Obama tackled by Bill O’Reilly of Fox before Super Bowl
In an interview before the game, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News grilled President Obama about the health-care rollout, the attack on the American post in Benghazi, Libya, and the Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of conservative groups.
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Some of the hardest hits of Super Bowl Sunday came a couple of hours before kickoff.
In keeping with his tradition of appearing on the network that was broadcasting football’s championship game, President Obama found himself confronting a full-scale blitz by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.
In the interview, conducted live before the game, Obama was grilled about the botched rollout of the health-care law, his discredited assurances that anyone who liked their insurance could keep it, the attack on the American post in Benghazi, Libya, and the Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of conservative groups.
His answers shed little if any new light on some of the most controversial moments of Obama’s presidency, but it was a feisty 10-minute encounter that exposed the different world views of Obama and some of his sharpest critics.
For Obama it may have been an unpleasant duty that was more or less unavoidable, but for some conservative fans of Fox it was an opportunity to watch the president challenged in a way they believe he has not been by the rest of the news media.
O’Reilly, sitting forward in his chair at the White House, pressed Obama repeatedly. The president, smiling but seemingly trying to keep his patience, pushed back in kind. At times the two men talked right over each other.
When O’Reilly asked if the broken promise on keeping health plans was “the biggest mistake of your presidency,” Obama responded, “Oh, Bill, you’ve got a long list of my mistakes of my presidency.”
When O’Reilly interrupted an answer to press Obama on why Susan Rice, now the president’s national security adviser, first characterized the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video, Obama said, “And I’m trying to explain it to you if you want to listen.”
O’Reilly went on to say that Obama’s detractors believe the administration tried to mislead the public about what really happened in Benghazi because it was in the middle of his re-election campaign.
“They believe it because folks like you are telling them,” Obama responded.
“No, I’m not telling them that,” O’Reilly protested.
When O’Reilly asked if the IRS scandal involving tax scrutiny of political groups exposed corruption in the agency, Obama blamed Fox for spreading what he called incorrect information.
“That’s not what happened,” Obama said. “Folks have, again, had multiple hearings on this. I mean, these kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”
O’Reilly responded that there were “unanswered questions” and asked again if there was corruption in the IRS.
“There were some boneheaded decisions,” the president said.
“But no mass corruption?” O’Reilly asked.
“Not even mass corruption — not even a smidgen of corruption,” Obama said.
O’Reilly, who has interviewed Obama in the past, including before the 2011 Super Bowl, ended the session on a softer note.
“I know you think maybe we haven’t been fair,” he said, “but I think your heart is in the right place.”