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Al the Fox Conqueror

"They can dish it out, but they can't take it"



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Well, O'Reilly didn't really start hating me until the Book Expo. He came up to me after the Radio and TV Correspondents' dinner last April and said, "Oh, you did a great job." So it really was about my explaining why he was on the cover of my book at the Book Expo, which he understandably wasn't happy about ... You know what, I have to go through airport security now, so my phone will have to go through the machine, but that's OK. You want to hear what it sounds like when it goes through?

Sure. Wait, can they do that?

Yeah, I think an on phone can go through, can't it? Yeah. So here, hold on. [Puts the phone in the tray and it goes through the X-ray machine. It is quiet in there, with occasional sounds of mumbling. Clatter as Franken picks up the phone again.]

OK, so we were talking about why you get under the skin of ...

Well, they don't like it because I'm a liberal who's not afraid to take them on, and to take them on, on their own terms. I'm fascinated with their methods, and therefore I call them on it, and they don't like that. These guys are notorious -- they can dish it out but they can't take it.

There are not a lot of people like you doing this right now. Why do you think that is?

Because there is an aspect to it that's sort of ugly. You have to be willing to get the day-by-day dish from, you have to be willing to see things like the complaint they ran against me. Those kind of techniques. Which I don't use. I won't sink to that level, but what's great about it is when you expose them, it's jujitsu. You just use what they do against them. And when you do that, they get mad. They go, "How dare you read what I said on Nexis!" O'Reilly keeps saying I'm a smear artist, but all I do is just say what they said. They think somehow it's unfair that they're held accountable for what they said, I guess. I don't know. They're awful people. I'm not talking about conservatives, I'm talking about people who do this kind of distortion. There are a lot of conservatives I like, but they don't indulge in what the guys I write about do.

In your book you say that there's really not a liberal bias in the media, and not even necessarily a conservative bias, but more of a global profit-motive bias, which is why news is skewed towards the sensational, violence and sex. Is there any sex or violence scandal I should know about you before I take this to my editor?

I think when I was intoxicated and deranged I went on a chain saw massacre, but ... oh, man, I shouldn't have told you that. That was stupid. If I wasn't so drunk now I probably wouldn't have told you. But I think the statute of limitations has run out on that.

Hey, whatever happened with that liberal radio show idea that Sheldon Drobny wanted you to do?

It's in the works. What they're trying to do is put together a network, and I would fit into that three hours a day. This is a very ambitious undertaking and they're progressing. I'm not at liberty to disclose everything that they're doing, but there's been progress, and chances are growing that this will happen and I'll be a part of it.

The problem is, with radio these days, if it's talk radio it's conservative talk radio. You can't put me on after Rush Limbaugh because it's like putting classic rock after hip-hop or something.

Are you still interested in being the liberal alternative to Rush Limbaugh?

Well, I don't know if I'd put it that way, but yeah.

It's interesting that the analogy you just used -- classic rock and hip-hop -- has you being the softer voice, in a sense.

Well, no, it's putting classic rock on after something that's incompatible. Me after Rush, I want to get the analogy straight.

OK, but conventional wisdom has it that liberals are too soft to do Limbaugh-style attack radio -- that the reason there are only conservative talk radio hosts is because only conservatives are capable of it. Do you think that's true? Where does that myth come from, if not?

I think there's the empirical evidence that talk radio is dominated by conservatives, so you could draw the conclusion that liberals can't do it. But I think you can do liberal talk radio, and this is something we should have started doing 10 years ago and we didn't. There have been a few fitful efforts by individuals to do things, that haven't succeeded for one reason or another, but I think you can do it. Liberals have a little bit of a different mindset, in which I think liberals by nature look for information and conservatives look for ammunition. NPR, for example, is just giving information, and NPR's very popular. But conservatives consider it to be liberal because they're not bloviating, they're actually giving information. So I like to think of our progressive network as sort of NPR with more entertainment and fewer reports on Appalachian quilts.

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