It all started at 5:22pmET last Friday.
That’s when former White House press secretary (and best-selling author) Scott McClellan told Hardball’s Chris Matthews the Bush White House would send Fox News commentators “talking points.”
McClellan made the distinction, “between the journalists and between the commentators,” but when pressed by Matthews if “people say, ‘call Sean [Hannity], call Bill [O’Reilly], call whoever,'” McClellan concurred.
“Certainly it wasn’t necessarily something I was doing, but it was something we at the White House, yes, were doing in getting them talking points and making sure they knew where we were coming from,” he said, although he qualified, “I think that happens both ways when people go on other networks that are favorable to Democrats.”
Next, the story got picked up by Countdown Friday night. “It’s one of those things you kind of assumed to have been true all along, and yet you are shocked when hard confirmation actually shows up on your door,” said Keith Olbermann.
Then, on Sunday, the story made an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Host Howard Kurtz discussed the Hardball segment with National Review’s Jim Geraghty and commentator/author Keli Goff: “Has McClellan kind of ripped the lid off a seamy situation here, where the Bush White House was funneling its message, its talking points, to the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity?”
Then, on The Radio Factor yesterday, and on his show last night, O’Reilly addressed the notion — and called out the “idiot” McClellan.
“I never once received a talking point from the White House. So McClellan is not telling the truth about me,” O’Reilly said.
On his radio program earlier in the afternoon, O’Reilly had even harsher words. “I lost all respect for you, I treated you courteously when you came on the program,” he said. “No respect for you now. Total lie, nothing even close happened.
“I know Matthews and Kurtz, they know I would never take a talking point from anyone. It’s not like they’re innocent. They know, they don’t care. And McClellan — he’s an idiot. He wants to sell his stupid book.”
O’Reilly had Dick Morris on the Radio Factor. Morris said when he was in the Bill Clinton White House, he would routinely send talking points to liberal hosts, including FNC’s Alan Colmes.
“Yeah I always sent them to liberal hosts,” he said. “I’m the guy that thought it up.”
Colmes is on vacation, and Sean Hannity did not address the accusations on his program.
Below, the McClellan-Hardball interview that set it all off (relevant portion at approximately 4:15), and a portion of The Radio Factor yesterday (via Johnny Dollar)…