Common Ground: Who Won O’Reilly-Stewart Debate Over Rapper?

by | May 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Cable News, TV News

Jon Stewart on 'The O'Reilly Factor' (Photo: Fox News)

Jon Stewart on 'The O'Reilly Factor' (Photo: Fox News)

The hyped-up debate Monday between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart (well, we waited through the entire weekend anyway) was more jocular than heated as both men made their opinions known on the subject of Common and the rapper’s recent invitation to recite poetry at the White House.

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly:


To his credit, Stewart managed to maintain an attitude of bemusement throughout the “debate” with O’Reilly on Monday night’s edition of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel. Not that Stewart beat around the bush – he didn’t, and neither did O’Reilly, who nevertheless also maintained civility throughout.

The issue had to do with Common expressing support for two people convicted of killing police officers. Apparently, the rapper/poet doesn’t think their convictions were just and he has been outspoken about that. On that basis, last week O’Reilly and other FNC personalities criticized the White House (specifically First Lady Michelle Obama) for inviting Common to the White House to participate in a poetry slam. The FNC’ers felt the invitation sent “the wrong message.”


Stewart then took FNC to task on “The Daily Show” – comedically, of course – for its fixation on the topic, after which O’Reilly “challenged” Stewart to come on his show to debate the issue. No doubt sensing an opportunity to have a good time and also reap a publicity bonanza, Stewart accepted.

To us, the most notable thing about this confrontation – besides its high entertainment value – was its repeated use of the word “pettifog,” a word you don’t hear everyday on TV. According to our dictionary, a pettifogger is a person who “quibbles over trifles.”

O’Reilly used the word first. “You’re pettifogging the issue,” he said to Stewart, when the comedian brought up other music stars who have written songs sympathetic to people convicted of murder. These included Bono, whose U2 song “Native Son” is about Leonard Peltier, a Native American convicted of killing two federal agents in a shootout in 1975; and Bob Dylan, whose song “Hurricane” was about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. (Carter’s conviction was eventually overturned; Peltier is serving life in prison.) Bono and Bob Dylan, of course, have appeared at White House functions.

“Why are you drawing the line at Common?” Stewart asked. “There is a selective outrage machine here at Fox,” he complained, “that pettifogs only when it suits the narrative.”

To which O’Reilly countered: “So you say that because Bono, [Bruce] Springsteen [who Stewart also mentioned] and Bob Dylan wrote songs defending people who were accused of heinous things, I have to give Common a pass?”

“No, you have to be consistent with your outrage,” Stewart fired back.

Who won this clash of titans? O’Reilly asked his viewers to weigh in with their votes – which presumably will be tallied and revealed on his show Tuesday night.

So, who won? You can reach your own conclusion by watching the rest of the debate here:


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