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Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton have been engaging in a several-day feud over the coverage of the Dec. 5 death of Nelson Mandela, with the Fox News Channel host telling his audience that MSNBC allows a “flat-out deceiver” on its air because the network is “afraid” to rein him in. Sharpton counters that he hasn’t deceived anyone, saying the spat’s larger issue is that the political right is trying to tarnish Mandela’s record.
The feud began last week with a segment on The O’Reilly Factor where the Fox News Channel host said the following, presumably about Mandela’s early years a few decades before he was elected president of South Africa: “He was a communist, alright? But he was a great man. What he did for his people was stunning.”
On the MSNBC show PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, the host played the O’Reilly clip but stopped it after the word “alright.” He then introduced a guest and the two proceeded to criticize O’Reilly for disparaging Mandela.
The feud spilled over into this week, with O’Reilly on Wednesday playing the Sharpton clip and saying: “You can see that Sharpton cut out all of the context, as he has done many times before. Now, any other commentator on national TV would have been fired for doing that, but MSNBC seems to be afraid of Sharpton.”
O’Reilly then introduced Fox News commentator Bernard Goldberg, and the two spent several more minutes bashing Sharpton and MSNBC.
Sharpton responded by announcing on his show that, “I think we were fair [to O’Reilly], but here’s his full comment.”
After Sharpton played a longer version of O’Reilly’s clip from last week, he said: “I don’t think playing his ‘great man’ comment changes the context or the fact that on the night of Nelson Mandela’s death Bill O’Reilly called him a communist. Seems strange to me that O’Reilly thinks a communist was a great man.”
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment about the back-and-forth between O’Reilly and Sharpton, and MSNBC also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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