TODAY   |  February 16, 2012

O’Reilly: Media exploited Houston’s addiction

Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, discusses the 2012 presidential race and some controversial comments he made about the death of Whitney Houston.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> o'reilly is host of "the o'reilly factor" on fox news and the author of "killing lincoln ." hey bill, welcome back, good to see you.

>> good to see you.

>> let's talk about politics. rick santorum surging to the lead in four national polls, neck and neck in one. what's driving the surge? is it his strength as a candidate? or mitt romney 's weaknesses?

>> it's neither. it's ideology. conservatives are bouncing from one to the next. and they don't trust mitt romney at this point. so it's purely an ideological vote. and the polls right now don't mean very much. it's the next debate at the end of the month. after that debate, then the polls will start to sharpen.

>> i know you're not a fan of the polls. but if you look in michigan right now, the home state of mitt romney . his father was the governor there. in that state, according to the recent polls, rick santorum has taken the lead. if rick santorum beats mitt romney in michigan, is romney done?

>> romney 's hair might even get disshelved if that happens. not a good thing. but romney hasn't lived there for 45 years.

>> but he calls it his home state.

>> he can call it whatever he wants. this is the first time they've seen him since the vietnam war . come on. look, romney has been not been able to convince the right, conservative voters, that he's one of them, it's as simple as that. all the conservative voters who were split before between gingrich and santorum , gingrich has dissolved. they all voted santorum and that's why he's ahead.

>> can you see rick santorum as the gop nominee?

>> sure, why not? i mean he's a smart guy . he might do it. i still think romney 's going to get it. but i've been wrong before. not much, but occasionally.

>> in a head-to- head race between the gop nominee and barack obama , who has a better chance? mitt romney or santorum ?

>> you know this, it depends on the economy. gas prices , if they're $6 a gallon, you could get elected, all right? come on, obama 's got problems on all fronts.

>> i'm asking you, a generic republican against obama . i'm asking you whether mitt romney or rick santorum has the better chance against obama .

>> i would say at this point in time, it's romney . because independents aren't right-wing idealogues, they're more comfortable in the middle and that's where romney is. but it's all about the economy.

>> kind of a hard turn here. but let's turn to the death of whitney houston . this is what you said on the show. whitney houston wanted to kill herself. nobody takes drugs for that long if they want to stay on the planet. the hard truth is that some people will always want to destroy themselves and there's nothing society can do about it. you know this has generated some controversy. people say wait, addiction is a disease. and if you are suffering from a disease, then you can't make the choice, you have no choice.

>> well then they don't believe if free will . and i don't believe anyone is a slave to addiction. i believe it is a disease, it's a mental disease . but you have free will and you can get through the disease. as millions of people have chosen to do. it's a lot of free will . you don't have free will when you get lung cancer . you do have free will when you're a crack adigt. but it's very difficult. my point is there are self-destructive people and that society does not grapple with them.

>> we, the media, look the other way on whitney houston . everyone knew she was a drug adduct for two decades.

>> you wrote this in your column. the meetia has no bleeping clue on how to cover whitney houston . that's because she was slowly dying for 20 years and the press averted their eyes.

>> i have seen dozens of stories over the years, detailing the addiction, the erratic behavior, the denial of addiction on the part of whitney houston .

>> they were sensationalized to exploit the woman's condition. not trying to help her. what's the last time you have seen a public service announcement from a famous person. a singer and actor, to say to the american public, you know, you don't want to be like whitney houston . don't be like elvis, don't be like janice joplin . you know what we do in the media? we wink-wink it, we willie nelson that. they're stoned, that's fine. what message does that send? it's okay.

>> i think it's apples and oranges you're comparing. i think on the one hand, her media did detail her troubles.

>> at the same time, i would agree that they also celebrated her talent and her stardom.

>> name me one media commentator outside of myself who said, hey, whitney, you better knock it off offer you're going to be in the ground. give me one.

>> maybe people don't come out and say it like you do, because that's the style of your show. but by covering her behavior --

>> they exploited it.

>> and detailing her actions over the years -- in a way that's shining a very bright light on it.

>> if everybody in the show business community had said to whitney houston , hey, you're going to kill yourself .

>> but that's different than journalists say -- are journalists supposed to be in the position of conducting interventions?

>> they're supposed to be in the business of telling truth. and the truth is if you get into hard drugs , you can go any time. and that message isn't getting out.

>> by showing her behavior, didn't we shine the light on it?

>> no, because it wasn't put in any kind of judgmental capacity at all. it was like a sideshow.

>> you think she was poe trayed in a positive light?

>> it was like oh, look at this, now she goes to rehab. it wasn't, hey, whitney, knock it off. it's never been that, ever.

>> let's move on a little. because you and i could argue for hours.

>> and i'd always be right, no matter how long it was.

>> you would always think you're right. on the subject of the flags flying at half-staff in new jersey on saturday, the day she's laid to rest. governor christie has called for that. is that the right idea?

>> yes. i think we should respect the life and talent of whitney houston . i said a prayer when i heard she died. this isn't a personal thing, this is a preventive thing. i want society and the media to tell the truth about drug and alcohol addiction . it's hell, it's a horror. let's stop exploiting it and start explaining it.

>> let's talk about your book. "killing lincoln ."

>> i don't want to do that.

>> i know.

>> god forbid.

>> 20 weeks on the best seller's list and you've got some other projects.

>> we're announcing "killing kennedy" will be my next book coming out in october. it's in the vein of "killing linco lincoln ." very quick, this is what happened in the last knew months of john f. kennedy 's life. we have stuff that's never been seen and heard before. the president's life was chaotic and there was a lot of similarities between lincoln and kennedy, in the weeks and months before they both were assassinated.

>> i have a feeling you'll have the same success that you've had with this one.

>> i appreciate that.