Interviewed on MSNBC last week, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Fox News pundits and commentators “were useful to the White House,” stating that they were given “talking points” to repeat on air:
Q: Did people say call Sean, call Bill, call whoever? Did you do that as a regular thing?
McCLELLAN: Certainly. Certainly. It wasn’t necessarily something I was doing, but it was something that we at the White House, yes, were doing.
On his radio show yesterday, Bill O’Reilly let loose on McClellan, calling him a “liar” and an “idiot” for saying O’Reilly accepted the talking points. Today, McClellan went on O’Reilly’s show and in a tense back and forth, O’Reilly got McClellan to apologize for the “talking points” statement. “Do you owe me an apology?” O’Reilly asked. McClellan responded:
McCLELLAN: The truth is I messed up. I was specifically not trying to single anyone out, including you. But the way a couple of the questions were phrased in that interview along with my response left things open to interpretation and I should not have let that happen. … I understand why you got upset. … You’re the Big Kahuna at Fox News, and some people tried to paint in a black and white term through a preconceived notion.
Despite McClellan’s apology, O’Reilly yelled at McClellan later in the segment, blaming McClellan for getting “played’ by Chris Matthews and accusing him of being a “liar” and “crazy”:
O’REILLY: Matthews played you. … He played you! You should be mad at him!
McCLELLAN: So you don’t owe me an apology for calling me a liar? –
O’REILLY: You are a liar! You said I received talking points and I didn’t!
McCLELLAN: No I didn’t! I was not confirming that. I’m telling you right now —
O’REILLY: Oh you’re parsing the damn thing! Come on, be honest! … He baited you! He baited you! … You’re crazy! You’re partners with [NBC] in selling your book!
McClellan, however, did stand by his original point. “I stand by what I said in terms of the larger things and everything.” Without pointing out specific names or networks, McClellan vaguely claimed: “There were other people that were friendly and sympathetic to us.”