Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly Rumble

Medical Center

In the wake of last week’s presidential debate, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly faced off for a discussion of their own on Saturday at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium in the nation’s capital. The event was dubbed The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium, and it can be downloaded from at the cost of $5 (which will be donated to charity), or found on YouTube for free.

O’Reilly and Stewart have poked fun at one another for several years on their respective shows, Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Ironically, they both present editorialized reports of news and politics, providing a mixture of information and entertainment.

O’Reilly is a self-described political independent with right-leaning economic views, promoting freedom of the marketplace, decreased federal spending and personal responsibility. Stewart typically takes a pragmatic approach to policy, supporting single-payer health care, a progressive tax structure and continued subsidization of public broadcasting and other social goods.  

After any debate, people naturally want to know who won. In this case, although both Rumble participants were awarded professional wrestling-style belts by the moderator, E.D. Hill, the answer is unarguably Stewart. He is smarter, wittier and frankly has a far more nuanced understanding of the interaction of social and economic policy than O’Reilly does.

There is only one area where Stewart does not match up with O’Reilly—his height. To combat this, Stewart (at 5-foot-7 to O’Reilly’s 6-foot-4) had a hydraulic platform placed behind his podium, which he moved up and down depending upon the level of fervor with which he wanted to make a particular statement.

O’Reilly did show moments of clarity, conceding that there needs to be some governmental regulation of banks, medical insurers and the like, but he spent most of his time either shamelessly plugging books he has written or holding up one-sentence cards illustrating the overly simplified dogma on which he bases his views.

Perhaps most sickeningly, he described Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student who testified that birth control should not be specifically excluded from health insurance coverage, as the “poster person for the entitlement society,” which O’Reilly sees as the major problem in the United States today.

Stewart described O’Reilly and the right wing as living in “an alternate universe, where problems are amplified and solutions simplified.” He went on to argue that O’Reilly has tried to promote the erroneous notion that between the Republican challenger Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, America faces a fundamental choice between freedom and socialism.

Stewart clearly displayed the values he endorsed throughout the debate—passion, depth of belief, optimism and tenacity. As he argued for categorical change in America, including the decoupling of health care from employment, the re-evaluation of the Electoral College voting system and a draft for public service, I couldn’t help but wonder how his opponents continue to blow him off as just a comedian. No matter what your political views, I recommend watching this debate, as it was both entertaining and thought-provoking.