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Fox's Bill O'Reilly Interviews President Obama Before Super Bowl

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President Obama said Sunday that he does not know when President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will leave office but that the nation has been forever changed by the anti-government protesters who have held Tahrir Square in Cairo for nearly two weeks.

"Only he knows what he's going to do," Obama told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News in a 15-minute interview aired before the Super Bowl on the Fox network. "But here's what we know, is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. the Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative government, they want a responsive government."

Obama said that the United States is urging all the groups in Egypt to get together to establish an orderly and meaningful transition.

A vocal critic of the Obama administration, O'Reilly began the interview, which was hyped only slightly less than the Super Bowl itself, by thanking the president for assisting two Fox News reporters who were severely beaten as they fled violence in Tahrir Square.

"Those guys showed enormous courage, as so many journalists do around the world," Obama said of Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig. "And so not only was it important for us to make sure they were safe, for them and their families, but to uphold the basic principle of free speech and freedom of the press. That's a universal value we care about and I know Fox cares about."

But as grateful as O'Reilly was, he didn't soften up on his brusque interview style and tried, unsuccessfully, to engage Obama in some verbal jousting.

O'Reilly asked if Obama viewed the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the opposition groups in Egypt, as a threat.

"I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt," Obama said. "They don't have majority support in Egypt. But they are well organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S., there is no doubt about it."

Obama emphasized that there are more moderate people and groups in Egypt who also want a role in any new government that emerges. "It's important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people."

O'Reilly chimed in: "Those are tough boys, the Muslim Brotherhood. I wouldn't want them anywhere near that government."

On the issue of health care, O'Reilly asked the president if he was concerned about a ruling by a federal judge in Florida that the health care overhaul is unconstitutional.

Obama replied: "Well, I think the judge in Florida was wrong. Keep in mind that we've had 12 judges that just threw this case out -- the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional." The president said the health care law was not an effort to bolster "big government," as some have contended. "In this country there is no reason why if you get sick you should go bankrupt," Obama said.

O'Reilly pressed the president on whether he has moved toward the center, especially since the midterm elections in which Republicans made big gains. Obama denied that he had changed ideologically at all. "Over the first two years of my presidency, we had a complete disaster," Obama said. "Right? We had a complete crisis. The financial markets were breaking down. We were slipping into a great depression. And we had to take a bunch of extraordinary steps in order to make sure that the economy was growing again -- which it is now growing -- making sure that the private sector was creating jobs again -- it's now doing that -- and now our focus is not on refighting the battles of the last two years."

The president said his focus is now on "how do we out-innovate, out-educate, out-build, out-compete the rest of the world."

The outspoken Fox television host wrote before the interview that it was "fraught with danger. For me, not for the president" because of the deference that has to be shown to the chief executive as opposed to his interview with Obama in 2008 when Obama was a senator running for the White House.

"The president is an eloquent man; he can easily run out the clock if he wants to," O'Reilly said. "Also, the interview is live, so there's no editing. In other words, there's nowhere to hide if things don't go well."

And a lot of people were watching. While the interview came more than an hour before kick-off, last year's game attracted almost 100 million viewers.

In a nod to the timing of the interview, O'Reilly tried to get Obama to say which team would win. "Once my Bears lost," Obama said, "I don't pick sides."

"So you don't care," O'Reilly said.

"Well, no," Obama said. "I do care. I want a great game. I want a great game."

"You don't care who wins," O'Reilly interrupted.

Obama continued: "But these are pretty evenly matched teams. I think that Green Bay is probably a little faster. Steelers got a little more experience. I think the Steelers not having their starting center is something that they've got to be worried about."

O'Reilly asked repeatedly if Obama would actually watch the Super Bowl, and the president insisted he would, noting that he was having a party.

O'Reilly asked, "You know football? You know like blitzes and coverage and all that?"

"Oh, I know football, man," Obama said, adding that once the game starts "I don't want people coming up and chitting and chatting."

As part of the pre-interview publicity, O'Reilly told Laura Ingraham on Fox about his 2008 interview with Obama, in which he had to interrupt Obama often.

"Now it's easy to do that to a senator, but it's not that easy to do it to the president," O'Reilly said. "I'm hoping Mr. Obama will understand it's more of a conversation than an interview."

Apparently, O'Reilly had no problem with that. He interrupted the president more than 20 times in the 15-minute interview.

Bruce Drake contributed to this report.
Filed Under: Barack Obama

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February 06 2011 at 10:01 PM

Apparently Oreilly did not ask what would happen of the wrong people obtained control of the Suez Canal in Egypt as 7% of World Good snad 3% of the World Oil flows through it. The Price of Oil would double and a gallon of gasoline would cost about $6.00 and the Price of Food/ Produde would go up because Oil is also needed to make Fertlizer, Rubber and Plastics which are associated with Transportation and Agriculture etc. You call this an Interview.

February 06 2011 at 9:57 PM

All I know is that I'm with Mr. O'reilly when he told the president that most American's don't want the health care mandate. Honestly, I had perfectly fine healthcare prior to the passing of the healthcare bill.

February 06 2011 at 9:56 PM

The requirement is that the President must be born in the United States. It makes no difference if one of your Parents is an American Citizen and you were Born abroad in this case.My wife is an Italian Citizen. Our Son was born in Italy and I chose to get him an American passport. His Birth Certificate is not issued in the United States. It was issued by the U.S. Consulate in Italy and was issued by the U.S. State Department.I he desires a duplicate then he has to get it from the State Department. He is an American Citizen becuse of me. Recently he also obtained dual Citizen ship and an Italian Passport because of his Mother. Arnold S. is an American Citizen. Have you forgotten how their was a movement to change the Constitution so he could run for President? You have to be born in the U.S.

February 06 2011 at 9:52 PM

I find it funny that the author felt compelled to point out that O'Reilly interrupted the President numerous times. I think the reason he did that was if he didn't, the entire "interview" would have lasted with exactly one question from Bill and a sermon from the President. I didn't think Bill was rude.

February 06 2011 at 9:52 PM
Mitch, Michelle

O'Rilley did a great job, libs cannot say that with Bush.

February 06 2011 at 9:50 PM -7

I am not an obama man buy any means but O'Reilly was an angry disrespectful person to the president of the United States of America(even though I am truly anti democratic on most my positions). As an american and a supposedly non biased news person, O'Reilly was un-american and a poor interviewer whom seemed more like he had a mission to personally show america how wrong 0bama is as a person and as our president. come on O'Reilly, watch your interview of president Obama and then get on your show and tell the world how you looked to youself in this interview!!!!!!!!!!!

February 06 2011 at 9:48 PM +5

The interview was a waste. No important questions like "why would you spend 5 trillion dollars " when the all the presidents combined spent 10 trillion dollars, and then expect US to cut back. So far all he says is "we will freeze spending at current levels". They are unsustainable and he doesn't get it!
No tough questions. Obviously the interview was pre set and extremely limited. They both were just trying to increase their audience!

February 06 2011 at 9:48 PM -6

I agree with Hanrod.

February 06 2011 at 9:43 PM

Disrespectful that he interrupted? Get real. O'Reilly said upfront (& Obama knew it) that he hoped not to have to interrupt, but he would if he had to. He said that Mr. Obama is good at 'running out the clock' (& he is) and his job is to keep the interview moving. O'Reilly is not there to listen to a political monologue, but to get the pres. to answer direct questions ...without the long speech.

February 06 2011 at 9:42 PM -1

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