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News shocker! O'Reilly gets Obama tip, decides to verify first!

February 20, 2008 |  6:04 pm

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What in the world is going on in talk radio when someone wants to make an unverified slur on the air and the host, the notorious confrontational and not very shy Bill O'Reilly, won't let them say it until he checks out the details?

Is some kind of irresponsible responsibility creeping into the nation's chattering airwaves in an emotional election year? Has something called fairness reared its ugly head in a world usually bereft of nuance?

It all has to do with what Michelle Obama said or didn't say about being proud of her country earlier this week. What she said at a Monday rally was, "For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country." The "really" part got dropped in some versions, which changes the meaning considerably and allowed all kinds of people who don't like her anyway an opening to criticize her and, by extension, her husband, the presidential candidate who's annoying some people by pulling ahead in the Democratic delegate race.

But who cares about individual words at a time of intense political passion? Well, it looks like O'Reilly does. And so, as it happens, do we.

Much of the current online attention to this incident on his....

Tuesday show has focused on O'Reilly, who is also disliked by many for his success, and on his bold use of the word "lynching" in regards to a black woman, as in, "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels."

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What's even more interesting, however, are the O'Reilly words that came after that. This caller, O'Reilly referred to her as Maryanne from Woodbury, Conn., said she has a friend who allegedly had direct knowledge of Michelle Obama who reportedly called Obama "very angry" and a "militant woman" and...

But O'Reilly cut her off. No, really. He wouldn't let her continue. And this is what he said: "I want you to stay on the line. ... Because it's not fair to Michelle Obama for you ... because we don't know who you are, and we don't know who your friend is, but we want to know. We want to know, OK.

"But it's not fair at this point for you to say, 'My friend said X and Y,' because we just don't know. But if you would give us your information, we would like to talk to your friend. And then whatever your friend tells us, we'll track it down. We'll do it in a fair and balanced and methodical way."

Later O'Reilly added, "If indeed Michelle Obama is angry about something, if she has a history, we would like to know that, and then we can put it into some kind of context so that we can be fair to everybody."

But then, get this, the czar of no-spin added: "You know, I have a lot of sympathy for Michelle Obama, for Bill Clinton, for all of these people. Bill Clinton, I have sympathy for him, because they're thrown into a hopper where everybody is waiting for them to make a mistake, so that they can just go and bludgeon them.

"And, you know, Bill Clinton and I don't agree on a lot of things, and I think I've made that clear over the years, but he's trying to stick up for his wife, and every time the guy turns around, there's another demagogue or another ideologue in his face trying to humiliate him because they're rooting for Obama.

"That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."

Stay tuned, it seems. But the question right now is, whose medicine is O'Reilly taking these days? Next thing you know in this topsy-turvy political world, Rush Limbaugh will be threatening not to endorse the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photos: Gino Domenico / Associated Press and Scott Olson / Getty Images

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