On Wednesday night, Bill O'Reilly had a message and a question for Rachel Maddow.
The message: Fox News "kicks your network's butt every single night, madam" — and the question: "You have to be kidding with this fake ACORN scandal stuff. Unbelievable. Do you live in this country?"
Thursday night, Maddow responded in full to both, taking particular delight in his use of the word "madam" and stating that O'Reilly fell back on ratings to avoid the substance of her argument, which is that stories like the Shirley Sherrod scandal are exactly what Fox News is all about.
"If by this country you mean is my office right across the street from yours? Yes," Maddow said. "Unless there's an unguarded border down the middle lane of Sixth Avenue, yes, I live in what you call this country."
After debunking O'Reilly's claims on the ACORN story, Maddow then homed in on his reliance on ratings to distract from her greater point.
"Mr. O'Reilly, you and Fox get great ratings," she said. "It is so awesome how great your ratings are. You have very big ratings this year."
Maddow then listed a variety of entertainment programs — from "Deadliest Catch" to "The Closer" to "WWE Wrestling" to "Spongebob" and "Hannah Montana" — that beat both her show and O'Reilly's show, and said that facts are more important than TV ratings:
They are more watched than "The O'Reilly Factor," my lord -- which is totally immaterial to the discussion at hand, because when you got all kicked your network's butt, and madam on me, you weren't really trying to tout your network's ratings. You were trying to take the attention off me saying that your network, FOX News, continually crusades on flagrantly bogus stories designed to make white Americans fear black Americans, which FOX News most certainly does for a political purpose even if it upends the lives of individuals like Shirley Sherrod, even as it frays the fabric of the nation, and even as it makes the American Dream more of a dream and less of a promise.
You can insult us all you want about television ratings, Mr. O'Reilly, and you'll be right that yours are bigger for now and maybe forever. You are the undisputed champion. But even if no one watches us at all, except for my mom and my girlfriend and people who forgot to turn off the TV after Keith, you are still wrong on what really matters and that would be the facts, your highness.
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