NPR Vs. O'Reilly
20. NPR’s Terry Gross giggles through an interview with Al Franken, but days later, interviews Bill O’Reilly and hammers him with rough questions until he left the studio (2003).
On September 3, 2003, the NPR show Fresh Air publicized Al Franken and his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The show’s host, Terry Gross, giggled along with Franken as he talked of being sued by Fox News Channel for the title. She never asked: Can a book exposing “Lies” and “Liars” use lying tactics in the book?
Gross asked him to read from a letter he wrote to conservative leaders on Harvard letterhead telling them he was writing a pro-abstinence book called Savin’ It and asking for input, but she didn’t wonder if that “prank” contradicted or undercut the effectiveness of Franken’s title.
She didn’t ask about the comic strip inside the Franken book called “The Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus” or his trip to Bob Jones University with a fake son to try and trip up the Christians and suggest they’d bend their religious rules for some major donations, which he called “A good honest day’s work done, lying to God-fearing people.” She did express concern that Democrats weren’t being as harsh as Franken toward President Bush. Franken asserted Bush was lying daily.
Gross invited on Bill O’Reilly on October 8, and the contrast was stunning. There was no giggling, only punching. Gross asked about a fight the two authors had at a book expo: “And I want to read something Franken says about that in his book. He says ‘I was having fun not because I enjoy attacking people gratuitously but because O’Reilly is a bully and he deserved it. On his show he cuts off anyone who disagrees with him. If they stand up for themselves, he shoots them down.’ Do you think that that’s fair? Do you think it’s fair to call you a bully on your show?” She went on to attack him with other critical quotes from liberals.
O’Reilly walked out. Gross read more criticisms to his empty chair. NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin ruled: “Unfortunately, the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias....by coming across as a pro-Franken partisan rather than a neutral and curious journalist, Gross did almost nothing that might have allowed the interview to develop.”
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