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About (Late) Last Night: Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart debate Common's visit to White House [Video]

May 17, 2011 |  9:20 am


Last week, Bill O'Reilly challenged "Daily Show" host to a debate on the recent controversy surrounding rapper Common's invitation to join the White House poetry slam. Last night, Stewart took him up on the offer and sat for a lengthy and mostly civilized discussion of the issue.

O'Reilly insisted that Common should be disqualified from visiting the White House because he once wrote a song about Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted in the killing of a New Jersey police officer in the 1970s. Only artists who are truly "unimpeachable" should be bestowed with the honor of a White House invitation, which may be considered by some a rather high bar.

Stewart, meanwhile, insisted that the Fox News "selective outrage machine" had manufactured a fake controversy. O'Reilly and his cohorts had failed to make a crucial distinction: Just because Common believes that Shakur was unjustly convicted does not mean that he approves of killing police officers. More to the point, Common is not the first artist to have written a song about a convicted criminal to receive a White House invitation.

"You may think he's ignorant for believing that Assata Shakur is innocent, for believing that Mumia [Abu-Jamal] is," Stewart said. "But then guess what? Bono can't go to the White House, Springsteen can't go to the White House, Bob Dylan can't go to the White House. You've got a lot of people that can't sit in the White House because they've written songs about people convicted of murder."

So who do you think won the debate?


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-- Meredith Blake