The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart paid a visit to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly last week. The NYT calls it the most direct attack on Fox ever broadcast on that conservative attack-dog news channel — er, at least the parts that weren’t edited for time.
This week, invited onto “The O’Reilly Factor” by its host, Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Stewart asserted that Fox News was “the most passionate and sells the clearest narrative of any news organization,” then asked with a smirk, “are you still referring to it in that manner?”
Mr. O’Reilly defended Fox as a news organization and cited a poll last month by the Public Policy Polling organization that showed Fox News was more widely trusted than any other television news organization.
Mr. Stewart said Fox had been able to “mainstream conservative talk radio.” On television on Wednesday night, the exchange ended there. But in the studio, Mr. Stewart swung harder, saying Fox had mixed the “media arm of a political party” with “a little bit” of objectivity, something that White House officials have also asserted in recent months.
In the interview and in a subsequent segment, Mr. O’Reilly said Mr. Stewart was basing his complaints “primarily on two guys, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.” But Mr. Stewart insisted that the conservative bent permeated the network and cited “Fox & Friends,” the network’s entertainment-oriented morning show, as evidence:
“They’ll go through, ‘These children in second grade are singing the praises of Obama! Do you know they sing the praises of their leader in North Korea?’ And then, when the hard news comes on, they say, ‘Some people are concerned that they are indoctrinating children.’ ”
Fox News, far and away the most-watched cable news channel, has stoked controversy (and higher ratings) in the first year of the Obama administration by appearing, at times, to be the network of the opposition.
In a segment cut from television, Mr. Stewart said: “Fox News used to be all about: ‘You don’t criticize a president during war time. It’s unacceptable. It’s treasonous. It’s giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’ All of a sudden, for some reason, you can run out there and say Barack Obama is destroying the fabric of this country.”
Mr. O’Reilly disagreed, saying the network had been respectful to Mr. Obama about the Afghanistan troop deployment decision.