that when a president invites someone, in this case, the First Lady invites someone, the resume has to be put in front of them. And they have to select people who are almost unimpeachable, all right? Because they are getting that honor, to go to the White House. This guy is controversial all day long with this stuff. Not only did he support this cop killer, or celebrate the cop killer, he celebrated another one in Philadelphia!
STEWART: Again, he's celebrating someone he thinks was unjustly -- he's not celebrating --
O'REILLY: Is this Perry Mason we're talking about now? Is this the most brilliant lawyer of all time?
O'REILLY: This Common.
STEWART: Oh. Common. Let me ask you a question. Are you familiar with Leonard Peltier?
STEWART: OK. Leonard Peltier was convicted of killing two FBI agents.
O'REILLY: OK, now we're going out to Wounded Knee.
STEWART: It's similar.
O'REILLY: Oh huh. No it's not.
STEWART: Well, why is it not?
O'REILLY: Because you're pettifogging the issue.
STEWART: It's the exact same thing. It's a guy convicted of killing a law-enforcement official, no? Guess who wrote a song about Leonard Peltier. Bono.
STEWART: Guess where he was! [whispers] The White House! [shouts] Boo-yah!
O'REILLY: All right.
STEWART: That's a rap word.
O'REILLY: Did Bono -- ?
O'REILLY: Did he actually come out and say that he was innocent?
STEWART: I think that's the crux of the song.
O'REILLY: No. I think he was raising questions about it. And, and, the basic theme --
STEWART: Now who's pettifogging? Now I can't even see you! Here you pettifog. No -- that's exactly same!
STEWART: Bob Dylan wrote a song about a convicted killer named Hurricane Carter -- he's been to the White House. Why are you drawing a line at Common?
There is a collective outrage machine here at Fox that pettifogs only when it suits the narrative that suits them. This guy is in the crosshairs in a way he shouldn't be. Whether you agree with him or not, or you may think he's ignorant in believing Assadah Shakur is innocent. You may think he's ignorant in believing that Mumia is. But then guess what? Bono can't go to the White House, Springsteen can't go to the White House, Bob Dylan can't go to the White House. You got a lot of people that aren't allowed to sit in the White House because they've written songs about people convicted of murder.
There were also some delicious exchanges in the second half of the interview, particularly when Stewart brought up G. Gordon Liddy:
O'REILLY: OK. So you say, that because Bono, Springsteen, and Bob Dylan wrote songs defending people who were accused of heinous things, that I have to give Common a pass because he did the same thing.
STEWART: No. You have to be consistent with your outrage.
STEWART: G. Gordon Liddy, in the Randy Weaver case, after the ATF stormed that facility, right? When he was talking about the ATF, you know what he said on his radio show? He said, if they break down your doors, don't shoot them here [indicates torso], because they're wearing protective gear, shoot for the head.
O'REILLY: Was that before or after Liddy made the gold commercial?
O'REILLY: OK, you see, your craziness -- you bring this stuff in.
O'Reilly obviously had no response to that one, because he obviously deflected the point and changed the subject there.
I wonder what would have happened if Stewart had managed to bring up Richard Poplawski -- an actual cop killer who was inspired by, among other people, Fox's own Glenn Beck.
Bet that would have wound up on the editing floor for sure.