Bill O’Reilly was at his ultimate slyest last night as he tried to pass off as “nitpicking” the potentially very serious scandal surrounding an illegal contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi just before she decided not to investigate allegations of fraud by Trump University.
O'Reilly smacks down attempts to make hay out of Hillary Clinton's coughing fit
O’Reilly began by righteously denouncing irresponsible efforts to use Hillary Clinton’s coughing fit as a way to suggest she’s not capable of being president. To his credit, O’Reilly also smacked down the effort the night before. On neither occasion, however, did he point out that his own prime time colleague, Sean Hannity eagerly pushed this bogusness with some help from former presidential candidate Herman Cain and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham.
“If you follow the campaign closely, you know there’s a lot of nitpicking going on,” O’Reilly began. He cited Clinton’s coughing fit as a “good example.”
“Now, The Factor ignored the cough because everybody coughs. And unless Secretary Clinton has tuberculosis, we don’t think it’s a big story,” O’Reilly added.
Guest Bernard Goldberg agreed. “There are too many people, Bill, in the opinion business, in this case, conservative opinion business, who use anything they can get their hands on as a weapon.” Goldberg assured us he is “no Hillary Clinton fan” but, he said, “Even what passes for opinion journalism has to be fair.”
So far so good. But then he tried to draw a false equivalence to the Trump/Bondi transaction.
O'Reilly suggests Trump's illegal donation to Bondi was just like Clinton's cough
There is so much stink surrounding the Trump/Bondi matter, it’s a safe bet that if the Clintons were involved, O’Reilly would be foaming at the mouth if there were no federal investigation launched. Here’s a summary via Tampa Bay Times:
The Washington Post reported that Trump paid a $2,500 penalty this year to the Internal Revenue Service and refunded his foundation $25,000 because the contribution violated tax laws. The check came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which is a tax-exempt nonprofit prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. But the violation was undetected for years because of what the Trump campaign characterizes as a clerical error in listing the contribution as given to another group in Kansas with a similar name to Bondi’s campaign effort.
Even more important is the sequence of events in 2013. The Orlando Sentinel reported on Sept. 14, 2013, that a spokeswoman for Bondi’s office said it was “currently reviewing the allegations” in a New York lawsuit involving Trump University. Three days later, Trump’s foundation wrote a $25,000 check to Bondi’s campaign committee. After the check was received, Bondi’s office decided not to launch its own investigation or to join a lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general. That timing simply does not look right and deserves an independent look to reassure Floridians that the state’s top legal officer did nothing wrong.
The denials by Bondi and Trump of anything amiss also are at odds with their previous actions. The attorney general has not been shy about joining lawsuits with other states, and the New York lawsuit involves Floridians who allege they were cheated by Trump University. Trump had not contributed to Bondi’s election campaigns before sending the $25,000, and he was clear during a Republican primary debate about what he expects in return for campaign contributions: “When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.”
The Washington Post raised the very legitimate question, “Even if that mistake were genuine, why was Mr. Trump attempting to use money meant for charity to fund a political campaign?”
But O’Reilly tried to slip the illegal $2,500 contribution past the viewers (whom he's supposedly 'looking out for') as “lunch.”
O’REILLY: On the Trump side, he was fined $2,500, which, for Trump is lunch. That’s lunch, alright? $2,500, for donating improperly to the Attorney general of Florida, Pam Bondi. And the left, blowing this thing up, like this is Watergate II. And I’m going, “It was a clerical error that he was cited for.”
Fortunately, Goldberg didn’t buy it.
GOLDBERG: He took $25,000 from the Trump Foundation […] and gave it to an attorney general in Florida who was thinking about investigating […] Trump University. She decided not to – maybe it was because of the money, maybe it wasn’t because of the money.
O’Reilly objected to Goldberg’s speculation that “maybe it was because of the money” as “impugning her honesty.”
Goldberg stood his ground. “Come on, that’s legitimate news,” he said.
“It’s not Watergate II, Bernie,” O’Reilly replied, and Goldberg agreed.
But Watergate wasn’t Watergate at first, either. The then White House press secretary dismissed it as “a third-rate burglary.” Not unlike "nitpicking," eh?
And whether or not this is Watergate II, it’s certainly a legitimate news story. If O’Reilly wants to spend more time looking out for his milkshake BFF and not the folks who might be thinking of voting for Trump – and especially not the folks who gave money to Trump University – he’s going to have to come up with a much better defense.
Watch it above, from the September 8, 2016 The O’Reilly Factor.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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