The Donald Trump-Bill O’Reilly interview that aired before the Super Bowl on Sunday was hotly anticipated, thanks in large part to an inflammatory excerpt aired by Fox News the night before. But the full interview touched on a wider range of topics, including Iran, his immigrant ban, and illegal votes.
O’Reilly began by asking Trump about his controversial, much-criticized and protested executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. O’Reilly introduced the subject by noting that it hadn’t gone too smoothly, but Trump clearly disagreed. “I think it was very smooth,” he said. “You had 109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers, and all we did was vet those people very carefully.” In reality, as was revealed through a court challenge this week, nearly 60,000 people had their visas revoked by Trump’s executive order, a far greater impact than what the administration has tried to portray.
Trump also indicated that he was open to nixing the Iran nuclear deal, although not in firm or vociferous terms. When O’Reilly asked him if the U.S. was on a “collision course” with Iran, Trump turned to a familiar line from his campaign playbook, quickly disparaging the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. He wasn’t actually asked about the deal, but that’s where he quickly went when asked to talk about current Iranian/American relations. “I think it was the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated,” Trump said. He continued …
I think it was a deal that never should have been negotiated. The deal that was made by the Obama administration. I think it’s a shame that we’ve had a deal like that, and that we had to sign a deal like that, and there was no reason to do it, and if you’re gonna do it have a good deal. We gave them $1.7 billion in cash, which is unheard of.
The full interview also provided the full context for Trump’s widely publicized drawing of a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is widely viewed as an authoritarian quasi-dictator whose government has occasionally slain his opponents. The ultimate takeaway wasn’t any different from what the explosive excerpt revealed one day earlier, but there was a bit more to the exchange. After saying he respected Putin although he wasn’t sure if he would “get along with him,” Trump responded to O’Reilly’s interjection that Putin is “a killer” by arguing America’s hands aren’t clean, either.
“We got a lot of killers, we got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump said.
“I don’t know of any government leaders who are killers,” O’Reilly replied.
Then, in the final part of the exchange not previously revealed in Fox News’s excerpt, Trump cited the Iraq war as justification, seemingly conflating casualties of war with the specific and deliberate murders of dissidents, journalists, and political opponents.
Well, take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq since the beginning, a lot of mistakes, OK? But a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.
Trump also decried California’s effort to become a so-called “sanctuary state,” threatening to withhold federal funding if such an action was taken. He also made it clear that he viewed the federal funds as a “weapon” in his political conflict, an admission that could theoretically be problematic in the context of a court challenge.
I think it’s ridiculous, sanctuary cities, as you know I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities, they breed crime, there’s a lot of problems. If we have to, we’ll defund.
To O’Reilly’s credit, there was one other California-related issue he raised with Trump, that of his continuing, baseless claim that 3 million undocumented immigrants cast illegal votes in the 2016 election (and that all the votes went to his opponent, thus accounting perfectly for why he lost the popular vote).
O’Reilly asked him if there was validity to the criticism that he made claims he couldn’t back up with data and that such behavior is inappropriate for a president. As he has in the past, Trump cited issues surrounding voter registration, not actual vote fraud, to defend his point. In other words, he didn’t offer any factually credible or coherent defense for his eye-popping accusation of 3 million illegal votes cast.
Many people have come out and said I’m right, and it doesn’t have to do with the vote, although that’s the end result. It has to do with the registration. And when you look at the registration and you see dead people who have voted, when you see people that are registered in two states, that voted in two states.
Trump insisted that “we can be babies,” but that voter registration irregularities prove his claim that the popular vote was taken from him. When O’Reilly asked if the data would show that 3 million undocumented immigrants voted, Trump somewhat gave away the game. “Forget that, forget all of that,” Trump said. “Just look at the registration.” Trump then pledged to set up a commission headed up by Vice President Mike Pence investigating vote registration, which would not itself prove his claim.
And, of course, O’Reilly got Trump’s Super Bowl pick: New England by eight points. Why did Trump pick the Patriots?
Because he’s friendly with owner Bob Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and star quarterback Tom Brady. As Trump said, “you have to stick up for your friends, right?”