Welcome to the Poverty Thunderdome

By Cathleen Falsani 10-13-2011

Earlier this week, professional loudhailer Bill O'Reilly welcomed -- well, welcomed might be a bit generous -- radio and TV host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West to his FoxNewsChannel show to yell at them....I mean, to interview the pair about poverty in America and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

To call it a "dust up" doesn't quite capture the full throttle epic clash of personalities.

(Read more about what the Huffington Post called "nothing short of a cable news classic" HERE.)

Printed here below is my favorite exchange.

Frankly, the written word doesn't do it justice, so you might consider grabbing a couple of friends for a dramatic reading:

SMILEY: I'm still going to finish my point. You're right to go after Stanley O'Neal. I know you didn't mean to do this. I don't want to believe you meant to do this, but Stanley O'Neal, there are four or five black CEOs in this country. You choose a guy at Merrill Lynch to make him the poster guy for all the folks on Wall Street.

O'REILLY: Oh Tavis knock it off with the black business, will you? Oh stop.


SMILEY: Bill, why -- why Stan O'Neal as opposed to all the other guys who do this?

O'REILLY: This is one of the most egregious things that happened. We -- we treat everybody the same here, Tavis.

SMILEY: But no you do not.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter whether they're black or white.

SMILEY: Bill, the bottom line is what we're talking about here is fairness. We're talking about justice here. We're talking about not protecting Wall Street. Not one -- they've been arresting protesters, Bill, left and right, arresting protesters left and right. now the talk on Fox News is that it's costing taxpayers money for police to do their job. Not one bankster, not one Bill, they can arrest hundreds of protesters but not one banker has gone to jail to pay for his crimes.

O'REILLY: Because they didn't violate any laws, Tavis.


WEST: Brother Bill, how do you know? How do you know?

O'REILLY: OK, hold it. Hold, all right, knock it off.

WEST: There's been no investigation of all the predatory lending. (INAUDIBLE) Why would you say something like that, brother? You don't even have the evidence. You don't know.


To read the full transcript or watch the video of O'Reilly's interview with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West in its entirety, CLICK HERE.


In August, Smiley and West, who together host the radio program also called "Smiley & West," embarked on a national "Poverty Tour," a road trip "to highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice."

On his PBS talk show this week, Smiley has been highlighting the issue of poverty in the United States, with guests including West, Vicki Escarra (CEO of Feed America), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Smiley will conclude his week-long focus on poverty Friday with our very own Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis.

Check your local listings for the Tavis Smiley Show's air times HERE.

cathicowgirl1Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. Her latest book, BELIEBER!: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber, was released last week.

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