It’s clear that Roger Ailes and Fox News had big plans for their Super Bowl interview with President Obama. They were going to use the biggest stage of the year to prove that the president is a failure. Instead, it was Obama who humiliated Fox News.
Video of the interview:
It was obvious from the first question that Fox News had a clear agenda for this interview with Obama. The interview got off to a horrible start when O’Reilly tried to zing Obama with the long since fixed ACA website.
This exchange set the tone:
OBAMA: — as I said, I don’t think anybody anticipated the degree of problems that you had on HealthCare.gov. The good news is that right away, we decided how are we going to fix it, it got fixed within a month and a half, it was up and running and now it’s working the way it’s supposed to and we’ve signed up three million people.
O’REILLY: I don’t know about that, because last week, there was an Associated Press call of people who actually went to the Web site and only 8 percent of them feel that it’s working well, working well.
It was typical. President Obama responded with a fact. The Republican ignored the fact, and talked about the way people feel. Right away President Obama put O’Reilly on his heels, and it was clear that the right wing host was full of hot air and had no ammo. Things would only get worse for Fox News from this point forward. The question about why the president didn’t fire HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was supposed to make it appear to viewers that Obama doesn’t hold people accountable, but the president’s answer made the right’s position look weak, and allowed Obama to continue to drive the message home that the ACA is working. It’s also at this point that O’Reilly lost control of the interview. President Obama was now driving the bus.
Obama destroyed O’Reilly’s whole line of Benghazi questions by pointing out that Fox News is keeping the conspiracy alive,
OBAMA: Bill, think about…
O’REILLY: That’s what they believe.
OBAMA: — and they believe it because folks like you are telling them that.
O’REILLY: No, I’m not telling them that.
It is always bad for Fox News when a host leaves the door open for a guest to talk about the misinformation that the network spreads. It is a disaster when it happens on national broadcast television during the Super Bowl pregame show.
The ultimate humiliation for Ailes and Fox News came when O’Reilly ventured into another favorite right wing conspiracy theory, the IRS scandal.
O’REILLY: OK, so you don’t — you don’t recall seeing Shulman, because what some people are saying is that the IRS was used…
O’REILLY: — at a — at a local level in Cincinnati, and maybe other places to go after…
OBAMA: Absolutely wrong.
O’REILLY: — to go after.
OBAMA: Absolutely wrong.
O’REILLY: But how do you know that, because we — we still don’t know what happened there?
OBAMA: Bill, we do — that’s not what happened. They — folks have, again, had multiple hearings on this. I mean these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them.
O’Reilly closed with a viewer letter about transforming America, that the president easily knocked down. He also admitted that he hadn’t been fair to the president by saying, “I think — I — you know, I know you think maybe we haven’t been fair, but I think your heart is in the right place.”
If you have read the book The Loudest Voice In The Room, this interview had Ailes’ fingerprints all over it, but the Republican propaganda master appears to be losing his touch. He has left behind the aura of frustrated conservative everyman populism that Fox News was built on, and replaced it with far right conspiracy theories that mainstream America doesn’t believe in, or care about.
President Obama controlled this interview. The president put O’Reilly on the defensive, and used his conspiracy theory based questions to demonstrate that he and the Democratic Party represent the center of current American politics. An interview that was supposed to be ultimate Obama trap, ended up revealing why Fox News is a network that is only watched by about 2 million Americans.
Barack Obama blew up Roger Ailes’ plan, and humiliated Fox News. O’Reilly and Fox News will be puffing out their chests and claiming victory today, but this interview was a resounding humiliation for the interviewer, the network, and the old man in his bullet proof office who calling the shots.
Roger Ailes may run Rupert Murdoch’s conservative news channel, but it is President Obama who owns Fox News.
Mr. Easley 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