Evidently, Bill O'Reilly's idea of defending his network's journalistic honor is to lie blatantly -- not just to his national TV audience, but to a U.S. Senator to boot.
Last night on his Fox News show, BillO -- incensed by Sen. Tom Coburn's suggestion that Fox News' coverage of the health-care debate was misleading and biased -- tried to claim that no one on Fox had ever suggested that you'll get thrown in jail if you don't buy health insurance.
O'Reilly claimed it three times in the course of the interview, each time with escalating falsity, culminating with the claim that his staff had carefully researched the question and found that no one at Fox had ever said it.
Oh really? Because as you can see, we have the video that demonstrates clearly otherwise.
Glenn Beck, as a matter of fact, said it on his own Fox News show -- and he said it on Bill O'Reilly's program too, directly to O'Reilly's face. And O'Reilly made a joke about it.
Nor was Beck alone among Fox anchors saying it.
Here's how O'Reilly put it to Coburn:
O'Reilly: OK, but can you tell me one person on Fox News, just one, who has told this audience that they'll go to jail if they don't buy health insurance.
O'Reilly: Well, why then was it legitimate to bring in Fox News in the discussion, when, No. 1, you don't know anybody on Fox News -- because there hasn't been anyone -- that said people will go to jail if they don't buy mandatory insurance.
O'Reilly: Well, tell me, what -- because it doesn't happen here. And we researched to find out if anybody on Fox News had ever said you're going to jail if you don't buy health insurance. Nobody's ever said it.
Of course, none other than O'Reilly's sometime stagemate, Glenn Beck told his audience on Nov. 12, 2009:
Beck: But if you don't play by their new rules on health care, oooh, here's a new little twist. Have you heard this? You're going to be looking at a fun little stint in jail.
... But if you don't play ball with them now, if you don't get into their government health care, there will be jail time. And that of course was fair.
The next day, Nov. 13, in his weekly appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, chatting over his then-recent appendectomy, Beck repeated the line, and O'Reilly responded by asking Beck if he intended to go to jail over health insurance (transcript courtesy Media Matters):
O'REILLY: Couldn't they do [liposuction] at the same time [as your appendectomy]?
BECK: No, they wouldn't. No. I don't have universal health care.
O'REILLY: Well you will soon.
BECK: Or I'll go to jail.
O'REILLY: Are you going to be a conscientious objector to health care?
BECK: You know, this is the first time in history in our country where, just to be a citizen, just to not go to jail, you have to buy something.
That's some crack research squad O'Reilly has there -- they can't even rustle up the times this lie was repeated on O'Reilly's own show.
O'Reilly clearly got away with lying to Coburn to his face.
But as for defending Fox's honor, well, let's just say that it worked about as well as it should.