Before Google, it was a lot easier to lie about your success and get away with it. But if you’re Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken is on your case, it wasn’t so simple. Back in 2003, then-comedian Al Franken was promoting his satirical book about the conservative media, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right and he happened to share the stage with O’Reilly at BookExpo.
The clip begins with O’Reilly aptly explaining how he didn’t have to “retract one story” throughout his six and a half years on The O’Reilly Factor. “If I’m going to be accused of being a liar, now you better have something there,” said O’Reilly.
Well, as it turns out, Franken did have ample evidence to proclaim O’Reilly a liar – and he does it on stage, right in front of a fuming O’Reilly. Taking the stage after O’Reilly’s remarks, Franken described how he heard O’Reilly repeatedly laud his then-show, Inside Edition, for winning three Peabody Awards. O’Reilly was defending the show from being labeled as “tabloid TV.” Franken, astounded by Inside Edition‘s journalism achievements, decided to investigate.
“So I go to the Peabody website and look for Inside Edition Peabody Awards and there aren’t any,” Franken explained. “Then I call the Peabody people and I said, ‘Did you guys give Inside Edition a Peabody?’ and there was some laughter.”
After following a lengthy trail of sources, Franken discovered that neither O’Reilly nor Inside Edition ever won a Peabody. Inside Edition did win another journalism award, the Polk Award, a year after O’Reilly left however. “Usually I find that if you find someone made a mistake, if you ask them to correct it, they do correct it,” Franken joked. “Not in this society anymore. So Bill, I’m sorry to call you one of the many people who do lie in my book.”
“See, this is why you don’t retract things,” Franken bashed. “You just continuously lie.” When Franken’s comments conclude, O’Reilly attempts to defend himself by silencing Franken, there’s a brief spat, and it’s clear Franken has gotten under O’Reilly’s skin: he’s only capable of responding by telling Franken to “shut up.”
It’s also clear that Franken has a point: pundits, particularly on the far right, have long manipulated information when it benefits them or their cause. Alternative facts are not new; they simply have a new name.