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Interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor"

February 03, 2014

O'REILLY: One of my points on the "Factor" is that poverty is driven by the dissolution of the American family. That is the prime mover, OK. On your watch, median income has dropped 17 percent among working families in this country.


O'REILLY: That's not a good record. It's not all your fault. Part of it was this terrible recession. We all know that. Everybody knows that.


O'REILLY: All right. But 72 percent of babies in the African-American community are born out of wedlock now.


O'REILLY: Why isn't there a campaign by you and the first lady to address that problem very explicitly?

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, Bill, we address it explicitly all the time. I'll send you at least 10 speeches I've made since I've been president talking about the importance of men taking responsibility for their children, talking about the importance of young people delaying gratification, talking about the importance of when it comes to child rearing, paying child support, spending time with your kids, reading with them.

So whether it's getting publicity or not is a whole different question.

O'REILLY: But I don't see the pressure from the federal government to go in and say this is wrong; this is killing futures of babies and children.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I've just got to say, Bill, we talk about it all the time. We'll continue to talk about it. We're convening, for example, philanthropists and business people city by city who are interested in addressing these kinds of problems at the local level.

There is an economic component to it as well, though, because --


THE PRESIDENT: -- because what's interesting, when you look at what's going on right now, you're starting to see, in a lot of white working-class homes, similar problems. When men can't find good work, when the economy is shutting ladders of opportunity off from people -- whether they're black, white, Hispanic, it doesn't matter -- then that puts pressure as well on the home.

So you've got an interaction between an economy that isn't generating enough good jobs for folks who traditionally could get blue-collar jobs, even if they didn't have a higher education, and some legitimate social concerns that compound the problem. And so we want to hit both.

O'REILLY: All right. Keystone pipeline -- new study comes in; environmental impact negligible. Forty-two thousand jobs. Are you going to OK it? I assume.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, it's not 42,000. That's not correct. It's a couple of thousand to build the pipeline, but --

O'REILLY: Forty-two --


O'REILLY: -- all told.

THE PRESIDENT: Bottom line is what we're going to do is the process now goes agencies comment on what the State Department did. Public's allowed to comment. Kerry's going to give me a recommendation --

O'REILLY: So I assume we're going to do that after five years of --

THE PRESIDENT: We'll take a look at it.

O'REILLY: OK. I'll take that as a yes.


O'REILLY: All right. Now, Fox News. I can't speak for Fox News, all right, but I'm, you know, the table setter here at 8:00.


O'REILLY: Do you think I'm unfair to you? Do you think I've been giving you --

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Of course you are, Bill. But I like you anyway.

O'REILLY: OK. But give me how I'm unfair.

THE PRESIDENT: But, look --

O'REILLY: Give me how I'm unfair. Come on, you can't make that accusation without telling me.

THE PRESIDENT: Bill, we just went through an interview in which you asked about and IRS, were we wholly corrupt, Benghazi.

O'REILLY: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: Right? So the list of issues that you talk about --

O'REILLY: But these are unanswered questions.

THE PRESIDENT: But they're defined by you guys in a certain way. But, look, this is OK. This is -- if you want to be -- if you want to be president of the United States, then you know that you're going to be subject to criticism, and --

O'REILLY: But if it's unfair -- I want to know if it's unfair. Is it un --


O'REILLY: Criticism is criticism. It's my job to give you a hard time.

THE PRESIDENT: Here's what I would say. I think, regardless of whether it's fair or not, it has made Fox News very successful. And --

O'REILLY: But if I'm unfair, I want --

THE PRESIDENT: Here's the thing you guys -- here's what you guys are going to have to figure out is what are you going to do when I'm gone? I'm telling you --

O'REILLY: [inaudible] -- when you weren't here.


O'REILLY: [laughs]

THE PRESIDENT: I've been a big money -- [inaudible] -- for you.

O'REILLY: Ask President Clinton, all right, and President Bush. I gave President Bush a real hard time.


O'REILLY: Are you the most liberal president in U.S. history?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably not.

O'REILLY: Probably not?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably not. I think that's fair to say.

O'REILLY: Who would be more?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, the truth of the matter is that when you look at some of my policies, in a lot of ways Richard Nixon was more liberal than I was -- started the EPA; you know, started a whole lot of the regulatory state that has helped make our air and water clean.

O'REILLY: That's interesting; Nixon. That's interesting.


O'REILLY: I thought you were going to say FDR.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, FDR, Johnson. But I tend not to think about these things in terms of liberal and Democrat -- liberal and conservative -- because, at any given time, the question is, what does the country need right now?

O'REILLY: I think that you are much more friendly to a nanny state than I am. I'm more of a self-reliance guy. You're more of a big-government-will-solve-your-problems guy.


O'REILLY: That's it.

THE PRESIDENT: And I disagree with that, because I think that what used to be considered sensible, we now somehow label as liberal. Think about it -- Social Security, Medicare. Is that --

O'REILLY: But you pay into that. It's the freebies that are a problem.

THE PRESIDENT: What freebies are we talking about? Welfare actually is worth less now than it was 20, 30 -- it's worth less than it was under Ronald Reagan. The --

O'REILLY: Take a look at the disability explosion. I mean, it's insane. The workplace isn't any more dangerous now than it was 20 years ago.


O'REILLY: It's through the roof. You know people are -- [inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT: You know, Bill, the point is, we have not massively expanded the welfare state. That's just not true. When you take a look at it, actually, the levers of support that we provide to folks who are willing to work hard are not that different than they were 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago.

You and I took advantage of certain things. I don't know about you, but I got some loans to go to college.

O'REILLY: No, I painted houses. I didn't get any loans.

THE PRESIDENT: The -- well, no, I --

O'REILLY: See, that's...

THE PRESIDENT: I painted houses during the summer too. It still wasn't enough. So the -- so my point is that that's not a nanny state. That's an investment in the future generation. GI Bill -- is that a nanny state? My grandfather came back from World War II -- you're about to write a book on World War II. Smartest thing we ever did was make an investment in the American people, when those guys came back from war. That's what created our middle class.

O'REILLY: Here's something that you and I agree on.

THE PRESIDENT: What's that?

O'REILLY: And I tell everybody. You help the veterans. Now, I believe the VA should be doing a lot more than it's doing. But you -- I have come to you four times, and every time you have done what I have asked. And we have raised more than $20 million for wounded veterans and their families. And I -- you know, so when they say that you don't care and all of that, I know that's not true.

But fundamentally, the self-reliance thing in America, I think, is going down and the nanny state is going up.

Last word -- you get it.

THE PRESIDENT: Here's what I believe. First of all, biggest honor I've ever had and will ever have is serving as commander in chief. And when you meet our military families and our men and women in uniform, they are so outstanding, you just have to want to help them. And you have done great work, Bill, on behalf of our veterans.

Number two, I think self-reliance is alive and well in America. I think the problem is people don't see as many opportunities to get ahead. My job as president, as long as I'm in this office, is to give them the tools to get ahead. They've got to work hard. They've got to be responsible. But if they are, let's make sure that they can make it in America. That's what it's all about. That's how you and I ended up sitting here talking.

O'REILLY: Mr. President, thanks; always a pleasure to talk with you.

THE PRESIDENT: I enjoyed it, Bill. Thank you very much.

Barack Obama, Interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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