Tuesday, December 10, 2013
WASHINGTON — Zingers flew and egos crackled Saturday night as Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart debated in front of a boisterous audience at the George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.
Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, left, and Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly tape an interview in New York in 2010. Stewart and O’Reilly, a celebrity odd couple involved in a public political feud, tangled Saturday night in a sold-out debate in Washington.
2010 File Photo/The Associated Press
The two television personalities, at ideological odds, found common ground by brandishing their wit and revving their symbiotic sideshow act, branded this time around as "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium."
In one corner: O'Reilly, 63, a 6-foot-4 conservative Catholic from Levittown, N.Y., who divides the world into patriots and pinheads every weeknight on "The O'Reilly Factor."
In the other: Stewart, 49, a 5-foot-6 liberal Jew from New Jersey whose quippy ombudsmanship of O'Reilly's network has dominated segments on his rollicking Comedy Central show for years.
"How many people think it's Bush's fault?" O'Reilly said in his opening statement, referring to the country's myriad problems. "Bush. Is. Gone," he replied as people applauded their assent.
"My friend Bill O'Reilly is completely full of (expletive deleted)," Stewart said in his opening statement.
The debate cantered playfully from there for 90 minutes.
Stewart: "I believe in Social Security. Do you?"
Stewart: "Then we're both socialists."
The pair steamrolled moderator and CNN contributor E.D. Hill, who knew better than to get in the way of either showman. The men – both dressed in charcoal suit jackets and both with books to sell and profiles to maintain – stood at rostrums underneath a digital rendering of a bald eagle clutching a banner that said "Yum, this banner tastes like freedom." Stewart occasionally employed an electric platform that raised him to O'Reilly's height.
Sparring topics included:
• The national debt: The pair got bogged down sorting out the difference between the debt and the deficit.
• The war on Christmas: "We won," O'Reilly said, while Stewart said the war never existed in the first place. “I’m a Jew,” Stewart said. “If you think Christmas isn’t celebrated in this country, walk a mile in Hanukkah’s shoes."
• Health care: O'Reilly wants private insurance companies to run the show; Stewart wants to decouple insurance and employment.
• Middle East policy.
"He's done a good job on terrorism," O'Reilly said of President Obama, but both he and Stewart agreed that the president mishandled the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"Give me back the $800 billion for the Iraq war . . . and it's rubbers for everyone on me," Stewart said when discussing economic redistribution.
Stewart routinely redirected the conversation back to his view that Obama is being judged by a different standard than his predecessors and that the country is distracted by warped conversations about capitalism versus socialism and democracy versus tyranny. O'Reilly routinely dismissed Stewart's earnest theses with a scoff or a one-liner.
" 'I'm entitled to my birth control paid for by the taxpayer?' That's insane," O'Reilly said to enthusiastic applause.
Stewart: "We have already decided as a society to take care of people who need help. . . . You're suggesting Barack Obama came into office and everyone said, 'Lordy, I don't have to work anymore!' "
O'Reilly: "He made it a lot easier. There are ads on the radio for food stamps."
Stewart: "Why is it if you take advantage of a tax break and you're a corporation, you're a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of something you need to not be hungry, you're a moocher?"
About 1,500 people attended the event, but the main audience was meant to be online, where the event was live-streamed for $4.95. On Twitter, viewers complained they missed the event when the video servers crashed. Organizers said video will be available for download and that those who experienced problems will qualify for a refund.
Half the net profits will go to a bevy of charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project, Doctors Without Borders, the USO and the NYC Coalition for the Homeless.
Big Bird flying high in new role: Politics
NEW YORK - In a week when Big Bird was in the news, it seemed fitting to find him perched at the parody news report on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
But joining Seth Meyers at the "Weekend Update" anchor desk, the popular "Sesame Street" character declined to comment on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's vow to cut federal funding for PBS.
Explaining why, Big Bird said he didn't want to "ruffle any feathers."
He told Meyers how he had learned of being mentioned in Wednesday's debate. He said he'd gotten "a million tweets." From real birds, that is.
Since then, he said he was feeling very famous, standing tall above every other 8-foot talking bird.
In closing, Big Bird shared a joke befitting his childish sense of humor.
Question: Who like debates?
-- From news service reports