Bill O'Reilly, Jon Stewart Debate: Who Won?

10/06/2012 11:06 am ET | Updated Dec 06, 2012

WASHINGTON -- There were all the trappings of a high-octane presidential debate: the over-the-top declarations, the pre-practiced zingers and the schmaltzy appeals to America's truest values. But the presidential candidates were nowhere to be found.

In their place Saturday were two celebrity gabbers who have claimed their stakes to the polar opposite ends of the political spectrum: Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart. The political odd-couple came to Washington ready to tangle in an event mockingly dubbed "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium."

Choice words not suitable for the faint of heart dotted the 90-minute exchange between the Fox News anchor and the star of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," who bantered aggressively but good-naturedly over birth control, President George W. Bush and the so-called "War on Christmas."

Stewart came prepped with a mechanical pedestal he used to elevate himself in the air, making the height-challenged comedian appear taller than the lanky O'Reilly when he wanted to drive a point home.

"I like you much better that way," O'Reilly quipped at one point as he gazed up at his ideological foe.

The political feud between the two caffeinated TV personalities dates back more than a decade. Much like family members who just can't resist pushing each other's buttons over Thanksgiving stuffing, Stewart and O'Reilly love to disagree, but appear to hold nothing against each other once the latest spat has run its course. The two have appeared on each other's programs since 2001, but the face-off Saturday at The George Washington University marked their first head-to-head debate.

Appearing wholly presidential in dark jackets and face makeup under a sign reading "Yum, this banner tastes like freedom," the two quickly turned to talk of government spending and the 47 percent of Americans that Republican Mitt Romney said in a video are dependent on government.

Stewart, defending government involvement in health care and social programs, said the U.S. has always been an entitlement nation.

"We are a people that went to another country, saw other people on it and said, `Yea, we want that," Stewart said. "Have you ever seen `Oprah's favorite things' episode?"

Asked who he'd like to see as president, O'Reilly dead-panned: "I'd have to say Clint Eastwood."

"Well why don't we ask him," said Stewart, mocking the Hollywood actor's widely panned speech in August at the Republican National Convention by getting out of his chair and staring at it while the crowd erupted in laughter.

In an apparent show of bipartisanship, Stewart even got on O'Reilly lap at one point. "And what would you like for Christmas, little boy?" O'Reilly said slyly.

"The display that you saw tonight is why America is America. Robust, creative, no holds barred," O'Reilly told reporters after the debate. "You can call it whatever you want, but you wouldn't see this in a lot of other countries. That's for sure."

Organizers said about 1,500 people attended the event, but the main audience was intended to be online, where the event was live-streamed for $4.95. On Twitter, viewers complained they missed the event when the video servers crashed. Organizers said video will be available for download and that those who experienced errors will be eligible for a refund.

Below, HuffPost's liveblog of the event:

10/06/2012 9:32 PM EDT

It's Over!

What have they learned from hearing the other's point of view?

"Now I know I'm right," O'Reilly says.

"Bullshit Mountain is tall," Stewart says.

Then, advice to the youth!

"There is no time that I would rather live in than now, and there's no generation I'd rather entrust the future of this country than this one," Stewart says.

"Young pinheads," O'Reilly says. "Work hard, be honest, get off the net, go outside, travel as much as you can, find your passion, find what you're good at, and make money don't it."

And with that, the curtain falls.

10/06/2012 9:28 PM EDT

What do you respect most about your opponent?

"The man coordinates a mean outfit," Stewart says. "I appreciate the fact that a man built like a Yeti can move so fluidly."

He gets serious. "Bill comes by his principles honestly. I think he's a smart guy. I think he's a funny guy. He's enjoyable to spar with."

"Stewart, tomorrow, is going to visit the wounded troops," O'Reilly says.

10/06/2012 9:26 PM EDT

Would you consider switching jobs for a week? O'Reilly says no way! Stewart says that when you go to Fox News, everyone looks at him like they want him to take them away with him. So, no, we guess.

10/06/2012 9:25 PM EDT

How can you support any candidate with all the lies?

Everyone does it! O'Reilly says.

10/06/2012 9:25 PM EDT

There's now a reasonably wonkish discussion going on about Medicare and Social Security ... and it ends.

10/06/2012 9:22 PM EDT

O'Reilly says that the big problem is all the "haters" in the media who are driven by greed. "That has coarsened everything," he says. "There are no rules on the Internet."

10/06/2012 9:21 PM EDT

What's the biggest problem with public political discourse?

"Stewart," O'Reilly says. Stewart says that "we've lost our ability to problem-solve."

10/06/2012 9:20 PM EDT

If you could see any American elected president, who would you choose?

Clint Eastwood, O'Reilly says. "Well why don't we ask him?" Stewart says, getting out of his chair and talking to it. He then says either Clinton would be elected in a second.

10/06/2012 9:19 PM EDT

Which person do they think is "the most trusted man in America," a la Walter Cronkite?

"I just don't think that's a relevant title in a country that's so niche-oriented," Stewart says, going on to criticize Fox News.

"The absolute best journalist ever on television is the late Mike Wallace," O'Reilly says.

10/06/2012 9:17 PM EDT

Who is your political hero? Stewart: Bobby Kennedy. O'Reilly: Lincoln.

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