As popular television commentator and host Bill O’Reilly has pointed out on a near daily basis, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has yet to appear on his program, despite numerous on-air (and presumably private) invitations. Should Obama make the pilgrimage to ‘The Factor?’
O’Reilly has led in the cable television news ratings for years, but has failed to convince recent Democratic nominees, such as Al Gore and Obama, to make appearances on his show during their presidential campaigns. In 2000 and 2004 George W. Bush appeared on the program, and 2008 Republican nominee John McCain was a guest in late May 2008.
O’Reilly has maintained that Al Gore would have won Florida, and the 2000 election, had he appeared on his program just once (‘The Factor’ is seen by millions of viewers each weeknight). Despite what some may view as simply the case of an overinflated ego, there is truth to O’Reilly’s statement. When nominees like Gore and Obama refuse (or ignore) O’Reilly’s invitations, they hurt themselves in two ways among independent voters (who comprise a fair amount of O’Reilly’s viewership).
For one, Democratic candidates are turning down an opportunity to get their message across in a forum where, despite O’Reilly’s reputation, they will be treated with respect by the host, at least during the interview itself. Secondly, by failing to appear (which O’Reilly will mention continuously through the summer and autumn), the Democrats seem like they are ‘running scared’ or purposefully avoiding the nation’s #1 cable news program simply because they do not want their views challenged by an admittedly tough host.
O’Reilly himself believes Democratic candidates are so tied to the “MoveOn.org crowd�? (which he regularly berates) that they risk alienating the far left component of their base by even appearing on his program (it would be tantamount to ‘dealing with the Devil’).
In the end, candidates will not regret appearing on O’Reilly’s show; Hillary Clinton survived and thrived during her April 30th debut on ‘The Factor’ – in the midst of her 2008 primary campaign surge. John Kerry has even appeared after the 2004 election.
Would an appearance on ‘The Factor’ benefit Obama? Perhaps not, but not appearing will hurt him. The truth is that while Bill O’Reilly’s politics did take a turn to the right after 9/11, his reputation as a commentator to be lumped in with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity is simply not warranted. O’Reilly has repeatedly stated on air several views which do not fall into the right-wing camp:
· He has stated that, given the chance to do it all over again, the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq (something to which Hannity would never admit)
· He has railed vociferously against big oil companies, the profits made by their CEO’s, and the need for America to “stick it to them�? by, among other things, investing in alternative energy sources
· He believes that America should make the reduction of our impact on the environment a priority (whether or not we are responsible for global warming)
· He is even against the death penalty (likely due to religious beliefs; though, admittedly, he hasn’t mentioned this view as frequently since 9/11)
While the world does not revolve around Bill O’Reilly, candidates usually relish airtime on top-rated programs. In the case of Al Gore, his failure to appear on the factor made him look, frankly, that he was unwilling to subject his policies to a potentially confrontational host. In the case of Obama, he runs a much more important risk: O’Reilly’s mantra is that we do not really even know the Senator from Illinois.
When Bill O’Reilly covered the New Hampshire primary on location in January of this year, his cameraman was involved in an incident where he believed an Obama staffer was purposely blocking his shot. At the end of the confrontational exchange, Obama himself, on camera, stated to O’Reilly that he would appear on ‘The Factor.’
O’Reilly is now taking bets from some of his guests, like media watchdogs Bernie Goldberg and Jane Hall, as to whether Obama will follow through on that pledge.