For many political junkies, the highlight of Sunday was not the Super Bowl, but Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s live interview with President Obama.
Although O’Reilly asked very specific questions, Obama often danced around them with his usual talking points. In an attempt to steer the conversation back to his questions, O’Reilly actually cut off the president while he was speaking several times. The Fox News host was aggressive — Obama seemed irritated but not rattled.
During the ten minute interview, O’Reilly primarily focused his questions on three topics: Benghazi, the IRS, and Obamacare.
One highlight of the dialogue was when Obama was asked about the lack of accountability during and after the disastrous Obamacare rollout. Transcript:
O’Reilly: Why didn’t you fire [HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius, the secretary in charge of this, because, I mean, she had to know after all those years and all that money that it wasn’t going to work?
Obama: You know, my main priority right now is making sure that it delivers for the American people, and…
O’Reilly: You’re not going to answer that?
Obama: What we ended up doing is, we’ve got 3 million people signed up so far. We’re about a month behind where we anticipated we wanted to be. We’ve got over 6 million people who’ve signed up for Medicaid. We’ve got 3 million young people under the age of 26 who are signed up on their parents’ plan. And so what we’re constantly figuring out is how do we continue to improve it, how do we make sure that the folks who don’t have health insurance get health insurance and those who are underinsured are able to get better health insurance.
O’Reilly: I’m sure that the intent is noble, but I’m a taxpayer. And I’m paying Kathleen Sebelius’s salary and she screwed up. And you’re not holding her accountable.
Obama: Well, I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable…
Another tense moment occurred when the pair discussed Benghazi. Transcript:
O’Reilly: Your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn’t want that out. That’s what they believe.
Obama: And they believe it because folks like you tell them that. These kinds of things keep on surfacing, because folks like you will promote them.
Reaction to the heated conversation has been mixed, but most agree that Obama handled the situation well. The left-leaning Huffington Post’s headline read, “Obama Slams Bill O’Reilly, Fox News.”
Many Obama supporters believe that O’Reilly was rude and unfair. Many on the right, however, thought that the Fox News pundit did not do enough to draw straight answers out of the president.
I asked readers on my Facebook page for their reactions. One said, “I’m not a fan of Obama by any measure, however, Bill O’Reilly was, as usual, rude, interruptive and combative. If you ask a question, give the man a chance to finish…. Ugh.” Another said, “Obama avoided the questions and lied.”
A more lengthy, taped interview will be aired during Monday night’s The O’Reilly Factor.