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. General MacArthur

    12 minutes of not answering direct questions is typical of this administration. And blaming Fox News for his failures is also his m.o.

    February 3, 2014 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. Bologna

    I'm just very surprized the President wasn't able to turn the angle of those questions to be O'Reilly's fault! Anybody but his.

    February 3, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. DVA

    O'Reilly cannot reach the intellect of the President. Perhaps the President should not stoop to even honor (luffa-man)
    O'Reilly with an interview.

    February 3, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  4. AlbaMN

    I did not see the interview, but it sounds like the prez held his own against the muckraker.

    February 3, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  5. uncommon sense

    The gop conveniently forgets to tell people" progressive" groups were given even more scrutiny, forgot, just forgot.

    February 3, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. Why

    Why go to the lion's mouth Obama? There is nothing at Fox for you. That is the voice of the conservative GOP nut jobs.

    February 3, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. Gate106

    This interview had no place where it was televised. On a day where the country is gathering for Super Bowl pre game festivities , entertainment and the game itself, there is no room for political theater, which Fox News shoved down our throats. Fox News and Republicans have proven again that their agenda is to attack and attack irregardless of what they say, how they say it, where they say it and who is watching. Bill O Reilly has proven yet again that he is a member of the scum of the earth with absolutely no respect for the "office of the presidency". I am totally upset with Mr OReilly , Fox News and the Republican Party for its ongoing shenanigans. Oh yeah, and I am a Republican

    February 3, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  8. uncommon sense

    Just like all the "scandals", they present only evidence that supports their case, now that's looking for the truth. Issa refused to allow any testimony that didn't support his side, fair and balanced, all the way.

    February 3, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  9. Ron L.

    What the President was attempting to point out is many of the "issues" or "conspiracies" that the Fox news channel continually brings up has been investigated for over six months. The investigations have shown no substantial proof of any abuse of power or outright negligence on the part of the President or his administration. And yet the Fox news channels continues to talk about it almost daily. When most people hear something almost daily from a source they trust they tend to believe it true. It would be the same if CNN picked a storyline (any storyline) and decided to discuss it daily 3 – 4 times a day. A certain percentage will believe it regardless if it was true or false.
    One thing I agree with Bill O'Reilly 100% is Katherine Sibelius should have been fired as soon as the website was straightened out. There is NO excuse she still has the job and it shows a weakness in the Presidents managerial skills. When you have an employee being presented as the point person for the most important legislative act in the last 30+ years and they do not give it the proper attention to ensure a smooth launch, they should lose their job, plain and simple.

    February 3, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  10. VVVVV

    "Later, it was revealed the word “progressive” also singled groups out for extra screening."

    Yea... and CNN runs conservative commentary sometime, but was there more one way than another. Hard to tell with how politicized the news is. Though I admit I haven't researched this topic much.

    February 3, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  11. srcactus

    "Obama pointed out during the session that multiple congressional hearings on the topics over the past year have failed to turn up anything."
    Who missed the point that witnesses didn't show up or pleaded the 5th at those hearings or that the hearings are not yet complete and couldn't or didn't reach a conclusion?
    swipe the facts aside and continue the fairy tale.

    February 3, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  12. Gurgyl

    I think this fox is gone to dead, no one is giving them money. I don't give darn hoot to Benghazi, nor Libya. I bet fox is being bribed insurance thugs. Let me ask, Fox, why didn't you work for passage of Healthcare, you know nation needs healthcare law where Medicare fraud is rampant, hospital overcharge, pharmacy companies loot. We're you part of the fraud? Common, stop being racist, no one is interested in your color in a large democracy on earth. God bless you, Obama., USA.

    February 3, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Why would the President give O'Reilly an interview?

    Why not? Contrary to what the children bloggers are expressing, there is no controversy resulting from the interview.

    February 3, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Why would the President give O'Reilly an interview? If he has to give an interview, give it to a neutral reporter.
    I agree with you.

    February 3, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    (Didn't finish my last post. Pardon)
    ...But I do respect how our President has the cojones to go into the lion's den and face them down.

    February 3, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. Joi Gibson

    I still think Bill O'Reilly is a jerk. Ask your questions, but do not be rude and arrogant about it. When you ask a question, it is customary to let the person answer. Granted, the president can be long winded, but he is an attorney and it is just how they are – believe me, I work for one. Once again, Bill O'Reilly continuously interrupted the president. That interview was more for Foxbots than the general population so Bill O' can go back on his show and say ha, I really gave it to the president. I hope next year's Super Bowl is on a different network so the president can be interviewed by a real journalist and not a opinionator.


    February 3, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  17. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    The fox GOP scumbags have no respect for our freely elected president. These GOP losers will get a big suprize in November when they LOSE the house AND seats in the senate and lose power for good. The GOP obstruction and incompetents is going to cost them ANOTHER national election!!! Make sure you register to vote so we can get rid of the GOP garbage and sewage of America!!!!

    February 3, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Wake up People!

    The GOP has gone above and beyond disrespecting the office of POTUS since 2009. This was the Super Bowl, not the political bowl. This was not the time or the place for politics. And had this been a republican POTUS and some station other than FOX had tried this, they would be vilified.

    Once again the GOP shows, you can pay for school but you can't buy class....

    February 3, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. Tony

    O'Reilly was on offense, and Obama was on defense. Just like the game itself, defense won.

    February 3, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  20. Sniffit

    "Why would the President give O'Reilly an interview?"


    February 3, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  21. uncommon sense

    The president showed us why he is our leader, bill looked in his usual form, arrogant. All the money and effort ( funded by our tax dollars) put into trying to damage our country, just to try to win an election. They will do anything but change to the times, why do you vote for these clowns.

    February 3, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  22. uncommon sense

    I was forced to see my prejudice when Obama was elected. I see the things the gop says, and hear what they say. I realized that everything they were/ are saying is a lie, and how much they hate, and how protect the rich, while trying to impoverish those without money. I'm so glad, now its very hard yo deny they depend on your hate, and fear to win you over, or keep your loyalty. I feel I have a much cleaner soul, I simply don't have what it takes, too old, seen to much hate, and its very ugly. Don't want to be like that, where do they get the energy, hate is such a self destructive emotion, let it go.

    February 3, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Daniel bosh

    The constant stupidity of his supporters is amazing ,how can you blame a news channel on all your problems ,all the anti obamas didn't like his direction from the beginning they didn't need fox,well they did a little to get out the scandals ,we would have never known of all his past and the lies he covers up.What a fraud.

    February 3, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. scrappy

    Deflect, lie, blame.. deflect lie blame..must be nice to be king

    February 3, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. RC

    Sidestepping issues again

    February 3, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
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