Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly got together for a debate for charity, and while comedy was expected, Jon Stewart walked all over Bill O’Reilly in a debate that morphed into a serious discussion.
In the first question of the debate Bill-O was asked if voters are going to make their decision based on the economy. In typical Republican fashion, O’Reilly disagreed with Mitt Romney and said that only 20% of Americans are slackers. O’Reilly also claimed that Obama has spent more money than any president since World War II, a talking point which has been proven false. O’Reilly also told Sandra Fluke to buy her own birth control.
Stewart responded by saying, “Bill O’Reilly is full of sh*t.” Stewart then said that Republicans are living in alternate reality, then talked about the fact that they live on bulls**t mountain. He said there they believe that a Kenyan Muslim is president, they built all their success without any help, and that Christmas is under attack. Stewart said that we have to agree on reality, and got a shot in at Romney for claiming that we can solve the debt crisis by killing Big Bird, and told O’Reilly to talk to his people.
Bill-O groused about NPR, and moaned about income redistribution. Stewart fired back by asking O’Reilly whether Exxon should be forced to compete on their own, and Bill-O agreed with him. O’Reilly claimed the economy is so bad because small business is afraid of Obamacare. The problem with his reasoning is that small businesses actually support Obamacare. Stewart said the things O’Reilly was suggesting are not things that Obama brought. He then highlighted how Bush turned a surplus into debt. O’Reilly’s reply was the typical right wing answer, “Bush is gone.” O’Reilly said that it doesn’t matter what Bush did. It is Obama’s job to get it under control. (Bill-O was suggesting that it is Obama’s job to clean up Bush’s mess.)
Stewart explained why Bush’s debt matters, because Bush loaded up the country with debt. O’Reilly again refused to defend Bush and the GOP.
The debate contained a surprising amount of substance. O’Reilly brought his Fox News talking points, and Stewart brought facts. As O’Reilly and Stewart battled over entitlements, The Daily Show host asked why it is okay for a businessman to take advantage of tax break, but poor people can’t take advantage of program that will give them something they need? Stewart pointed to the connection between government investment in infrastructure and the success of the country.
After questions about the Middle East, the discussion turned to media bias. Stewart said he doesn’t believe that the mainstream media networks are activist organizations, but Fox News is an overreaction to perceived media bias. Stewart compared Fox News to Lupus. O’Reilly launched the standard defense of Fox News being the conservative equalizer. Stewart answered that anytime you have audience where more people believe the president is a Muslim than believe in evolution, you have a problem.
When the question of the War on Christmas came up, Stewart said that the area outside of Fox News looks like Santa exploded in December, and called the War on Christmas insanity. O’Reilly responded by saying, “I know,” and then he claimed that they won the War on Christmas.
O’Reilly and Stewart took questions from the Internet and audience, and O’Reilly admitted that he didn’t think the US should have gone into Iraq. O’Reilly also predicted that a third party is going to rise up. They were asked who they would save if the Earth was burning. Bill-O chose Oprah, and Stewart chose his family.
In response to a question about what they would do if they were the supreme ruler for the day, O’Reilly said Stewart would make everybody socialist, and Stewart replied that O’Reilly supports Social Security, so he is already a socialist like the rest of America, and we are all arguing over shades of red.
When they discussed healthcare, O’Reilly gave the standard conservative position about buying insurance across state lines, and Stewart argued for single payer.
Jon Stewart was really on his game with his messaging. O’Reilly seemed to be there to play his foil, and offer up the standard conservative/Fox News talking points. There were long stretches of the debate that were lacking in jokes, but heavy on substance. Stewart was intent on calling out the b.s. of the right and especially the right wing media.
The comedy weight was on Stewart, and it turns out, so was the intellectual burden. O’Reilly was in full bloom, and playing his Fox News character. Bill-O was there to represent the right, and he put their flimsy arguments and talking points on full display. It is clear that Stewart and O’Reilly personally like each other, but they also have some big political differences.
I am going to take a wild guess and say like the audience attending the debate, most of the Internet viewers shared Stewart’s point of view. As a cultural exercise, this debate put the gap between the right and rest of Americans who live in reality on full display.
Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart put on a good entertaining evening that was well worth the $4.95 PPV price, especially with half the money going to charity. The audience came armed with serious questions, and O’Reilly and Stewart, well Stewart at least, provided thoughtful answers on a regular basis. O’Reilly had his moments, especially towards the end of the debate when he admitted that many talking heads in the mainstream media don’t believe what they are saying and are making it up. The program ended with a proclamation that they both are winners, and all in all, this is an event that is worth watching.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association