"I’m like a shot a Levittown right in your ass, like a B-12—boom!"
Those were Jon Stewart’s last words to Bill O’Reilly in his guest appearance on Monday night’s "O’Reilly Factor," in a virtuoso duel where comedy eviscerated farce.
The two highly rated cable stars squared off over one of the more inane controversies in a political season full of inane controversies—whether the White House was wrong to invite the socially conscious rapper Common to perform at a poetry slam. If you haven’t heard:
Basically, (some) conservatives said Common’s music was vile because he questioned murder convictions and police authority. Also, he has been seen R.W.B—rapping while black. Then, Liberals (and fact-checkers) retorted that Common is a conscious and even cuddly musician, with credentials that include recording a pro-life duet with Lauryn Hill and starring in Tina Fey’s last movie. Plus, GOP administrations have hosted edgier musicians who have also questioned murder convictions and police authority.
So when O’Reilly doubled down on his hypocritical case and challenged Stewart to come debate the nontroversy, it was a no-brainer.
In two short segments, O’Reilly walked through his case, responded to factual charges of hypocrisy with some fairly sad parsing and then, when desperate, with rank "pettifogging," to use a term bandied by both men. Meanwhile, the "Daily Show" anchor’s rebuttals were striking because, even in this casual mode on a minor item, he was more persuasive than the vast majority of people who are called on to represent a progressive view on TV.
Stewart really seized control of the terms of debate near the end of the first segment, when he asked whether O’Reilly would revoke Bono’s White House guest pass, issued by several administrations, because of his song about Leonard Peltier. "It’s the exact same thing: A guy convicted of killing a law enforcement official, no?" asked Stewart, adding "Boo-yah!" to emphasize the point. (He salted his rhetoric with rap slang throughout the debate.) And that’s when O’Reilly started to melt. "Did Bono, did he actually come out and say that [Peltier] was innocent?" O’Reilly asked, groping for a distinction. "No, I think he was raising questions about it," O’Reilly offered. "Now who’s pettifogging?," Stewart countered, "I can’t even see you, through your pettifog!"
Stewart closed with a critique that is familiar to Fox’s critics, but may be worthwhile for O’Reilly’s audience to hear directly, noting that Fox operates a "selective outrage machine" that kicks into gear "only when it suits the narrative that suits them."
Both interview segments are below: