President Obama accused Fox News host Bill O’Reilly of covering his administration unfairly, in an unedited version of their pre-Super Bowl interview that ran Monday night on O’Reilly’s show.
“Absolutely, of course you have Bill, but I like you anyway,” the president said when asked if he thought the host had been “unfair” to him.
Obama specifically contested the notion that he has advocated a “nanny state” during his time in office, a criticism O’Reilly has often hurled his way.
“I disagree with that because I think that what used to be considered sensible we now somehow label as liberal,” he said.
“We have not massively expanded the welfare state,” Obama added later. “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, they’re not that different than they were 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago.”
The president spoke about the loans he took out to attend college. O’Reilly countered that he himself paid his way as a house painter.
“I painted houses during the summer too,” Obama responded. “It still wasn’t enough So my point is is that that’s not a nanny state. That’s an investment in the future generation.”
“G.I. Bill, is that a nanny state?” Obama continued. “My grandfather came back for 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. We suddenly trained up and created skills for folks. We gave them subsidies so they could go out and buy homes through the FHA. Those things weren’t giveaways. We understood that what that would do would create a base middle class of folks who were able to work hard and get ahead.”
The duo also tussled over poverty in America and the fact that nearly three-quarters of African-American babies are born out of wedlock. “Why isn’t there a campaign by you and the First Lady to address that problem very explicitly?” O’Reilly asked.
“Actually, Bill, we address it explicitly all the time,” Obama countered, noting he could name at least ten times he’d addressed that issue in speeches. Obama said the problem may be that the issue simply doesn’t get publicity when he addresses it. The president celebrated Father’s Day last year by inviting members of the Chicago-based “Becoming a Man” mentor group to the White House.
Pressed on the idea that he doesn’t address the issue with policy, the president argued that he has been working to empower those addressing the issue at the local level. He also referred to his efforts to address economic inequality.
“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,” Obama said. “Then that puts pressure as well on the home. So you’ve got an interaction between the 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 compounds the problem and so we want to hit both,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re putting folks back to work and making sure that they’re well paid.”
The interview included a couple moments of agreement. O’Reilly championed Obama’s support for raising the minimum wage, which the president wants upped to $10.10 an hour. “You want to get people off welfare, you raise the minimum wage,” O’Reilly said, prompting the president to reply “That’s not a liberal or a conservative agenda.”
O’Reilly also offered his praise to the president on his support for veterans.
“I’ll tell everybody, you helped the veterans,” O’Reilly said. “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 twenty million dollars for wounded veterans and their families … So when they say that you don’t care and all of that, I know that’s not true.”
“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,” Obama replied. “You just have to want to help.”
The president ended the interview insisting that self-reliance is “alive and well.”
“I think the problem is people don’t see as many opportunities to get ahead,” Obama said. “My job as president, as long as I’m in this office, is to give them the tools to get ahead. They gotta work hard, they gotta be responsible, but if they are, let’s make sure that they can make it in America. That’s what it’s all about.”