October 6th, 2012
11:03 PM ET
10 years ago

O’Reilly, Stewart ‘Rumble’ no average debate

Washington (CNN) – Saturday’s debate between conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly and liberal funnyman Jon Stewart was nothing like the televised presidential debates: After all, the prize for winning was a wrestling belt.

But nonetheless, the two television personalities stood behind lecterns and took their chances at questions from the moderator and audience.

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“What do you think is the most fundamental problem with the public political discourse?” the moderator asked.

“Stewart,” O’Reilly snapped back.

Between their laughs and shenanigans, references to Big Bird and Clint Eastwood, O’Reilly and Stewart fit in something besides talking points.

“Honestly, I think we’ve lost our ability to problem-solve. We’re having the wrong conversation in this country,” Stewart said in response to the discourse question. “The conversation we’re having in this country is about a fundamental clash of civilizations when I think we have basically agreed that we’re a social democracy. Whether you want to get around it or not, this isn’t a conversation between freedom and tyranny and capitalism and socialism.”

O'Reilly followed, “The problem with the discourse deal is capitalism.”

“You can make a lot of money by being an assassin,” he said. “It doesn’t matter: right wing or left wing. You go in and you’re a hater – radio, cable, in print, whatever – you can get paid. And there’s a people who do that. And they go in, they don’t even believe half the stuff they say. … Capitalism drives that. There are people - Americans - who want to hear hate.”

He noted that “we have to live with it, freedom of speech.”

O’Reilly, who hosts “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, and Stewart, who hosts “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, are natural sparring partners based on their ideology and have faced off before on each other’s shows.

But on Saturday, they took their differences onstage in what they billed as “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” at Washington’s George Washington University. Former Fox News host E.D. Hill moderated the discussion, though at times O’Reilly and Stewart largely cast her aside, dominating the show with their back and forth.

Stewart accused his rival of living on “b--- mountain,” which he described as a conservative alternate reality where “our problems [are] amplified and our solutions simplified, and that’s why they won’t work.

“We face a debt crisis that we’ve never faced before. We are merely weeks from being a failed state or even worse, Greece,” Stewart continued. “And the way to solve it is to kill Big Bird.”

O’Reilly criticized Stewart for skirting the issues, and criticized President Barack Obama for feeding an “entitlement society.”

“This is not how the Founding Fathers envisioned us,” he said.

“We have a president here who believe in social justice, he wants to take your money, my money, the money of the 1%, and he wants to give it to Bill Moyers,” O’Reilly continued, questioning why federal funds were going to causes such as PBS.

The two speckled the show with references to moments from recent political discourse, such as Big Bird – another PBS reference which GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised at Wednesday’s presidential debate - and movie star Clint Eastwood, who took the stage at the Republican National Convention earlier this summer.

Their jousting topics ranged from health care to entitlement spending; from Christmas to government counting of calories.

The solutions ranged from conventional to unconventional, such as O’Reilly’s suggestion that Obama should send a stronger signal to Iran, one of Israel’s foes, by aligning himself closer with the Israeli prime minister.

“All Barack Obama has to do is go on a double date with Bibi, with Netanyahu,” O’Reilly said. “Just double date with him, go anywhere with him, that sends a little message to Tehran: They might be making up some stuff.”

And the two used their newly developed debating experience to offer Obama and Romney something for their next debates: Do away with the town hall meeting style, and go at it over the issues.

“I would rather have them like Stewart and me, right up here,” O’Reilly suggested, to applause. “That’s how to do it.”

And in a moment of agreement, Stewart went along with the idea. “Yeah, fine.”

Filed under: 2012 • Fox News • Jon Stewart
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Rick

    There is considerable talk about how our country is at a point where it is the most divided its ever been. I don't understand how this is a surprise to anyone. I've been listening to right wing talk radio and Fox for almost 2 decades and this is exactly how they thrive. I've come to the conclusion that there is simply a percentage of the population that exist in a political "bloodlust" mode that need to be told they are right and that "they" are wrong, repeatedly . Many commentators on the right make 10's of millions for themselves by doing just that. This is the first Democratic president we've had with a Fox News and right wing talk radio that is firing on all cylinders, and it certainly shows. The atmosphere is poisoned with an "we VS them" mentality, a "patriots" vs "people who hate the country" or "liberals" as the word has so been effectively demonized. Until people turn away from the "tell me what I want to hear because it makes me feel good" television and news propaganda, this country will never return to an even keel of political discourse.

    October 7, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  2. J

    lol...no difference between these two parties...

    October 7, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  3. RonDonaghe

    It's interesting that the Republican candidate and Stewart and O'Reilly chose PBS to talk about funding or defunding as an iconic reference to government funded programs. Federal funding of PBS is only 12 percent of PBS's overall budget, approximately 281m, and yet just one copy of the P-8A Poseidon, Boeing's spruced-up military version of its 737 jet costs 290m. And even while most people might agree that we have to be the strongest military might on earth, many in the Pentagon say we don't need much of the military high-tech, high-cost jets that the government spends on them. And yes, the military purchases help Boeing and other companies hire thousands of employees. But my question is why do conservatives resent government-funded domestic programs that often enable people to pull themselves up and become educated to enter the work force and say it is a drain on our budget, while they see nothing wrong with funding military programs and weapon systems that military leaders say we don't need? In fact, Defense takes up 20 percent of the federal budget; whereas education takes up 2%; further out of the general fund where our social security revenue goes, the military gets additional, monies that don't show up as part of the defense budget.

    October 7, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  4. Thomas

    O’Reilly criticized Stewart for skirting the issues, and criticized President Barack Obama for feeding an “entitlement society.”

    O’Reilly only beleives in entitlements when it comes to sexual harassment, how much did he pay in his settlement ?

    October 7, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |

    It is only Obama to let the liberal and media govern the country!

    October 7, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  6. Jeff

    Romney proved he is a better debater....by far.

    October 7, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  7. bobster26

    We the people should have you two guys host the Debates. Criss Cross questions to each canidate about Health Insurance, probably the single most important problem facing this country. (1) People's Health (2) A worker's take home pay: No money Injected into the economy! Slow down purches's for a buisness. (3)Insurance Premiums, The most important Reason; People just can't afford it ( INSURANCE COST SKY ROCKETING) ! Smart and Skilled worker's want to work for good companies that pay benifits and companies can't afford to hire them.

    October 7, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  8. Ed

    This was an awesome debate. And if I may point out – Stewart and O'Reiley are polar opposites when it comes to their principles, yet they had a 90-minute discourse without any hatred for one another.

    October 7, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  9. Tommy Mack

    Not a fan of O'Reilly and his demagoguery, but when he and Stewart get together, he changes into a human being that talks TO someone, will LISTEN, and actually has a sense of humor.

    This debate is something we should all learn from.

    October 7, 2012 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  10. PinwheelHater

    Nobodys gonna pay $4 to download a cheezy debate between Stewart and O'reilly.

    October 7, 2012 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
  11. freddie nerk

    These two clowns are simple entertainers-their views are no more valid than anyone on the street. CNN is really struggling for stories.

    October 7, 2012 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  12. jp

    It would be nice to hear them just debate skip the format and just go back and forth over the issues

    October 7, 2012 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  13. Hollywood

    A better debate than the real one. At least i had a good laugh.

    October 7, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  14. Rob

    I watched Fox News for the first time and now I know where the devisivness of the country comes from. The plug should be pulled on these hate and war mongers now. The kkk has nothing over these clowns

    October 7, 2012 04:53 am at 4:53 am |
  15. fsjunkie

    Somehow between the two, they always agree that Jon Stewart will stop before Oreilly gets hurt. It almost feels like they've got a safety word. Lol. Once kids find out that wrestling is fake, it kinda takes something away from the lure.

    October 7, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  16. Bob

    Hands down Stewart won that debate. He is the only one that made any sense. What was up with Bill and those cards? They made no sense. I don't normally watch either one of those guys. I don't know if Stewart is normally that funny and witty, but he owned Bill on this one.

    October 7, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  17. allenwoll

    1. The Presidential Election is irrelevant - because -

    2. The Congressional Elections are ALREADY fixed - NOT necessatrily as to WHO will be elected, but rather as how ANY of them will vote in the future : They have ALL been purchased and placed on "Political Lay-Away".

    Respresentative Government has been killed - actually murdered - in our nation - Our "Reps" have been purchased by BigMoney, Accumulated Wealth, Domestic Mega-Corporations and Foreign Multi-National Corporations (Of the lattrer of which I count GenElk as one).

    Any voter who thinks that he has the LEAST significant input to government policy and actions is hallucinating to a really serious and to a quite destructive & dangerous degree for ALL of us, NOT just for him ! ! ! . It obviously just AIN'T so ! ! ! .

    KOCHs, et al have had and continue to have the reins well in hand ! ! !

    There are Tough Times ahead in order for us 94% to correct this ! ! ! - But it eventually HAS to be done ! ! !

    Curiously, I am thinking that our MILITARY will finally have to do the job ! ! ! . While presently engaged in a lapse of selfish Wrong-Think, they are in the long run real professionals (I hope that I am right) ! ! ! . We will see !

    October 7, 2012 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  18. fryuujin

    There are people – Americans – who want to hear hate.” very true. good news is enough old bitter people will die off soon and Fox will to.

    October 7, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  19. tangledthorns

    Sounds like this was hilarious, I'll check it out soon. Believe it not, Bill and Jon are close buds.

    October 7, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  20. myway

    I'm amazed by commentators invoking what our founding fathers would have wanted if alive today, mostly to avert change. Let’s see, they sanctioned slavery, limited voting rights to white male property owners, and the right to bear arms was granted because they rightfully feared a British land invasion from Canada or by their massive navy, not to mention the anti settler Native Americans. They also considered creating a monarchy. Their political views were shaped by events such as the ongoing French revolution. We all know how that ended. The biggest political problem of today: Conservative congressional members afraid of progressive change, probably representing 25% of the population at best. They couldn't be more wrong. We're not changing fast enough. That's why East Asia is giving us a run for our money, literally. We don't live in the 18th century anymore. Our nation is bi-coastal. We dominate the planet militarily. We have internet, trains, cars, airplanes, rockets and satellites. We're managing a multi cultural society better than anyone. Soon wars will be fought electronically. Instead of adapting we're bickering about old ideas and outdated attitudes.

    October 7, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  21. Kathy

    Stewart was too crass.

    October 7, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  22. Vincent

    O'Reilly followed, “The problem with the discourse deal is capitalism.”

    “You can make a lot of money by being an assassin,” he said. “It doesn’t matter: right wing or left wing. You go in and you’re a hater – radio, cable, in print, whatever – you can get paid. And there’s a people who do that. And they go in, they don’t even believe half the stuff they say. … Capitalism drives that. There are people – Americans – who want to hear hate.”

    He noted that “we have to live with it, freedom of speech.”


    This sounds like an explanation of the tactics of Fox News. O'Reilly is no fool, he knows what drives ratings for his show and thus pays his salary.
    Stewart is also an extremely well informed host.

    Its a pity this debate wasnt more widely available so you could hear some real coments about the issues.

    October 7, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  23. Jimbojoe

    And Stewart totally crushed it on substance (not just jokes)

    October 7, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  24. gdouglaso

    The good/sad thing is that it is taking this form of debate to bring us to honest terms with respect to where we need to go. We need a frank exchange of ideas and then compromises where necessary to enact them. If I am sick, I want to hear from many doctors from different backgrounds...sure I hope they all agree on a common solution, but if they do not, I do want to know that they were able to go forward with a treatment plan...not just abandon me and leave to die in the waiting room because they could not come to an agreement. Hopefully the wisdom of O'Reilly and Stewart will spill over into the "real world."

    October 7, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  25. Smokey

    If the presidential debates were on pay-per-view. would anybody watch?

    October 7, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
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