Progressive economist Robert Reich called Fox News host Bill O’Reilly out on Wednesday, challenging him to a debate and accusing him of poisoning political conversation in the country.
“Why can’t we talk?” Reich asked O’Reilly during an interview on Huffington Post Live. “In fact, if you don’t want to invite me on your show, Bill O’Reilly, let’s do it here. Be a man, have the courage, come on here, and let’s debate. Let’s have a civil debate.”
In a separate column published in the Post Wednesday, Reich encouraged readers to email O’Reilly at his Fox News address and telling him that “that instead of talking about me he should have the courage and decency to talk with me directly.”
Reich told host Alyona Minkovski his dispute with O’Reilly began after the Fox host referred to him as a “communist” more than a year ago, an insult repeated to him at an airport by an O’Reilly fan, an encounter he described as a result of O’Reilly’s influence.
“His show, and shows like his show have contributed to an atmosphere in this country in which people on the right demonize people on the left,” Reich explained. “And a lot of people on the left demonize people on the right. No conversation is going on.”
According to Mediaite, O’Reilly said he refuses to book Reich after the former Secretary of Labor began taking cheap shots at him. But while Minkovski played a clip of O’Reilly and Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg dismissing the “communist” remark as a joke, director Jacob Kornbluth, who features Reich in the new documentary Inequality For All, the back-and-forth sniping is symptomatic of larger economic issues.
“As we see income inequality growing, you also see political partisanship growing as well,” Kornbluth told Minkovski. “The line tracks. As income inequality grows greater, the sort-of social fabric starts to fray a little bit. This is the stuff that I don’t know if people totally get when they think about income inequality.”
Watch Reich’s interview with Minkovski, aired Wednesday on Huffington Post Live, below.