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Bill Press is a syndicated columnist, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire, which airs Monday-Friday at 7:30 p.m., and author of the newly-published book Spin This!

Bill Press: O'Reilly's 'No-Spin Zone' is nothing but spin

By Bill Press, Tribune Media Services

WASHINGTON (Tribune Media Services) -- We live in the Age of Spin. As I document in my new book, "Spin This!" (Pocket Books), it's not just politicians today who bend the truth to cast things in the most favorable light.

Yes, politicians spin, Republicans and Democrats. But so do doctors, lawyers, salesmen, athletes and preachers.

Parents spin their kids, husbands spin their wives, girlfriends spin their boyfriends. Spin is such a part of our lives that the ones to distrust are those who claim to be spin-free. Fox News's Bill O'Reilly is the worst example.

O'Reilly opens his nightly TV show, "The O'Reilly Factor," with the claim: "Caution. You are about to enter a no-spin zone." Baloney. It should be called the "Nothing but Spin Zone," because his show consists of nothing but his conservative spin on the issues of the day.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with being a conservative commentator who puts his right-wing spin on the news. It's just dishonest of O'Reilly to pretend he's not. And the extent to which he continues to do so was apparent on November 28 when I showed up as his guest on "The Factor."

He started by spinning my appearance as something it was not. Before I even took my seat on the set, O'Reilly teased: "Next, why CNN is losing to Fox News in the ratings." Talk about spin! I wasn't there to talk about Fox News, or CNN, or ratings, at all. I was invited to defend my criticism of Bill O'Reilly or, as he calls himself, "your humble correspondent."

Obviously irked by my popping his spin-free balloon, O'Reilly opened our interview by demanding that I give a concrete example of his spinning. 'Easy,' I said. June 5, 2001, when he told former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile: "Do you know, Ms. Brazile, that if Al Gore had appeared on 'The Factor,' he'd be president of the United States. If he acquitedacquitted well on this program with our enormous audience in Florida -- we have an enormous audience there -- he would have won." Now, you must admit, that's hilarious. It's not the truth. But it's not exactly a lie, either. It's just pure spin. O'Reilly disagreed. He insisted that statement was not spin, it was his personal opinion. Poor guy. He's starting to believe his own press releases.

He's so powerful that he alone can elect a president of the United States. Next time around, we can spare ourselves the expense of a national election.

Undaunted, O'Reilly demanded another example of his spin. Which, again, I was happy to provide: the verbatim opening of his show on May 3, 2001.

"Tonight, violent demonstrations on the rise all over the world, as capitalism comes under assault and America's college campuses are being beseiged witbesiegedistic messages. We'll have a report...The first hundred days of Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Did she actually do anything? We'll find out...And was Al Gore antagonistic toward some of his students at Columbia? That's the word...Caution: You're about to enter a no-spin zone."

Frankly, I can't read that without laughing out loud. If that's not spin, I don't know what is. It is, in fact, classic spin. O'Reilly starts with the basic facts, then puts the worst possible slant on them -- and dares to call himself spin-free. Only the brain-dead would believe it.

But O'Reilly doesn't just spin. He's willing to go even further, if necessary, to make a point -- as he proved again on November 28. Returning from a commercial break, after I had already left the studio, O'Reilly told viewers: "An addendum to the Press interview. I let him go on there at the end just to be fair. But if Factor viewers only wanted one point of view, why would we have Bill Press on, you know? You wouldn't see me on CNN."

Not true. Last Spring, during a debate on the Don Imus show, my co-host Tucker Carlson invited O'Reilly to be a guest on CNN's "The Spin Room." He agreed. Then he ducked multiple requests and never showed.

Who knows why? Maybe he never appeared on "Spin Room" because he didn't like me and Tucker. But for O'Reilly to assert he's never been invited to appear on CNN is not just spin. It's a lie.


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