I believe the general conduct of this interview was more intense than many would have expected given the stage on which the interview was conducted. Super Bowl Sunday’s viewership this year grew to 111 million in the United States, eclipsing last year’s turnout for the most viewed telecast in broadcast history. For comparison, this year’s State of the Union address was televised by 11 networks and brought 43 million viewers.
Although the interview appeared to be designed as an informal question and answer session, this scathing interview seemed to be more of an opportunity for O’Reilly to push Obama for answers. O’Reilly centered the discussion on three main topics: Egypt, Healthcare, and the presidency. I believe that it is important for any speaker like O’Reilly to provide a strong structure for an interview, but it was clear that O’Reilly was just as consumed with reaffirming his own opinion as he was with revealing Obama’s. Despite the seemingly informal interview (e.g., tieless Obama), I think that it was fair for O’Reilly to ask the difficult questions. As standing President of the United States, Obama acknowledged that one of the polarizing factors of the job was that he never gets to “sit down and have a spontaneous conversation with a person.” In other words, he realizes that every time he engages someone in conversation the discussion can easily become a forum on the state of the United States. Both speakers acknowledged this, but I believe O’Reilly took a stronger approach by making strong statements like, “you’re going to have to hear this one way or another” in reference to Obama having to fight the battles he made in his first two years all over again in Congress.
Additionally, I feel that toward the end of the interview O’Reilly started asking a lot of leading questions that could easily be taken out of context. When O’Reilly started asking Obama about the presidency, he asked what the worst part of the job was and Obama responded, “The added pressure of every decision.” Throughout the interview O’Reilly was guilty of putting words into Obama’s mouth by inaccurately summarizing his statements. In the instance that Obama spoke of the pressure of his decisions, O’Reilly summarized with “yeah, it can become a massive headache.” The term “massive headache” then becomes loaded language that Obama must be careful to squelch. Obama retracts from O’Reilly’s summarization by saying, “Well, you have to make your best judgment.” This is a common theme of the interview: O’Reilly summarizing incorrectly, often by cutting off Obama, and then summarizing Obama with polarizing loaded language.
Overall, both characters’ attitudes were as polarizing as their political positions. I believe that it is important to ask public figures difficult questions in order to fully understand their positions on key political events. However, I feel that O’Reilly somewhat missed the opportunity by acting in such a pompous way. His responsibility as a journalist was overshadowed by his negative attitude on all topics. O’Reilly’s negative attitude became even clearer when the discussion turned to something as simple as predicting the Super Bowl winner and O’Reilly took offense to Obama’s objectivity of not choosing a side.
I believe that it is important that the President of the United States take better command of an interview. I feel like there were points where Obama allowed himself to become bullied by the conversation. That is not the type of emblematic impression you want to leave with the potential number of viewers watching. Like I mentioned before, the audience was greater than the State of the Union and Obama allowed himself to become the recipient of a made for television tongue-lashing. O’Reilly, on the other hand, just looked like a jerk.