Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and political analyst Juan Williams got into a debate on Monday over the Supreme Court’s recent decisions striking down both Proposition 8 and the Defense on Marriage Act (DOMA), with
“Here’s the con,” O’Reilly told Williams. “The Supreme Court rightly says the states should decide, because that’s what freedom is, alright? States decide. But then they say, ‘But, California, even though you decided twice in favor of traditional marriage, we’re throwing that out because we found a loophole that the people behind the proposition don’t have the right to challenge the judge who nullified the vote. B.S.”
“No, not at all,” Williams objected as time ran out on their segment with contributor Mary Katharine Ham. “You said the court’s becoming too political.”
“It was a legal vote, and a legal referendum,” O’Reilly said of the Prop. 8 vote, cutting in.
“You said it was too political,” Williams answered, continuing his point. “Now they’re not political and you’re still upset.”
When it came to DOMA, which was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996, Williams argued that the equal rights clause of the 14th Amendment took precedence.
“You can’t vote in Texas because you say, ‘This is a tradition’ or ‘this is my religion,’ to take away my rights,” Williams said.
“What happened in ’96, Juan?” O’Reilly fired back. “Why wasn’t this challenged on a constitutional basis?” Williams attempted to respond, only to be cut off by the host.
“It wasn’t challenged then,” O’Reilly told Williams. “It wasn’t, by anyone. But now, suddenly something’s changed.”
All of a sudden, O’Reilly argued, people like Clinton were bigots for wanting to uphold “the traditional marriage tenet that they felt strengthened the country.”
Ham told O’Reilly she did not agree with the idea that the court’s decision was based on a loophole, but did concede that she thought the high court was known to “thread the needle” on public policy issues.
“It does seem that the loophole, such that it is, that they depend on is federalism,” Ham said of the DOMA ruling, before being cut off herself by O’Reilly, who accused her of getting “too pinhead-y” because nobody would understand what federalism meant.
“This is very simple,” O’Reilly said, before presenting a scenario to Williams in which Roberts, facing a deadlocked high court, allegedly said to himself, “You know what? The punishment if you don’t buy the health insurance, that’s really not a punishment. It’s a tax.’ It’s not a tax. Everybody knows it.”
Williams answered that though he agreed with O’Reilly’s assessment, he thought Roberts made a decision based on what he considered “the political best interests of his court.”
“But that’s not his job!” O’Reilly yelled. “That’s not his job, Juan!”
“I agree, but I’m just telling you, you went a step too far,” Williams responded. “You turned the knob just a little bit far when it came to the gay rights decision.”
“It’s the same thing,” O’Reilly insisted, wagging his finger toward Williams. “It’s the same thing. I don’t care whether you think it’s based on a [constitutional] right.”
“Oh, the Constitution doesn’t matter, O’Reilly?” Williams asked, before O’Reilly clarified that Williams’ beliefs didn’t matter in the debate in question.
“The debate we’re having now is that the Supreme Court has put aside its mandate to uphold the Constitution,” O’Reilly said. “If, Juan, they had said what you said, that gay marriage is a constitutional right — if they had the guts to say that, then I would have said, ‘All right, they’re interpreting the Constitution that way.’ But they didn’t. They found a loophole.”
While the court did vacate the Prop. 8 ruling based on the legal standing of the challengers, Williams pointed out, they explicitly mentioned the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in striking DOMA down.
“I can shred that argument in 10 seconds,” O’Reilly answered, before going with a standard conservative trope. “That means that everyone who wants to get married in any way, shape or form — Mormons, if they want to be bigamists again; pluralists — they all can do it because they all have a vision, and they don’t want their rights denied.”
Watch the discussion, which begins around the 4:25 mark of this video from Mediaite, below.