PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton Professor Cornel West are currently crisscrossing the country promoting their TV special on poverty. Their media tour led them to Bill O'Reilly Tuesday night. And it was an explosive appearance.
O'Reilly started the segment by quoting some poverty stats on what the government is doing to help the poor, and how some poor have become "addicted" to aid. He then brought on Smiley and West to respond.
And that's when it got real interesting.
West quickly rattled off something about the top one percent having 40 percent of the wealth, and then talked at warp speed about off-shore bank accounts before continuing to talk. And talk. O'Reilly eventually cut him off and warned him not to "filibuster."
O'Reilly then defined what Smiley and West are advocating to solve the problem of poverty -- redistribution of wealth -- as socialism, and when Smiley responded, we got our first fireworks. See, O'Reilly misunderstood Smiley's response when Smiley said O'Reilly was "right" about something -- O'Reilly thought Smiley said he "lied" and O'Reilly quickly fired back (telling Smiley not to call him a liar) before eventually apologizing. Still, West saw that as an opportunity and said everyone lies, even O'Reilly.
Then it really got going. That's because Smiley hinted that O'Reilly is racist because his show confronted a black CEO.
"Oh Tavis, knock it off! ... We treat everybody the same here, Tavis," O'Reilly responded forcefully.
"No you do not," Smiley said as the two talked over each other. And that set up an explosion on set.
Smiley said it was ridiculous that while protesters were being arrested, no bankers had been apprehended. O'Reilly shouted, "Because they didn't violate any laws, Tavis!"
Immediately both Smiley and West erupted in shouts, and West even leaped out of his chair and approached the camera with arms wide open.
"Oh! Come on, Bill! How do you know? There's been no investigation!" West exclaimed.
"Hold it! If you're going to make an accusation, professor, as a learned academic," O'Reilly responded, "that...the fat cats on Wall St. broke the law, back it up! What law did they break?"
West responded that he had a "hunch" that if the bankers were investigated they would be found to have broken the law.
Eventually, O'Reilly told Smiley to "calm down" after saying that if the pair brought him evidence, he would put it on the air.
Now that's some great TV. You can watch it unfold below: