Obama defends against GOP criticism in testy interview
February 2nd, 2014
06:21 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama defends against GOP criticism in testy interview

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama’s annual pre-Super Bowl television interview Sunday turned into a showdown with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who quizzed the president on the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the targeting scandal involving the IRS – both topics that Republicans frequently use to criticize Obama.

The live interview, aired during the Fox Broadcast Network’s pregame coverage, kicked off with a question on the botched rollout of the federal health care website and later moved to the Benghazi and IRS questions, which some Republicans say involve administration-led cover-ups. Obama pointed out during the session that multiple congressional hearings on the topics over the past year have failed to turn up anything.

“These kinds of things keep surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them,” he said, referring to the Fox News Channel, where O’Reilly hosts a primetime hour.

The administration response to the September 2012 attack at the American diplomatic post in Benghazi - which some conservatives say was botched – was focused on getting Americans to safety, Obama said, noting that information was extremely difficult when the attack was happening. Obama said his Defense Secretary at the time, Leon Panetta, told him there was an attack, but didn't specify whether it was terrorism.

“The fact of the matter is people understood at the time that something dangerous was happening. And we were focused on making sure we were doing everything we could to protect them,” he said.

He later proclaimed there was “not a smidgen of corruption” involved in the IRS targeting case, which sprung up last spring after the agency admitted to applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. Later, it was revealed the word “progressive” also singled groups out for extra screening.

And when O’Reilly wondered why Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hadn’t been fired for her role in the HealthCare.gov website, Obama said he was focused instead on trying to make his signature legislative achievement function well.

“When we’re midstream, we want to make sure our focus is how do we make this thing work,” he said.

The interview ended with O’Reilly telling the president he thought “his heart’s in the right place.”

Obama, smiling, said he enjoyed it.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Proud Patriot

    Obama never answers direct questions! He always "blah, blah, blah" ..That's what he is good at...re: IRS, come on some of these groups STILL have not been approved! And I, for one, will never let people forget how Obama/Hillary/Rice lied to us about Benghazi ==all for political gain! This president will go down in history as the biggest lair - never forget "If you like it you can keep it" or "What difference does it make"

    February 3, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. Stuffitu

    The big news here is that he has stopped blaming Bush, it is now Fox News. The same person that told is we could keep our plans, doctors and that we would save $2500 with Obozocare is now telling us he could not find any corruption in the IRS harassment of the Tea Party. Thus spake the most corrupt president in the history of this country. Blame the only media outlet that doesn't have its rounded in his ear.

    February 3, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. IA

    Sad Mr. President. And even sadder.....the people that support you. Take off the blinders .

    February 3, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. Michael

    I'm a doctor and a Republican that used to support other Republicans until they stopped acting like Republicans. Get your acts together! Obviously, this president is not the biggest liar in history. Stop acting like children and start talking about domestic policy that can help change America for the better. Nobody likes a hater.

    February 3, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. IA

    Oreilly asked straight forward, legitimate questions....and look at the answers he didn't get. And you libs support the President which makes you look as inept as he has proven to be.

    February 3, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. Meadeoh

    Bill O'Riley speaks for the 25% of America that watches Fox News and believes what they see and hear while watching. This is the America motivated by fear. They cannot get past the change that is happening in this country; a younger, browner, 'gayer' America is now mainstream; overtaking the gun loving, immigrant fearing, tax hating white minority. The 'biggest lie' is that Fox News and Bill O'Riley represents the 'real America'. That real America went away ten years ago. I'm white, over 50 and I vote.

    February 3, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Doc

    Our President did a great job during his interview with Mr. O'Reilly yesterday. Now, it's time for the GOP to "turn on" Mr. O'Reilly (Like they did on Justice Roberts) for saying "You're heart is in the right place", thus acknowledging he is NOT trying to destroy our country like so many Tea Party members insist on spewing. The President conducted himself with his typical class and dealt with the rudeness of O'Reilly with his usual grace and humility!! Best President our country ever elected!! TWICE!!

    February 3, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. Gurgyl

    Do you believe Fox excrete? Nonsense. Where were they when WMD was not found? Fox needs to be uprooted. I don't care Benghazi. Just rich politics, you believe? They want to ruin with corporate greed.

    February 3, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Mike

    So it's ok to be disrespectful to the commander in chief because you don't share the same political views? Shameful, just shameful.
    Republicans are claiming he didn't answer any of the questions – but they secretly know that he did, and did quite well. No amount of hyperbole can cover that up. Obama is a competent, intelligent president that is doing a pretty good job, despite all of the continuous attacks and manufactured scandals.

    February 3, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. iski

    America motivated by fear?, best president we have ever had?a president with humility?

    I truly know now way our founders were very afraid of the uneducated voter. Leadership does not come from the hole in the center of ones face speaking soft,sweet nothings but in doing what is needed in a forum one was placed in. This guy obama is the most inept, void of leadership skills, lying as policy, so called leader in my short history of politics.

    His leadership techniques(rules of the radical) defame opposition, distract,blame, throw some candy for the masses and rely on the short memories of the masses.

    Oh for humility this guy has not one humble bone in his body, Anyone using that definition of obama has got no sense of common sense. His lust of power is the principal element in his character.

    February 3, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. iski

    Gurgle you have learned well comrade.

    February 3, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. Bashir

    Always people on power become liars at the end bangazi issue is tricky so His excellency the present dont dare make bad end

    February 3, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. g

    the profit over people party failed again

    February 3, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Gurgle you have learned well comrade.

    Comrade? Lawlessness? Dictator? Republican talking points directed against a sitting President of the United States of America. It is YOU who have learned well. Yes, these are the points coming from the Fox News crowd. For shame CNN spends its entire day embracing these people.

    February 3, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. vet in tx

    I laugh at the short memory that people have of the previous administration, without acknowledging their incompetence, lies, and cronyism, you can't be taken serious with your argument because you are choosing to overlook key facts that come out during the investigations. If Obama is a liar, then what was W? What was HW, and what was Reagan. If you can't remember their lies and how it impacted the country then you are definitely in denial or reality. Just admit, you don't do your own research before you come to a conclusion.

    February 3, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. TONE

    If this President was white a lot of you on here will not call him, these names liar of the year just shows the hatred a lot of you have for this President, and the GOP cannot tell the truth don't matter how hard they try they lie so much that they themselves think it's the truth.The racism that raised it's ugly head since this blackman became President is worst than the 1950s.

    February 3, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. Annie

    I tuned in to the pre-game show of the SUPERBOWL only to find that Fox took up MY time with POLITICS!!... Why is that? Why are all of you not outraged at THAT? Did you REALLY want to hear more political posturing? Do you not get enough of it all week long? Fox accomplished exactly what they hoped for? $$'S!!.. Fox, as well as Cnn, and Msnbc are money making machines because they encourage conflict, and bias and drama.. O'reilly makes approx. $17 MILLION a year by getting those of you who buy in to HIS bias all riled up (CNN and MSNBC do the same)... your blogs just proved that.. The fact that " I " am writing this proves that. There is tremendous power in the media to make you REACT to THEIR agenda! Why don't we take back our OWN power to THINK and REASON on our OWN and do more of what I did after seeing just one minute of this crap... CHANGE THE CHANNEL!!

    February 3, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. El Cucuy

    Lemme guess, the opinions go right down party lines. Blah blah blah bunch of sheep, make up your own opinion on something for once, using a little free thought.

    February 3, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  19. Wake up People!

    I agree Tone. And that is because in the 50's, we still knew our place. And if we dared step out of our place, the punishment could be death and no one would be held accountable.

    February 3, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Harry Kuheim

    Were you expecting the modern day Che Guevarra/Valdimere Lenin to suddenly smack his forehead and say, "Boy, you're right... I was so mistaken"!

    February 3, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Wake up People!

    I would still like to know why this interview wasn't about football or the Super Bowl?? Once again the pitiful GOP show that combined, they don't have the class the POTUS has in his pinky toe.

    This was NOT the venue for politics, period.

    February 3, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  22. v

    above comments sound like the company employees for FOX. Please O'Reilly and above fox supporters GET A LIFE. How many times can you say and spell no. O'Reilly claims "exclusive interview" with same old news, yeah right. He's getting old and the story is old....hello

    February 3, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. v

    ps: as with the rest of the above complaints!

    February 3, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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