Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O'Reilly on Common's White House Invitation

Proof that the Fox News Channel is capable of hosting a passable argument that also makes for good TV

Above is part one of the Fox News Channel debate between Bill O'Reilly, who expresses his outrage at rapper Common's White House invite, and Jon Stewart, who defends the entertainer. The substance of the disagreement: O'Reilly says that Common celebrates cop killers, while Stewart insists on the distinction that he celebrates people he believes were wrongly convicted of killing cops. The Daily Show host also says that attacks on Common are part of the cable news "selective outrage machine," an argument similar to what I offered here.

This bygone story is noteworthy only because the quality of the debate between the two men proves what cable news is capable of producing. O'Reilly is his irascible self, bullying his interlocutor and making arguments that don't at all work. Examined closely, the conversation is flawed in all sorts of ways. It is nevertheless good enough! Especially compared to what frequently appears on the network, the viewer is given a compelling second perspective with which to wrestle, as opposed to the Team Red perspective and a Washington-Generals-style defense.

Of course, Stewart is perhaps the most effective sparring partner imaginable in this role: intelligent, quick witted, disarmingly funny, and familiar with O'Reilly from countless hours deconstructing tapes of his show. Guests of such quality cannot be summoned at will to the Fox News studios. This is nevertheless proof that, however flawed the format of these shows, they're capable of delivering better debate than what we're generally given. So up the quality, Bill O'Reilly!

Now we know you're capable of it.

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Politics

Just In