DANA MILBANK: The Bill O'Reilly interruption factor

Washington Post Writers Group Published:

WASHINGTON -- Bill O'Reilly's Super Bowl interview of President Obama was extraordinarily revealing -- not because of what the president said but because of what the interviewer did.

The Fox News host and purveyor of anti-Obama sentiment was given 10 minutes to question the man he decries to millions nightly. O'Reilly devoted nearly 40 percent of his time to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, 30 percent to the Obamacare rollout and 20 percent to IRS targeting.

Along the way, he interrupted the president 42 times, by my count -- although, given the amount O'Reilly spoke, it may be more accurate to say Obama was interrupting him. Sometimes he argued with Obama as though the president were a guest on "The O'Reilly Factor." Of the 2,500 words uttered during the interview, O'Reilly spoke nearly 1,000 of them.

This was O'Reilly's third such session with Obama -- and as such it served as a milepost on the conservative movement's road to Obama hysteria. O'Reilly gave only a passing pleasantry at the end ("I think your heart is in the right place") and otherwise was hostile from the start. He shook his head doubtfully at some of Obama's answers.

Here he was "asking" Obama about whether the Benghazi killings were a terrorist attack:

Obama: "By definition, Bill, when somebody is attacking our compound -- "

O'Reilly: "Yes?"

Obama: " -- that's an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened. So the -- so the question ends up being who, in fact, was attacking us?"

O'Reilly: "But it's more than that -- "

Obama: "And that -- "

O'Reilly: " -- though -- "

Obama: " -- well, we -- "

O'Reilly: "It's more than that, because if Susan Rice goes out and tells the world that it was a spontaneous demonstration ... "

Obama: " -- Bill -- Bill ... "

O'Reilly: " -- I'm just confused."

Obama: "And I'm -- and I'm trying to explain it to, if you want to listen."

O'Reilly did not want to listen. He wanted to inform Obama that "I'm paying Kathleen Sebelius' salary and she screwed up, and you're not holding her accountable." He all but demanded that Obama confess that his "you can keep your health-care plan" promise was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

"Oh, Bill, you've got a long list of my mistakes of my presidency," Obama demurred.

Obama wore no tie and sat with legs crossed, frequently smiling, and refusing to be provoked, even when O'Reilly said that "some people" (but not him, of course) allege that the IRS was being used for corrupt purposes.

O'Reilly read a letter from a California woman asking Obama, "Why do you feel it's necessary to fundamentally transform the nation?"

This turned out to be a trick question. "I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation -- " Obama began.

O'Reilly interrupted. "But those are your words."

They were. "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America," Obama said, just before his election in 2008. He went on to say this transformation would end the "politics that would divide a nation."

O'Reilly himself is proof that the transformation failed.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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  • There is nothing phony about Fast and Furious, Bengazi, IRS,Solendra, obamacare lies...they are real acts of betrayal against the American people. Where is deep thraot now?

  • O'Reilly did the President a favor by stopping him from fillibustering the answers on Benghazi, IRS, Obamacare. Obama, wouldn't/couldn't answer the hard questions. He fibbed. He then blamed FOX NEWS for his problems. I think this is the first time he didn't blame Bush. Milbank and the liberals need to quit whinning, and the President needs to come clean and tell the truth about all the phony scandals.

  • O'Reilly did the President a favor by stopping him from fillibustering the answers on Benghazi, IRS, Obamacare. Obama, wouldn't/couldn't answer the hard questions. He fibbed. He then blamed FOX NEWS for his problems. I think this is the first time he didn't blame Bush. Milbank and the liberals need to quit whinning, and the President needs to come clean and tell the truth about all the phony scandals.

  • President Obama was asked hard questions about the phony scandals of Benghazi, IRS, Obamacare and Obama couldn't, wouldn't answer, and tried to filibuster, so O'Reilly stopped hiim. Most of Obama's explanations were dodges, and weren't truthfully. When was the last time somebody asked the President the hard questions? Milbank, and his fellow liberals need to quit whinning,