the national interest

The Fox News–iest Segment in Fox News History

Photo: FOX News

If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It’s all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there’s a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn’t get in the way. And ready to absorb his anger is the network’s Emmanuel Goldstein figure, feebly attempting a rebuttal that quickly devolves into a sniveling plea for civility:

The subject of the debate is Bill O’Reilly’s belief, widely shared within the conservative bubble, that President Obama has offered no concessions on long-term spending cuts. This is factually untrue — Obama has offered a plan including more than a trillion dollars in reduced spending to a variety of programs, including Medicare and Social Security, as well as the reduced spending on interest payments. Obama’s budget also details his proposed cuts to scores of programs in an extensive 205-page document.

But the lack of Obama spending cuts is a Fox News Fact, and as such, O’Reilly believes in it with unswerving devotion. He loudly and belligerently insists Obama “hasn’t even submitted any proposals” and “he just says, we want to raise taxes.” When Alan Colmes manages to interject that Obama has offered a proposal that has more spending cuts than tax increases, O’Reilly insists Obama’s offer is vague and begins insisting Obama has not mentioned any specific programs he wants to cut.

The debate grows more bizarre as Colmes manages to slip in the fact —  a true one — that Obama has proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid:

O’Reilly: “Give me one program he said he’s cut!”
Colmes: “He would cut Medicare and Medicaid … ”
O’Reilly: “That’s not a specific program!”

(Medicare and Medicaid are, in fact, specific programs.)

At this point, O’Reilly pivots from denouncing Obama for failing to name any specific cuts to denouncing Colmes as a liar and claiming that Colmes has failed to name any specific programs that Obama would cut. This is where the segment truly achieves its Fox News transcendence. After all, the viewing audience surely believes O’Reilly that Obama has not named any programs that he would cut. But they just watched Colmes name two programs that he thinks, however falsely, Obama would cut. Yet O’Reilly screams that he hasn’t. It becomes a new Fox News Fact, reaffirmed in surreal exchanges like this:

O’Reilly: “I asked him four times, Colmes, to give me one specific program out of all the entire federal budget, $3.2 trillion worth of spending that Obama said he would cut, he cannot. … I asked Colmes for one, he can’t provide it. Can you?
Crowley: I cannot. Because he has …
O’Reilly: “Okay. So both of our people, ladies and gentlemen, cannot provide one program out of $3.2 trillion in spending that this president said he would cut!

Everyone here is playing their appointed role. Colmes is pleading with O’Reilly to stop yelling at him and whimpering things like “we’ll just have to disagree.” Crowley is affirming O’Reilly’s correctness and cheerfully allowing him to interrupt after a couple of seconds of talking so as not to yammer on in a way that annoys him. And O’Reilly himself, after finally calming down, reaffirms his own white-is-black claim with such conviction that viewers have probably already forgotten that he is feverishly denying something that they witnessed with their own eyes. The segment has achieved such Fox News perfection that it can never be reached again. Roger Ailes should simply loop it endlessly for the rest of time.

The Fox News–iest Segment in Fox News History