O'Reilly Debates William Pfaff op-ed Piece



BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Factor Follow-Up segment tonight, while I was over in Italy last week, I read the International Herald-Tribune every day. That newspaper is owned by The New York Times, and it is the main voice on American for many Europeans. A column by a man named William Pfaff caught my eye because it was so outrageous in its condemnation of President Bush.

Wrote Pfaff, "The culture of lies that prevails in the Bush administration is an integral part of a culture of expedience and systematic dishonesty that dominates the president leadership of American political society and business."

Wow. Now basically what this guy Pfaff is saying -- without offering any proof, by the way -- is that President Bush and his entire Cabinet conceived and executed a lie to get America into a war with Iraq. Now you'd expect this kind of thing on a campus at Berkeley, but you don't expect it as a lead op-ed piece from The New York Times overseas vehicle. We tried to get Pfaff on this program this evening. He is hiding under his desk. We tried to talk with The New York Times hierarchy. They have locked themselves in the basement.

Mr. Pfaff has lived in Paris for about 30 years. He's considered to be a devoted liberal and has recently been wrong about a lot of things. For example, he said that American bombing would not bring down the Taliban government and objected to it. The question: What the heck is this guy doing and why is The New York Times letting him do it?

Joining us now from San Diego is James Goldsborough, foreign affairs columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune who formerly wrote for the International Herald-Tribune. Pfaff took his place. And from Washington, Professor Alison Schafer, a teacher of journalism at American University.

All right. Professor Schafer, we'll start with you. You read the column. What -- what is your opinion about it?

PROF. ALISON SCHAFER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, a couple things. First of all, I do think he's fairly strong in talking about lies from the Bush administration. He's not the first guy to have said that, though. Many people have said this is the most secrecy-minded administration they can remember, maybe even back to Nixon. The second point is this is, as you said, an op-ed. It's an opinion piece. This is not news reported by The New York Times. This is this guy's opinion, and I certainly think that the readers of the International Herald-Tribune are sophisticated enough to know when they're reading somebody's opinion or when they're reading a straight news piece, and they know the difference between those.

O'REILLY: See, I don't -- I -- look, the International Herald-Tribune has a circulation of a little bit less than 300,000. Seventy-five percent of its readers are European. And they're getting this kind of stuff.

And, look, yes, he has the right to do it as an op-ed piece. But, if you're going to be an op-ed columnist, if you're going to put your opinion out there, shouldn't you back that opinion up? I believe that Pfaff and The New York Times are irresponsible, Professor. What they do is irresponsible, not illegal, not immoral, irresponsible. By throwing out this kind of crazy stuff without backing it up...

You just heard the U.N. weapons inspector. I mean he is a credible source that Pfaff could talk to any day of the week, OK? Yet Pfaff makes these blatant accusations. They get into the fabric of European society and turn people against this country. So it's just bigger than one man's opinion here, Professor.

SCHAFER: It's his opinion. People know it's opinion. It's interesting to hear on Fox this idea that he's irresponsible in...

O'REILLY: He's irresponsible!

SCHAFER: ... stating his opinion.

O'REILLY: He's flat out irresponsible! If he wants to say he's a liar, back it up! Back it up!

SCHAFER: You know, op-ed pages are supposed to be a wide variety of different opinions. You can think that one's nonsense and that one's sensible.

O'REILLY: All right.

SCHAFER: You're supposed to sort of sift through it.

O'REILLY: Mr. Goldsborough, maybe you'll -- maybe you'll be able to put this in perspective. I'm an editor of The Union-Trib' in San Diego, OK? And I want you, all right, to be my lead columnist, but I want you to be responsible in what you write. That's part of journalism, that you are a columnist...

JAMES GOLDSBOROUGH, THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE: I don't think it's...

O'REILLY: ... but you've got to back up your explosive, incendiary statements. Am I crazy?

GOLDSBOROUGH: There was nothing -- there was nothing really explosive in what Bill Pfaff wrote. I mean read the American press. You're seeing -- you see the same thing in...

O'REILLY: The same irresponsible garbage. You -- come on! You call...

GOLDSBOROUGH: No, it's not. Listen...

O'REILLY: ... the president a liar and say he should be impeached.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Listen...

O'REILLY: That's not incendiary?

GOLDSBOROUGH: Listen -- listen, the whole -- the whole country is raising questions about the motives for this war. I mean read -- read the...

O'REILLY: This guy didn't raise any questions. He condemned.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Read the "Congressional" -- read the "Congressional Quarterly," which is about as staid a publication as you can get. They came out this week and said only 49 percent of Americans believe that the Bush administration told the truth about the war.

O'REILLY: That doesn't matter.

GOLDSBOROUGH: There are investigations going on in Congress. Newspapers are doing their job by raising questions. If he's...

O'REILLY: He didn't raise questions, Mr. Goldsborough.

GOLDSBOROUGH: You have not...

O'REILLY: He made flat out accusations.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Well, maybe he'll write...

O'REILLY: Flat out.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Maybe he'll write a second column. You have 950 words to write a column in most newspapers, and you can't exactly put the "Encyclopedia Britannica" there.

O'REILLY: You can't put a question mark on the end of a statement? Come on! This -- I do this for a living. You know I do it for a living. I write a newspaper column...

GOLDSBOROUGH: He's...

O'REILLY: ... and I do this every night on television. I don't make these kind of incendiary accusations against anybody unless I have A, B, C, D, and E to back it up. These people from...

GOLDSBOROUGH: It's not incendiary.

O'REILLY: ... "The New York Times" do it all day long.

GOLDSBOROUGH: It's not incendiary. Read...

O'REILLY: It's not incendiary to...

GOLDSBOROUGH: Read the coverage...

O'REILLY: ... to call the president a liar...

GOLDSBOROUGH: Listen -- listen...

O'REILLY: ... and say he should be impeached?

GOLDSBOROUGH: Listen for -- listen -- listen, the new study -- The New Republic, which is a magazine which backed the Iraq war as strongly as any American publication, came out last week with a cover story "Democracy and Deception." Now you might think deception is different than a lie and it sort of has to do with what...

O'REILLY: I want to see the backup for the deception, OK?

GOLDSBOROUGH: I under...

O'REILLY: I don't care what publication it's in.

GOLDSBOROUGH: They have -- they have six pages of evidence in there. Pfaff had 950 words. But they make the same arguments. It's no difference whether it's said in Paris or in San Diego or in Washington. The whole country is...

O'REILLY: Look, if he -- if he says...

GOLDSBOROUGH: ... raising these questions.

O'REILLY: If he says it's my opinion that the Bush administration lied because of X, Y, and Z, I -- again, don't give me this 900 words. I do this every week, all right? I do it in...

GOLDSBOROUGH: It's in there.

O'REILLY: ... 650 words. I never do this. I never accuse anybody of lying unless I have hard data to back it up. This is...

GOLDSBOROUGH: He states the case...

O'REILLY: ... propaganda. Wait. I want to go to Professor Schafer for a moment. Professor, this is propaganda, left-wing propaganda being masqueraded as op-ed stuff in a newspaper run by The New York Times, which THEY -- influences how Europeans look at America. It's propaganda.

SCHAFER: I'm not with you on this one. I've got to tell you. I think the guy has a right to his opinion. I think you've got to put it in context. There are a lot of people who are somewhat suspicious about the way the Bush administration handled the entry into Iraq.

O'REILLY: And they have a right to be.

SCHAFER: Look at the parliamentary inquiry in Britain. I mean it's not like this guy's sort of shouting out in the wilderness. He's got his finger on something. It remains...

O'REILLY: I can't believe you guys...

SCHAFER: ... to be seen what it is.

O'REILLY: I can't believe you guys can't both see there's nothing wrong with raising questions, being skeptical. Nothing wrong at all. And, by the way, Professor, you must have missed the top of the program, but the parliament exonerated Prime Minister Blair today of any intentional...

SCHAFER: But they looked into it.

O'REILLY: ... lie at all, OK?

SCHAFER: But they looked into it. It's a question.

O'REILLY: And I want them to. And if Bush lied -- if he lied -- I'll be the first one to hang him, OK? But there's no evidence of that presented by the best people we can find. And you just heard Dr. Spertzel.

Mr. Goldsborough, I'm going to give you the last word. I think The New York Times and the International Herald-Tribune should be ashamed of themselves for putting out this propaganda, not demanding their columnists back it up with some kind of data. I'll give you the last word.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Look, I know you don't like The New York Times, but the point is the Bush administration made statements of fact. Donald Rumsfeld said there were weapons of mass destruction and he knew where they were. Well, where are they? So all the people are doing is saying, all right, if you had this proof, under your preemptive war doctrine, you want to take us into war, the proof isn't any good, and we don't want to go into preemptive war if the proof isn't there.

O'REILLY: All right. OK. That's a legitimate point about Mr. Rumsfeld, but I don't believe he lied intentionally. If I'm proven wrong, I will apologize.

Ms. Schafer, Mr. Goldsborough, pleasure. Thank you very much.

GOLDSBOROUGH: Thank you.

SCHAFER: Thank you.