Obama defends against GOP criticism in testy interview
February 2nd, 2014
06:21 PM ET
8 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. Marie MD

    Oreilly is a first class jerk.
    These fools just can't let go of Benghazi or the IRS non issues.
    Even randy from KY is living in the past. . . . Lewinsky? Really?

    February 2, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. jpmichigan

    More spin from an expert. Mr. Obama is unable to get out of the community organizer profession, which is one of spinning a story to make one look good and at the same time making you believe it is what you want to hear or need to hear, although it is far from reality. Truth , the whole truth is not on this Presidents agenda . But , as always eventually the truth comes out , in a book by someone.

    February 2, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Now you know why we refer to O'Reilly as "Billo the Clown."

    February 2, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    If the President was stupid enough to be interviewed by O'Reilley, he deserved whatever he got.

    February 2, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    Billo's head is in the wrong place. How does he breath?

    February 2, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  6. simplyput

    Sebelius is still in office because, as Warren Buffet said on Piers Morgan's show, "she's my friend."
    As for blaming conservative news people for reporting his lies, too bad. Totally to be expected from the redistributor in chief.

    February 2, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  7. landon

    Touchdown Mr. President!

    February 2, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  8. bill

    Testy interview? obama didn"t answer one question.

    February 2, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  9. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Why did the President allow himself to be interviewed by this lying sociopath?

    February 2, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  10. BeenThereDoneThat

    Many politicians, media figures, & other American citizens are outgunned by Obama's STEEL BACKBONE and KAHUNAS GRANDE!

    February 2, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  11. JJ King

    What a joke!!! This man has no shame. How can a man lie that much and still look at himself in the morning and feel good about himself.

    February 2, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. Nwahs

    Totally unproductive, typical stuck on stupid to advancement of ideas for the betterment of the country....Thanks bill for the professionalism

    February 2, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  13. plain and simple

    It was after all the President of the United States Mr O'Reilly was interviewing. You know the man who holds the worlds most powerful position. The man who has been President voted into office TWICE! Yes I think talking with a television talking head is well within his capacity!!!

    February 2, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. Dan

    Won't anyone support the President?

    February 2, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  15. BeenThereDoneThat

    Watch out, Bill O'Reilly! You spoke kindly of Obama's good heart. Your walking papers from Fox are on their way! 🙂

    February 2, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  16. nintex

    Good for you, President Obama. Don't let those idiots get to you. We all (well, we sane people ) know that you are doing the best job possible, trying to move the country forward while dragging the teaparty around like a chain around your ankle. I hope a lot of tea people saw the interview and heard your answers to their constant effort to make mountains out of molehills. Looking forward to a lot fewer tea politicians come November.

    February 2, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  17. Smitty

    When is Bammy lying ??? Ans: When his lips are moving. The BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR didn't answer one question. What a total embarrassment this dude is.

    February 2, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  18. Dan

    I am not an ideologue.
    I do not lie.
    What was that question again?

    February 2, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  19. Harold Read

    What were they thinking letting Fox interview Obama?!
    Obama needs slow-pitched softball prepared questions or he will look bad.

    February 2, 2014 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  20. Are you kidding me?

    The republicans are like the broncos. They choke when they have the chance to do something real. The case here is that they think obstruction is a way to win. Not the case – bipartisanship and treatment of people equally will get the score.
    Do not get dragged down by hateful rhetoric and ideologies pushed by special interests. Time to take ownership and lead – no
    More excuses.

    February 2, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  21. Thomas

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

    What dose that mean ?

    February 2, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  22. freedom

    Incompetent leader. Totally revealed. We know the truth. O'Reilly was professional. Obama lied – again.

    February 2, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  23. ProudDem

    Sad...just went down checking off the right wing conspiracy check boxes one by one. About what I expected

    February 3, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. J.V.Hodgson

    Gosh O'reilly must be really struggling to keep his program relevant even to His viewer base, three topics that are dead as dodo's for the vast majority of voters at this time including many republicans I talk to who want more relevant coherent Conservative poilicies. My closest republican friend says to me enough already, do something policy wise that's meaningful for Jobs Unemployment and the economy, then he can listen to immigration reform.

    February 3, 2014 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  25. daj

    You know, being a Democrat, I think that Bill's questions were fair. However, if this had been a Republican President and liberal reporter (or even a professional reporter, just not an entertainer like Bill), his interruptions of the president would be disrespectful. I think Bill was put there to antagonize the president, not interview him. I don't find this entertainment, and it only weakens the U.S leadership. I am glad Obama did not bite on any of the interruptions and maintained his cool.

    And Fox News wonders why they don't get any interviews from the president.

    February 3, 2014 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
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