April 16, 2010

OK, so now Bill O'Reilly is just acting bizarre.

Remember how, on Tuesday, O'Reilly invited on Sen. Tom Coburn to demand he explain his recent criticism of Fox's health-care coverage (particularly the claim that failure to obtain health insurance will now result in jail time), and then proceeded to lie blatantly about what had been said on Fox News in that regard:

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.

Note the language: O'Reilly is clearly insisting that NO ONE at Fox had EVER said any such thing. Not "had said it after the health-care bill had passed." Just EVER.

Because on his show last night, rather than admitting the error and moving along, O'Reilly instead doubled down and insisted that he was still right and Coburn was wrong -- even though we (and many others, most notably Media Matters and MSNBC's Countdown) were able to show plenty of video of plenty of Fox talkers in fact saying "you're going to jail if you don't buy health insurance," perhaps most notoriously Glenn Beck on O'Reilly's own show.

Here's what O'Reilly claimed in his opening Talking Points Memo segment:

O'Reilly: Once again -- once again! -- NBC News has highlighted dishonest propaganda from the far-left Media Matters outfit. Sadly, Time Magazine also participated in the sham.

... Now Senator Coburn admitted he may have made a mistake, but to be fair, the mistake is understandable. Because last fall, when jail time was on the table, Fox News reported it, as we should have! Listen to these sound bites:

[Video clip: ABC News interview with President Obama, Nov. 9, 2009]

Jake Tapper: Do you think it's appropriate to have the threat of jail time for those who refuse to buy insurance?

Obama: You know, what I think is appropriate is that, in the same way that everybody has to get auto insurance, and if you don't you're subject to some penalty.

[Video clip: Nancy Pelosi press conference, Nov. 9, 2009]

Reporter: I'm just trying to understand -- if you don't buy health insurance, you go to jail?

Pelosi: Well, there is -- I think the legislation is very fair in this respect.

All right, as we all know, the prison option was taken off the when the final Obama-care bill was being debated. And that's what we were talking to Senator Coburn about! The final bill debate! Not all that stuff! So what I said was absolutely true and nobody at Fox News reported inaccurately about the Obama-care prison situation. Nobody!

Sure, Bill. And your dog ate your homework, right?

It's a fact: O'Reilly claimed, pure and simple, that "nobody [at Fox] ever said" that you'd go to jail for failing to buy health insurance -- and plenty of people at Fox in fact said just that.

Indeed, O'Reilly compounds his original lie here by lying about whether there was a "prison option" in the Obama-care bill at all in the first place: There WAS NEVER A 'PRISON OPTION.' Watch those clips he runs carefully: Neither Obama nor Pelosi support the concept of jail time, but instead claim that the legislation treats people fairly. The questions asked in the clips themselves were based on a false premise: The penalty for failure to buy insurance in that legislation, just like the final version that passed, is a not imprisonment or arrest, but simply a tax -- and failure to pay taxes is a matter for the civil courts. The claim that "jail time" was on the table was an utterly false smear back then -- just as it was even more provably false after health-care reform passed.

Indeed, O'Reilly is simply fabricating when he tries to claim that "we all know" a "prison option" was "taken off." Does anyone know WTF he's talking about?

But that, believe it or not, is not even the most bizarre thing O'Reilly did in this segment. He followed this up by lecturing sternly -- without even a hint of irony or self-awareness -- on the threat posed to the health of the nation by news media who blatantly and nakedly lie, without remorse.

That's right, projection's not just for theaters:

O'Reilly: The importance of this is that you, the everyday American, are now being lied to on a regular basis by people working for huge corporations -- and nothing's being done about it. A voter-driven republic -- a voter-driven republic -- cannot survive if lies supersede the truth.

Bottom line on this story is that Senator Coburn -- again, a good man -- made an honest mistake. But that mistake was picked up by NBC News and used to hammer Fox News, which is kicking their butt all over the place in the cable-news ratings. The good news is that NBC News will soon be taken over by Comcast, an honest corporation, and perhaps changes will be made.

The American people deserve an honest government and an honest media, do we not?

This is such an obvious inversion of reality that the simplest conclusion is that these people have just gone insane. One can't help but wonder when BillO is just going to start shouting: "F&@k it! We'll do it live!!!!"

It reminded me of something Dan Cooper, who helped launch Fox, wrote a little while back:

Lots of people have dissected the Fox News Channel for evidence of bias. They're all missing the point. Of course it's biased. ... This is the point: Fox News is about indoctrination, not bias. The indoctrination was always hidden, as it is in the best advertising.

At Fox, they really don't care if they lie, or even if they're caught lying. The main thing is to present a plausible narrative that will satisfy the Konservative Kool-aid Kids, preferably one that makes right-wingers out to be victims of liberal perfidy. This one fits the bill, and then some.

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