Factor This

Posted June 3, 2003 at 6:37pm

It turns out that Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly and liberal commentator Al Franken nearly came to blows in the green room just minutes before they had a verbal sparring match in front of C-SPAN2 cameras at the Los Angeles Book Fair this past weekend.

Ex-Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), who emceed the event, told HOH that the fur started flying when O’Reilly discovered that his visage

appears on the cover of Franken’s new book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”

“I decided I’m going to be Miss Little Hostess in the green room,” said Schroeder, who now runs the Association of American Publishers. “All of a sudden storming through the door comes Bill O’Reilly cussing and screaming about the photo. ‘That’s a terrible photo! I look terrible! I’m going to sue you!’ So it starts in the room.”

Schroeder thought to herself, however, that with both men trying to promote new books, they’d play nice. “They’re going to go out on stage and be good boys,” she figured.

Wrong.

O’Reilly kept his word and stayed within the 15-minute time limit to discuss his upcoming book, “Who’s Looking Out For You?” During his remarks, the anchor boasted that he has never had to retract a story on his popular television program, and puffed himself up by saying that unlike other commentators, he doesn’t “call people names.”

Then Franken took the microphone and all hell broke loose. The comedian used about double the allotted time because of a long riff noting that O’Reilly is the subject in a chapter of the liberal’s book. He slammed O’Reilly for repeatedly boasting that his previous employer, the tabloid show “Inside Edition,” had won two Peabody awards for journalistic excellence.

It turns out that Franken uncovered the fact that it was a single Polk award, not two Peabodies, and it was won a year after O’Reilly had left the show. So much for never having to retract a story.

The C-SPAN2 cameras caught O’Reilly in a state of controlled rage as Franken rambled on. And then the cameras panned over to Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who happened to be in the audience because the publishing association gave him an award for his fights against the Patriot Act.

“Bernie Sanders was in the audience and I thought he was going to choke himself laughing,” Schroeder recalled. “The problem is, we liberals take it. But Al gave it to [O’Reilly] and he couldn’t take it.”

After Franken finished, O’Reilly screamed at him, calling the liberal an “idiot” and a “pathetic” individual and the sniping continued for a quite a while. So much for O’Reilly’s contention that he never calls people names.

Assuming that some of the testiness was a play to the cameras as both men get ready to promote their tomes, HOH wondered whether they at least shook hands after the event. “No, are you kidding?” said Schroeder. “Out different doors — and different ways.”

Indeed, Franken appeared on MSNBC on Monday night and continued to slash away at his nemesis. In turn, O’Reilly opened his own show that evening by firing back that Franken “profits from malice.”

“If that happened 200 years ago,” O’Reilly said of the scene in Los Angeles, “there would have been a duel, and trust me, he would have lost.”

Ground Chuck. With Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) grabbing so much attention with the impending publication of her memoirs, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is getting pretty creative in his attempts to land media coverage. As a result, the old joke about the most dangerous place in Washington being the spot between Schumer and a television camera has to be updated.

It now appears that the most hazardous place — in New York, at least — is standing between Schumer and a microphone at a college commencement. One day last month, the Senator delivered a stunning seven commencement speeches in the span of just six hours.

It’s easier to do this on the densely populated Long Island than in, say, Wyoming — but this is still an amazing feat. The ever- eager Schumer raced from the campuses of the State University of New York at Old Westbury to Adelphi University to the New York Institute of Technology to Hofstra University to SUNY Farmingdale to Suffolk County Community College and finally Nassau County Community College.

Schumer was able to defy the odds by using the same brief stump speech — about five or six minutes — modified slightly for each school. “It was all very boom, boom, boom,” a Schumer aide told HOH. “The basic message is the same: ‘Go for it.’”

For his part, Schumer said he was motivated by the fact that “I love talking to the kids. I love it — I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Of course, there was at least one other reason to take on the challenge. In an editorial, Newsday praised Schumer for daring to take on the task of inspiring so many young people, but the paper noted that there was some political benefit.

“Now there’s no doubt Schumer would dare — especially if the well-received speechathon would get him more ink than his Democratic rival for publicity, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton,” said the paper. “It did that day — and he earned every line.”

Gillespie’s Got It. Über-lobbyist Ed Gillespie is expected to be named chairman of the Republican National Committee within the next week or so, according to sources close to the White House.

Gillespie, who cut his teeth as a GOP communications aide on Capitol Hill, is working with attorneys to sever ties with his lobbying shop, Quinn Gillespie & Associates. The goal is to allow him to keep some sort of equity interest in the firm he founded.

President Bush is expected to officially tap Gillespie soon after he returns to the country from his mission to the Middle East. The former House GOP staffer will replace RNC Chairman Marc Racicot, who is taking a senior position with the Bush-Cheney re-election effort.

The RNC membership is expected to formally approve Gillespie’s nomination at an annual meeting next month.

All in the Family. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) married one of his former colleagues on the Huntington Town Council, Marlene Budd, aboard a boat just off the coast of Long Island last week.

Israel and Budd, who are both divorced, were married by Town Supervisor Frank Petrone in a ceremony overlooking the Huntington Lighthouse. The 36-year-old Budd is still serving as a Democrat on the town council, where they worked together for five years before Israel’s 2000 election to Congress.

The two lawmakers will share their household with someone else: Israel has a 2-year-old Miniature Schnauzer named Max, according to his House Web site.

Hill’s Angels. In addition to looming over Schumer (as well as at least some of the Democratic presidential candidates), Clinton’s staff is taking charge on the softball diamond.

Clinton’s team, dubbed Hill’s Angels, recently beat the squad from freshman Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) office, 15-13. The Alexander team is known officially as “The A Team,” but has been unofficially dubbed “Mad Plaid” from the red-and-black shirt the Senator wore during his days as a presidential candidate.

Alexander spokeswoman Alexia Poe acknowledged to HOH that the new office took its lumps in the first game of the season, “but we now know where our strengths and weaknesses are so everyone else should look out.” (Alas, the results from Tuesday night’s game with Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) team were tallied too late for this item.)

An e-mail circulating around Clinton’s office boasted that the “ragtag bunch” won big despite being “thrown together at the last minute with emergency measures including an intern wearing Birkenstocks.”

Talk about sterotypes: a Clinton intern in Birkenstocks. That may be good enough for the Republican National Committee to add to their next fundraising pitch.

Brody Mullins contributed to this report.