Flashback: On C-Span, Al Franken Chews Up Bill O'Reilly for Lunch And Spits Out Nails
On Saturday, May 31 (2002), C-SPAN and BookTV broadcast a Book Expo author luncheon panel with Pat Schroeder (moderator), Molly Ivins, Bill O'Reilly, and Al Franken.
Each panelist was given 15 minutes to talk about their own upcoming book. After Molly Ivins and Bill O'Reilly had taken their turns, Al Franken took the microphone. His book, which is unfinished, is entitled, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" and features pictures of four conservative personalities on the cover. Bill O'Reilly was one of them. At the start of his talk, Franken made a point of showing the cover to O'Reilly and asking if he could get a better photo to use. O'Reilly was clearly upset: silent, but spitting DU-tipped bullets from his eyes.
Franken spent the next 20 minutes or so giving examples of tight wing lies from his book. By then he had already overshot his time slot, but he launched into an account of how he had personally caught Bill O'Reilly in a big lie, which was this: O'Reilly had stated on at least two or three occasions that his former show, Inside Edition, was the winner of two prestigious Peabody Awards.
The story of how Franken tracked down and debunked this claim ran on for 10 or 15 minutes, in excruciating detail. O'Reilly, still silent through most of it, was beside himself and looked to be ready to jump out of his chair and tackle the speaker.
Realize the following, of course: Had Al Franken been a guest on The No-Spin Zone, O'Reilly would certainly have shouted him down and probably disconnected his mic almost as soon as he showed the cover of his book. But O'Reilly couldn't shut down C-SPAN. His frustration was palpable. Finally, he erupted and called Al Franken a lot of things including, "a very vicious person" (if I recall correctly).
By this time, Al Franken had also changed. No longer the kidding-on-the-square humorist, he was deadly serious and emotionally invested in the theme of his book. His lip was quivering and I was afraid he would actually burst into tears. When he said that "they're lying and we shouldn't take it [pause]...anymore", it was every bit as spellbinding as any Howard Beale moment in the movie "Network."
Addendum, in light of recent events:
Holiday -- sorry, Bill O'Christmas -- vacation is over. Monday morning will have the megamouths more than ready to take back the Lords of Loud seats from unlistened to, exaggerated drama-queens and notso best-ofs. The broadcast guys and gals will choppin' at the bit to get to the real business of demeaning Dems and putting a wedge between Americans. And they'll be more than ready. Rush, Sean, Glenn and the wannabes who received the gift of an overwhelming Republican defeat will spend the next couple weeks building up the momentum so that January 20th will kick off at two, four or more years of blaming the new President and Democrats in power. You think tearing apart every word and move by President Obama won't be a helluva lot more fun than the defending of the Bush debacle? It's exhausting trying to nail the powerless Democats for the demise of America. Behind closed mikes, they'd admit that blaming the recession on a president-elect was a contortion of logic that even the Velvet Fog of talk radio, Mark Levin, probably found a bit unweildy.
Not that they didn't all try. As Mencken was purported to say, "you will never lose money underestimating the American people." If you want to double your winnings put your money on the Factor Folks.
O'Reilly who will soon be retiring (i.e. radio failure) from the radio waves so that he can spend more time with his TV Factor family will again push his independent fairness. Perhaps Michael Smerconish, sometimes an O'Reilly fill-in, is the only other "conservative" host who says he's objective. Difference is, Smerconish is the only one of the two who many times actually is. Bill's task will be headier than the rest. He'll not only face a Democratic juggernaut, he'll have to swallow the reality of his worst nightmare...
Senator Al Franken.
He's good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, he's got votes enough to have nipped incumbent Norm Coleman in the race for the Minnesota senate seat.
First Bill loses his hilarious attempt to sue for slander over Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, sending Al's books sales and bank account into the stratosphere, then he dismisses Franken's run for Senate as "no chance," which had to send some undecideds into the Franken corner. And now he's faced with six... that's right... six years of trying to come up with different ways to try and smear Franken. While the other talkers admittedly relish the opportunity to attack their opponents, Bill's ever-clumsy attempts at trying to appear balanced, are fueled only by hate and his bitterness at never being accepted by the big-boy's club at the networks. The result just ends up as a bonanza for Keith Olbermann who'll need very little original writing or research to fill his "Worst Person of the Day" segment.
Meanwhile, across the dial, expect the next two weeks to be full of insincere wishes for President Obama's success along with a heaping helping of Ann Coulter. The Lean Queen of Mean will be pimping her newest screed, Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault On America, and the broadcast-right will be more than happy to supply Annie with plenty of oxygen to fuel her precious prose.
Talk radio and TV. That, Mr. Cavett, is entertainment.