(Photo: Fox News screengrab)
In an interview aired before the Super Bowl game on Sunday, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly confronted President Barack Obama about the flawed rollout of the health care law, the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups and the downplaying of terror attacks on the U.S. mission in Libya.
"When did you know there were going to be problems with those computers?" O'Reilly asked the president, referring to the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov last October.
"I think we all anticipated there would be glitches, because any time you've got technology, a new program rolling out, there are going to be some glitches," Obama responded. "I don't think I anticipated or anybody anticipated the degree of the problems with the website."
When the president sought to highlight that his administration got it fixed "within a month and a half… and we've signed up three million people," O'Reilly reminded him about an Associated Press call of people who went to the website and only 8 percent of them felt it was working well.
Why was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius not fired? asked the host. "My main priority right now is making sure that it delivers for the American people," Obama replied, adding, "I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable ... but ... we're in midstream."
Obama admitted, "We're about a month behind of where we anticipated we wanted to be."
O'Reilly moved on to a controversy that surrounded the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. He told Obama that it is widely believed that his campaign team tried to tone down the motivation behind the attacks.
"They believe it because folks like you are telling them that," Obama told O'Reilly. "You know, in – in the heat of the moment, Bill, what folks are focused on is what's happening on the ground, do we have eyes on it, how can we make sure our folks are secure ...," he said, adding that his administration reported on what happened soon after it learned about it.
O'Reilly then told Obama that former IRS chief Douglas Shulman was cleared into the White House 157 times, which is more than any of the president's cabinet members or any other IRS official in the history.
That was "because at the time, we were trying to set up the … HealthCare.gov and the IRS ... is involved in making sure that that works as part of the overall health care team," Obama responded. "Number two, we've also got the IRS involved when it comes to some of the financial reforms to make sure that we don't have taxpayer funded bailouts in the future."
Some believe that the IRS was used at a local level in Cincinnati and other places to go after conservative Tea Party groups, O'Reilly said.
"Absolutely wrong," Obama said twice. "They – folks have, again, had multiple hearings on this. I mean these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them," the president added, blaming Fox News for the controversy.
"No corruption there at all, none?" the host asked.
"No … there were some bone-headed decisions ... out of a local office," Obama replied.
"But no mass corruption?" O'Reilly asked once again.
"Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgen of corruption, I would say," the president said.
O'Reilly read a letter written to Obama by a woman from California. "Mr. President, why do you feel it's necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?"
"I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation ... What we have to do is make sure that here in America, if you work hard, you can get ahead. Bill, you and I benefited from this incredible country of ours, in part, because there were good jobs out there that paid a good wage, because you had public schools that functioned well, that we could get scholarships if we didn't come from a wealthy family, in order to go to college."
O'Reilly ended the interview with a question about the Super Bowl. "Who's going to win…?"
Obama said he can't make a prediction. "These guys are too evenly matched. I think it is going to be 24-21, but I don't know who's going to be ... 24 and I don't know who's going to be 21."
The Seattle Seawhawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8.