Oprah's Town Hall
In Oprah's last town hall meeting, New York Times columnist Frank Rich discussed his book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold. In that conversation, Oprah asked how important or unimportant is the idea of truth in America.
After the show, many people strongly voiced their own opinions—including Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. Bill has five New York Times best-sellers plus a hit daily radio show and the number one cable news program, The O'Reilly Factor.
In his latest number one bestseller, Culture Warrior, Bill warns that America is in the midst of what he calls a vicious culture war between two factions.
Oprah: What is the war?
Bill: The war is between traditionalists like me, and I believe you, too, by the way, who think the country is noble. America's a noble nation.
Bill: We make mistakes, we have to correct the mistakes.
Bill: There are inequalities, we work to do a level playing field. But fundamentally, the founding fathers, based on Judeo Christian philosophy—not religion, philosophy—fundamentally, we've risen to be the strongest country that civilization has ever seen. We give opportunity to more people than anyone else in the world. We freed billions of people and spent our blood and treasure doing it. We're noble. Traditionalists.
Secular-progressives say, "No. We're a flawed society. Deeply flawed. We need changes in every area. Social. Economic. Foreign policy."
Bill: You know, we have our military fighting for our country overseas. We at home have to fight for our country. Do you want to be Denmark? Do you want to be Holland? That's what the S-Ps [secular-progressives] want. Anything goes: euthanasia, legalized narcotics, unfettered abortion, on and on and on and on. Look, when you and I were growing up, what kind of music did we listen to?
Oprah: I listened to The Temptations. ...
Bill: What are the kids listening to now? Ho's. Glocks. Drugs. We've come a long way, haven't we? ... These are the kids at 9, 10 ...They know all about it. There's no more Temptations. They're obsolete. How about movies? What did we go to see? We went to see The Blob. Steve McQueen running around going, "There's the blob." We had a lot of laughs. Popcorn. Now they have a chainsaw guy cutting off people's arms. That's what kids are seeing. Oh, we've come a long way, haven't we? This country is under siege.
Oprah: But this is a country that allows The Blob and also allows chainsaw movies because this is America.
Bill: I'm not advocating a ban of chainsaw movies. Alright? I'm telling you it's bad. That's what I'm telling you. It's bad. So is gangster rap. You know it's bad. You've got an unsupervised 9-year-old whose parents aren't around thinking that he's going to go out and sell a couple of vials of crack, that's bad. Where is the counter influence? S-Ps don't make any judgments on behavior. S-P's don't want any restrictions on what you can or can't do. Yeah, we live in a country, that's allowed. It's bad. People have to start to make judgments.
Bill: I don't like the words "middle ground." I think you have to make—you have to make a decision about what kind of a country you want. But you don't have to be a Kool-Aid drinker and say, "I agree with O'Reilly a hundred percent of the time." That's ridiculous. Nobody does. My mother doesn't. Okay? But you have to make a decision sooner or later in your life on what kind of country do you want? Do you want to live in Holland? Or do you want to live in a traditional United States? ...
Because you have to make a decision. I think you have to fight for what kind of a country you want. If you want to be in the middle and you vacillate back and forth, I don't know what good that does. Again, you don't have to toe the line 100 percent of the time, but you have to make a decision on what kind of a country you want to live in. And many of us don't. Many Americans won't. I call 'em "mall zombies." ...
These are people who don't pay attention. I mean, they have excuses and this and that, but this country is obviously fighting a war on terror—obviously we could be killed at any moment—and it's fighting a war inside for what kind of a country and a people we want to be.
Sure. Absolutely. I mean, the Bush Administration believed that in order to fight Islamo-fascism, they had to create what they called satellite states to the United States—countries sympathetic to us in the Middle East— to squeeze Iran, which is emerging as our main enemy. So they had Afghanistan—very successful, very quick—and they said, you know, we can do this to Saddam, who violated the first Gulf War cease fire 17 times. We have the legal authority to do it, we have the moral authority to do it, and we believe he's got these weapons that he's gonna hand off to anybody who wants 'em.
So that was the strategy. Squeeze Iran, have a country—Afghanistan, on one side, Iraq on the other side—that are democracies, fledgling but growing, and give the terrorists no room to operate.
Now, it didn't go well in Iraq, obviously. It's a mess. But that is the geopolitical strategy. I can't find any evidence of lies. I don't believe Colin Powell's a liar. I don't believe Tony Blair's a liar. So if you're gonna say Bush is one, you have to say the other two are.
Bill: Yeah, I know [Former CIA Director George Tenant], what he said. He went in and he said, "Look, they have 'em and they're gonna give 'em to Ansar al-Islam," which is an al-Qaeda affiliate in Northern Iraq. But they wanted to remove Saddam, this is very clear. They wanted him out of there because they felt that he was a soft touch, they could get him out quick, and set up what they set up in Afghanistan. And if they had, if they had, the world would be much better off. And if Iraq had gone well, Bush's approval rating right now would be 65 percent.
Bill: Martin Luther King was a traditionalist, a t-warrior. But he was liberal.
Audience Member: But at that time he wasn't.
Bill: One of the points in this book [Culture Warrior] is you can be liberal and be a traditionalist. There aren't too many conservatives who are S-Ps [secular-progressives] although there are some radical, you know, militia types who are just out of their mind. Martin Luther King, JFK, RFK [were traditionalists].
Audience Member: But in their day, sir, they were considered radical. They were considered revisionists.
Bill: They were considered radical by people who weren't looking out for the folks.
In Bill's book, Culture Warrior, he talks about why he considers the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a dangerous organization.
Audience Member: It's not a dangerous organization. It protects our rights. Sometimes you have to protect everybody's rights to protect people who might not deserve it.
Oprah: You said in one of the books, I can't remember which one, that they [the ACLU] say we have to protect the creeps in order to protect everybody else.
Bill: Yeah, but that's bull. ... The ACLU is much more than an advocacy group now. It's a political group. The Minutemen on the border, you know? You know how controversial they are? They're trying to draw attention to the fact that we don't have security on the border. Well, that's a protest. The Minutemen are protesting. You may disagree with them, but they're protesting. They're going down there on their own nickel to say we think this is wrong. Who's against them? The ACLU. Wait a minute: I thought they were supposed to be the people who protect protests? Huh-uh. They [the ACLU] don't like the Minutemen. It's a political organization now. It isn't an advocacy group any longer.
Audience Member #1: We're talking about the American Civil Liberties Union? ... This is an organization that is actually trying right now to assist people down in Gitmo. The prisoners we have down in Gitmo. These prisoners we caught on the battlefield. What type of rights are we gonna give them? What type of rights should we give them, and they're trying to kill our troops, behead our troops. I mean, why should we give them any type of rights at all? ...
Audience Member #2: If we don't decide to have some absolutes, where do you draw the line? If everyone's a victim, who's the victimizer? Who gets to decide that? And while it makes some of us seem narrow-minded, we have to have some absolutes philosophically in this country.
Bill: Let me address both of those things. Relativism, moral relativism, is part of the Culture Warrior book. The foreign minister of Italy, Marcello Pera, wrote an essay and said to Americans: "Don't count on Europe in a war on terror. Don't count on us to help you fight these Islamo-fascists because we in Europe, we don't make judgments about behavior. ... So when they're gonna kill 3,000 of you, we'll sympathize, but we're not stepping up." That's relativism. Nothing to fight for. Nothing is worth it.
Now on Guantanamo Bay, it's very interesting. I've been there twice now. We need information to save lives. And according to Brian Ross—I think the best investigative reporter in the country right now—they captured Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, one of the 9/11 plotters, and they water boarded him, which means they tied him up and they dunked him in water. ... Now, they dunk Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in the water until Khalid Sheikh Mohamed said, "Hold it. I'll tell you who my friends are." They nailed 14 of them and they stopped, according to Brian Ross—not Bill O'Reilly—about a dozen terror plots that would have killed tens of thousands of people.
So you have to make a decision, ladies and gentlemen, whether you water board somebody or let 5,000 people die, alright? And that is a tough decision to make. I admit it. But I'm gonna come down...If you take the guy's eye out? No. You cut his fingers off? No. You dunk him in water to save 5,000? I'm dunkin' that guy all day long.
In the Oprah show Truth in America, Frank Rich said television news was all about ratings. Does Bill think we get truth from the media?
Bill: No. I hate the media.
Oprah: You are media!
Bill: I am the media and I don't like my[self]—no. I won't talk to the print press because I'll never get quoted accurately and they'll always take cheap shots. And I know I sound like I'm whining, but I'm not. It's just the truth. I stay away from them. I believe you [Oprah] stay away from most of them. They're just untrustworthy.
What's happened in America is we have hyper-partisans now. We've divided, as many of you pointed out, we've divided the country into red states, blue states. The newspapers take a very, very strong position—although the Chicago Tribune is an exception, I like that paper—they're either very liberal or very conservative, mostly very liberal.
And television news, they're a bunch of phonies. They really are. I know all these people. They're in makeup three hours ... and they read what's put in front of them. And they're politically correct. I call it "cocktail party cred." So if you're pro-life, for example, you can't exist in network news if you're pro-life. You'll never get invited to a party. You'll be ostracized. Can you imagine if you worked for Frank Rich's employer The New York Times, and you went into work tomorrow and said, "Hey, you know, that Bill O'Reilly, he's got a hell of a show. I like that guy." Nobody'd talk to you!
Audience Member: You've stated that it doesn't bother you to be the subject of a lot of criticism and so forth, and I guess I would classify myself as a traditionalist, and I just want to know how do I exist in my suburban community and still have friends and state my traditionalist agenda?
Bill: Most people in America are taught never to discuss two things: politics and religion. How many times did you hear that? Politics and religion because people get emotional. ... They get angry. You know? They don't like you. They take it personally.
Now you've got to understand when you go the arena of being a t-warrior—a traditional warrior—that some people aren't gonna like you because of your belief system. Now that's unAmerican. I like this guy over here, even though he disagrees with me. I mean, I don't have anything personal against him. I'll fight him in a debate situation. But you have to take that risk. The way you present yourself really is the key.
Audience Member: I just wanted to say it's wrong to kill women and babies, and admittedly, our forces being in there, through collateral damage, have killed innocent people.
Bill: You know how many Saddam Hussein killed?
Audience Member: We've killed innocent people.
Bill: Do you know how many?
Audience Member: Does that give us the right to kill even one? Just because he killed a bunch...
Bill: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. If you have a man that slaughtered 400,000 people as Saddam Hussein did—that's the estimates—400,000 in his reign of terror, alright? And you try to remove that man in a war-time situation that is absolutely legal because he violated the first Gulf War cease fire. Remember the first Gulf War? When he invaded Kuwait and killed thousands of people and raped thousands of women in that? All right, who went over and removed him from Kuwait? I believe that was the United States of America.
Audience Member: There are many bad people out there. I don't disagree that [Saddam Hussein is] a bad guy. I don't disagree that somebody should take him out...
Bill: Somebody but not us, right?
Audience Member: I'm not even saying that. I'm saying that if that is the reason we were going into Iraq, then why wasn't that stated at the get-go?
Bill: It was stated as part of the package. Look, if you could go in a time capsule back to before the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] thing, I wouldn't invade Iraq. If there were no WMDs in that country, I would have said, "Don't go. Don't go. He's horrible. Awful. But we can't do this. It's too much of a sacrifice." It's been too much of a strain on the country. ...
I agree with you. But if you put the whole package together, we tried to do a noble thing for the right reasons. It has not worked out. Let's be fair about it.
Bill: We live in very, very demoralizing times. And we're a great country, I believe that. I think the spirit of America will prevail. I feel bad for President Bush. I think he caught a terrible break on 9/11. ... I don't think anybody was at fault for terrorism. I don't blame President Clinton for it. I'm not a blame guy. I think we'll prevail, but I think that this country is going to have to really get alert. We're gonna have to wise up and see the danger and really think about it without emotion and ideology.
Oprah: And what are the things that are most dangerous?
Bill: Iran is very, very dangerous. ...
Oprah: North Korea?
Bill: North Korea, I think China can contain North Korea. I do. But Iran worries me very much because Iran will get the weapons of mass destruction. They will give them to the terrorists and Cleveland can go up like that. So I think we have to pay attention to this jihad. We have to pay attention and we have to be a country. I really wish we would be more united—maybe the next president can do that—because once united, nobody's gonna beat America.