Fox’s O’Reilly, Rivera hit Bachmann for BP ‘extortion’ claim

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Fox News hasn’t been quite as welcoming a place for Michele Bachmann these days. On Friday, Bill O’Reilly praised President Obama for getting BP to fund an escrow account for victims of the gulf oil spill, adding that he’s “not agreeing with” Bachmann’s use of terms like “extortion.” Far from it, O’Reilly says he’d “go in there with a machine gun if I were president” to secure payments from the oil giant. Then on Saturday night, Geraldo Rivera said the Sixth District Republican’s use of the term “extortion” “overstepped the bounds of even rhetoric.” Said Rivera, “You have characterized the White House as an extortionist and withheld, it seems to me, the strongest criticism for the oil company.” 


O’Reilly began his interview with Bachmann with apparent chagrin.


“Whoa. Extortion? Shakedown? Look, if the executive branch, the presidency, isn’t going to force BP to pony up the money, who would?


 






As a new poll shows that 82 percent of Americans approve of an escrow fund to aid victims of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, congressional candidate Tarryl Clark is launching a new TV commercial calling out Rep. Michele Bachmann’s apparent support for BP. The ad highlights Bachmann’s recent comments about the $20 billion fund in which she warned BP not to be “chumps.”



The commercial isn’t on YouTube yet, but the Star Tribune’s Eric Roper offers the script:



“America’s worst-ever environmental disaster,” an announcer says. “Killing thousands of jobs. Costing billions. It’s BP’s fault.  And they should pay. But Michelle Bachmann calls making BP pay for the clean up ‘extortion.’ And said “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there – ‘We’re not going to be chumps.’ If Bachmann lets BP off the hook, guess who’s paying? Us. Michele Bachmann: standing up for BP. Not us.”


The commercial comes out a day after CNN released its telephone poll (pdf), conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on Wednesday. It’s the first poll about the oil spill conducted entirely after Obama’s Tuesday night speech. The news isn’t great for Obama: 59 percent of respondents say they don’t approve of his handling of the spill — nine percent more than felt that way a month ago.


But for those who’ve been defending BP — Bachmann and the apologetic Texas Rep. Joe Barton, most prominently — the news is worse. Sixty-seven percent say they want Obama to be even tougher on the oil giant, while only 13 percent of respondents say they think BP has done a good job in responding to the disaster. A huge majority — 82 percent — approve of a “creating a fund of billions of dollars to compensate workers and businesses that have been affected by the oil spill that would be paid by BP but administered by a neutral party.”


Clark’s not the only one hoping to leverage Republican comments about BP. The Democratic National Committee is raising money to run ads about Barton’s apology (later retracted) to BP. Unlike the online video the Democrats rushed out yesterday, this spot won’t feature Bachmann.


Update: The commercial is now available on YouTube.


Bachmann instead changed the subject. “The question is who will run the fund… will this fund be politicized?”


“That’s not how it came across,” O’Reilly countered, to a seemingly flustered Bachmann. He later said:



“You and Congressman Barton in Texas, using words like ‘shakedown’ and ‘extortion’ and all of that, I’m not agreeing with that. I think Obama did absolutely the right thing by putting the maximum amount of pressure on these weasels. You saw [BP CEO Tony] Hayward yesterday. Is this the biggest weasel in the world, this guy? Is there a bigger weasel on the planet than him? And you’re trusting him to do anything? … I’d go in there with a machine gun if I were president and say, ‘Hey, you put that money in here or you’re not getting out of the room…’ I think this is the best thing Obama did in the entire mess, getting the $20 billion.”


“You’re dodging my question about extortion and a shakedown,” O’Reilly said in the uncharacteristically heated exchange.


“I think they’re putting pressure on them,” she replied.


Rivera began his panel of three congressional Republicans by addressing Bachmann.


“We are fans of yours on this program,” he said. “You are scrappy, you are independent. But clearly, by comparing the White House negotiation for a $20 billion escrow account to ‘extortion’ you have overstepped the bounds of even rhetoric, don’t you agree?”


She didn’t.


In fact, she didn’t answer the question, prompting Rivera to break in, “Congresswoman, you are changing the subject. Do you withdraw the word ‘extortion’ or do you not withdraw ‘extortion’… You have characterized the White House as an extortionist and withheld, it seems to me, the strongest criticism for the oil company.”