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. DrMerica

    Cry me a river foxnews

    February 3, 2014 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  2. bassman

    Pres. Obama's acknowledgement that only Fox is asking the tough questions is an embarrassment for the rest of our media. Pres. Obama is pretty thin-skinned. Our Manhattan media should be embarrassed. Pres. Obama admitted that Fox is asking the tough questions, and that bothers him. Mr. Obama did not single out one other news outlet.

    February 3, 2014 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  3. Wake up People!

    So no football questions just the same old tired ish. Actually it was reported in the beginning that progressive groups were targeted by the IRS too. However with this new journalism, where they only report what they want to, the entire MSM ignored that part. Why? Because it didn't fit their faux victim narrative.

    Once again the GOP show the POTUS no respect.

    February 3, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  4. Anonymous

    So, just more lies on Obama's part. How dare O'Riley ask questions the dictator doesn't want to talk about. Those that put him on the spot, anger him.
    And once again, Obama plays the blame game. Fox's fault? LOL
    Obama is getting more and more irrevelant.

    February 3, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  5. Bigdoglv

    All my problems are because of Fox News since I can't blame Bush anymore.

    February 3, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |

    O’Reilly will be called a RINO . He said that President Obama had a heart.

    February 3, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. Just

    The lib blame Fox News again.

    February 3, 2014 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  8. lol at the gop

    faux news enough said

    February 3, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  9. Desel

    It is amazing that Fox News wants to continue to talk about phony Obama Administration scandals but, Fox News has very little to say about Chris Christie and his problems. FAIR AND BALANCED, YEAH, RIGHT.

    February 3, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  10. smith

    I guess it has changed from blaming Bush to blaming Fox. If Hil-dogg wins I wonder if she`ll blame Obama.

    February 3, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  11. twiz1

    Fired...someone get fired? Like accountability? Never happen. Look at all of the massive financial scandals that wen on right under the SEC's noses and yet no one at the SEC get fired. Why in the world would someone in the IRS get fired for either not doing their job or selectively doing their job? Heck one could argue that it woudn't be fair to fire Kathleen Sebelius...now I don't know that she should have been promoted for it...unless that was the deal she cut to do what she did. That of course is a whole different problem.

    February 3, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  12. Dark poet

    Nice how he ADMITTED only 3 million signed up for the AHCA during this interview when less than a week ago he said 9 million!

    Also... like how he side stepped Benghazi... he didn't say what HE was doing but what everyone else was!

    Finally, he admitted he regreted people losing their health care!

    But outside all of those I think he held his own. If Bill was a little bit craftier he could of gotten some damaging information out of him.

    February 3, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  13. Gary

    Mommy will Fox-Non-News ... when can that go off the air? When there's no more Republican or Tea Party dear

    February 3, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  14. Arr

    Disgraceful. Fox stoops to new low.

    February 3, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

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

    Obama, smiling, said he enjoyed it.
    I liked how the President did not hesitate to say that the non-trovesies were being fanned and kept alive by the likes of Hannity and his spew network; yet I also appreciated them both closing the segment civilly.

    February 3, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Just another GOP witch hunt. As Sniffit will call them: NONTROVERSIES

    February 3, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  17. Andy

    It was fun to watch the liar in chief continue his lies

    February 3, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  18. Larry

    I wonder if there is anything happening in this country more important than Bengazi or the IRS fake scandals – let's ask the GOP? Anything. Food stamps, unemployment benefits, social security, medicare, ACA, income inequality, pollution, anything?

    February 3, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  19. Mik

    That it was an excellent interview. Cudos to O'Reilly and Mr. president.

    February 3, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. Sifleut

    There were 11 Embassy attacks during the Bush Administration that took the lives of 61 people and no one questioned it. Benghazi is currently the only embassy attack during this administration and we have this clown show from the right.

    February 3, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  21. carre1

    Why would the President give O'Reilly an interview? If he has to give an interview, give it to a neutral reporter. The President should have let Chris Christie keep all the headlines for himself for a while. What did the President get out of an interview with tv's most arrogant man?

    February 3, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  22. scranton

    Well as Hillary said "Fox News is Fair and Balanced".............Obama on the other hand is the king of finger pointing.

    February 3, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  23. Thinkergal

    I have a high opinion of the pres. O'Reilly, not so much. Fox Noise, in the toilet.

    February 3, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  24. Wow

    Great interview...at least SOMEONE is trying to hold Obama to the truth....Sebelius SHOULD be fired!!!
    CNN you guys might want to take note since your credibility ratings are just a hair better than Comedy Central!!!

    February 3, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  25. Zachary Roberts

    I thought POTUS did well in the interview considering O'Reilly was obviously out to make him look bad and grab soundbites that FOX news can use to falsely portray everything the President says or does.

    February 3, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
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