Last night, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly criticized Columbia University’s decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. O’Reilly, who spent much of last week railing against Columbia’s invitation, called the event “revolting” and singled out Columbia University President Lee Bollinger as being “hypocritical beyond belief” for his invitation.
But moments later, O’Reilly revealed that he had also offered an invitation to Ahmadinejad to appear on his own show. In response to a viewer email asking why he didn’t invite the Iranian President on his show, O’Reilly said:
We actually did invite him, sir, but he knows the no spin zone when he sees one. Ahmadinejad doesn’t answer questions; he bloviates. But I’d love to tell him that face to face. And I would.
O’Reilly has maintained that his objection to Ahmadinejad’s speech does not stem from fear of an open exchange of ideas, but rather of giving him a high-profile platform:
REED WERNER: Well, I would like to know what are you afraid of by him coming.
O’REILLY: I don’t think we’re afraid of anything, but we don’t want to – I don’t think anybody’s afraid of anything, but we don’t want to give status and credibility.
O’Reilly appears to acknowledge that speaking at Columbia lends status and credibility to a speaker, while appearing on his own show does not.