I have always been a David Letterman fan. Rooted for him, wanted to see him succeed. Still have fond memories of the old NBC days when he wore hightops with his blazers.
On the other hand, I have typically not liked Bill O'Reilly much. Have seen him as a blowhard. Have thought he thinks too highly of himself.
The proverbial shoe is now on the other foot. I read the transcript of O'Reilly's appearance on Letterman where the host was much less than gracious. Points against him. O'Reilly, on the other hand, stood up to a potentially very intimidating situation with a lot of class. Points for him.
Now, I think I like Letterman a lot less and O'Reilly quite a bit more.
Here's the transcript of most of their chat:
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW": How were your holidays, good?
O'REILLY: I had a nice winter solstice, yes.
You can't say Christmas.
LETTERMAN: You can't say Christmas?
LETTERMAN: Why is that?
O'REILLY: Because it's politically incorrect. And we did a lot of reporting on this.
LETTERMAN: I wasn't aware that you couldn't say Christmas.
LETTERMAN: When did this happen?
O'REILLY: I actually got a card from a friend of mine that said have a blessed winter.
I live in New York. You know what you can do with your blessed winter, you know what I'm talking about?
LETTERMAN: I wasn't aware this had happened.
O'REILLY: Yes, you weren't aware of the big, giant controversy over Christmas? You didn't hear that?
LETTERMAN: Well, it doesn't really affect me. I go ahead and do what I want to do. And you know - I mean, but isn't this the kind of thing where like once or twice every 20 years, somebody gets outraged and says, oh, by God, we got to put diapers on horses. Isn't it just about - is this like so what, let it go, it'll take care of itself?
O'REILLY: No. There is a movement in this country by politically correct people to erode traditions.
LETTERMAN: I don't think this is an actual threat. I think that this is something that happened here and it happened there. And so people like you are trying to make us think that it's a threat.
Memphis, Tennessee, Bible belt, library, they have a little display where you can — say you are in a duck hunting club. You can bring in a dead duck and put it there and advertise your duck hunting club.
There was a church that wanted to advertise a Christmas pageant. So they brought in the manger scene. And the library said you can have the manger scene in Memphis, Tennessee, but you can't have the baby Jesus, Joseph, or Mary, or the wise men. We're not sure about the shepherds. That was the big debate. Now how stupid and crazy is this?
LETTERMAN: Yes, I don't believe you.
O'REILLY: It's true!
LETTERMAN: I just don't believe you. Let's talk about your friends in the Bush administration. Things seem to be darker now.
O'REILLY: It's pretty rough, you know, but they're not my friends in the Bush administration. I mean, they're not kicking the door down to be on my show.
In fact, you have an easier time getting President Bush to come on here than I have in getting him on "“The Factor”." But I think that the Iraq thing has been full of unintended consequences.
The simplistic stuff about it, hating Bush or he lied and all this stuff does the country no good at all. Our philosophy is we call it as we see it. Sometimes you agree. Sometimes you don't. Robust debate is good.
But we believe that the United States, particularly the military, are doing a noble thing.
O'REILLY: A noble thing. The soldiers and Marines are noble. They're not terrorists. And when people call them that, like Cindy Sheehan called the insurgents freedom fighters, we don't like that.
It is a vitally important time in American history. And we should all take it very seriously, and be very careful with what we say.
LETTERMAN: Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also.
LETTERMAN: Have you lost family members in armed conflict?
O'REILLY: No, I have not.
LETTERMAN: Well, then you can hardly speak for her, can you?
O'REILLY: Well, I'm not speaking for her.
All right, let me ask you this question.
LETTERMAN: Let's go back to your little red and green story.
O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait, this is important. This is important. Cindy Sheehan lost a son, a professional soldier in Iraq, correct? She has a right to grieve any way she wants. She has a right to say whatever she wants.
When she says to the public that the insurgents and terrorists are freedom fighters, how do you think, David Letterman, that makes people who lost loved ones by these people blowing the hell out of them, how do you think they feel? What about their feelings, sir?
LETTERMAN: So why are we there in the first place? I agree to you — with you that we have to support the troops. They are there. They are the best and the brightest of this country.
There's no doubt about that.
And I also agree that now we're in it, it's going to take a long, long time. People don't expect it to be solved and wrapped up in a couple of years. Unrealistic. It's not going to happen.
I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan, honest to Christ.
O'REILLY: No, I'm sorry. No way a terrorist who blows up women and children is going to be called a freedom fighter on my program.
LETTERMAN: I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling — I have the feeling about.
O'REILLY: You (INAUDIBLE).
LETTERMAN: I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap, but I don't know that for a fact.
LETTERMAN: Did I 60 percent? 60 percent, that's just — I'm just spit balling here now.
O'REILLY: Listen, I respect your opinion. You should respect mine.
LETTERMAN: Well, I — I - yes, OK.
But I think you're.
O'REILLY: Our analysis is based on the best evidence we can get.
LETTERMAN: Yes, but I think there's something — this fair and balanced, I'm not sure that it's — I don't think that you represent an objective viewpoint.
O'REILLY: But you have to give me an example if you're going to make those statements.
LETTERMAN: Well, I don't watch your show, so that would be impossible.
O'REILLY: Then why would you come to that conclusion if you don't watch the program?
LETTERMAN: Because of things that I have read, things that I know.
O'REILLY: Oh, come on, you're going to take things that you've read? You know what they say about you? Come on.
Watch it for a couple — look, watch it for a half an hour. You'll get addicted. You'll be a "Factor" fan. We'll send you a hat.
Frankly, handling things this way was stupid on Letterman's part. He alienated a significant portion of his viewership through disrespect of someone they may like and views they surely find agreeable. It's the politics of celebs all over again. You like them, enjoy their work, they shoot off their mouth, and game over.
And just in case you wonder whether Letterman was shooting off his mouth, read the transcript again. He admits he really doesn't know that much.