November 6 2003

Transcript of Steve's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor

O'REILLY: In the "Back of the Book" Segment tonight, Steve EARLE is a Grammy-nominated country blues singer and garnered national publicity with a song sympathetic to convicted traitor John Walker Lindh. Mr. EARLE is embarking on a tour across America, and I talked with him a few days ago.


O'REILLY: Mr. EARLE, why don't you define yourself politically for us? Where do you stand?

STEVE EARLE, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I am an unapologetic lefty.

O'REILLY: All right. How far left? So you're a socialist? Or where are you there?

EARLE: I'm -- I'm a socialist in the respect of -- that I think that it's -- it embarrasses me that people go hungry in the richest country in the world. But, you know, I'm -- I have no problem with capitalism, but I only have -- unless it's, you know, a -- I have a problem with the capitalism as an ideology or a religion but not as an economic system.

O'REILLY: You wrote a song about John Walker Lindh that was very controversial. "If my daddy could see me now, chains around my feet, he don't understand that sometimes a man has got to fight more what he believes."

EARLE: Right.

O'REILLY: Some might say you were sympathetic to Lindh. Would that be wrong?

EARLE: Empathetic would probably be more accurate.

O'REILLY: All right. So you empathize with his situation.

EARLE: I -- I think 20 years is a long time for somebody that no one proves fired a shot at anyone.

O'REILLY: What would you have given to Lindh if you were the judge?

EARLE: I have no idea because, like everyone else in the country, I have -- I think none of us really know what the facts are.

O'REILLY: Now could you see that if some people lost people at 9/11, they might say to you, hey, you know, these guys are fighting against our country, he's a traitor, treason is a very serious crime, and he deserves the 20? Do -- could you see the other point of view on that?

EARLE: Oh, absolutely. I -- my main area of activism is against the death penalty in this country, and the first thing that I learned doing that is I wasn't going to get anywhere if I disregarded the -- you know, the pain and the hurt of victims' family members. I think we all became victims' family members on September 11, and...

O'REILLY: Oh, we did, and I think that's a good thing because we have to protect ourselves.

Tell the Truth Tour. All right. Tell Us the Truth. Three-week concert tour of U.S. clubs. So what are you going to tell us? What's the truth here, Mr. EARLE?

EARLE: Tell Us the Truth is about media consolidation and other factors around media in this country and how they affect the quality of our -- you know, in terms of the music business, what I do for a living and the quality of information that we receive.

O'REILLY: Can you be more specific? I mean what are you objecting to?

EARLE: I object to television news and radio news and even print media to some extent that makes decisions on what we hear and in what order we hear it in based on commerce rather than -- than, you know, what might be the most important information that we need to make the decisions as citizens of...

O'REILLY: So you want -- you want the government to run -- like NPR, do you want the government to run all the media?

EARLE: I have seen some government-run media that works pretty well in other countries.

O'REILLY: Yes? All right. So you want the government to run...

EARLE: So I don't have a problem with that.

O'REILLY: ... all the social programs. You want the government to run the media. I mean, you know, hey, you really trust the government that much? I mean you don't like President Bush. I mean why do you want to give him all that authority?

EARLE: Well, in this particular case, I think that the media directly affects, you know, the outcome of our elections. I think...

O'REILLY: Yeah, but you don't think that politicians are going to have anything to do with that, Mr. EARLE, if they control the media?

EARLE: Oh, I...

O'REILLY: Come on!

EARLE: I absolutely believe that they have something to say about that, but I think that people have -- look, I'm not one of these people that think, you know -- I'm -- I'm on one end of the spectrum, you're on another end. I don't have...

O'REILLY: Yes, but I'm trying to find out how you arrived at your conclusions, sir, and you're a little evasive. I mean you don't know what to give Lindh. You don't know -- you say you want the government to run the media.

Then I point out that, if the government runs the media, they're certainly going to have an impact on free elections here because, right now, you have the left media, the right media. The government's going to run it any way they want to run it.

And, you know, it doesn't look like you've thought these things through. Am I wrong?

EARLE: No, I think about these things all the time.

Government running the media I don't think is necessarily a solution, and it may not be the solution in this country, but I do believe that there was a time when at least the news media was kept completely -- the decisions made around what we saw on news media was kept completely separate from other programming on television. I don't believe that's completely true now.

But when you -- when it gets to the point where we have a media climate that participates in accusing people that speak out against these policies of being unpatriotic and unAmerican, I think that's dangerous.

O'REILLY: Well, I agree with you. I think anybody who's sincere should be able to speak out and should be heard and -- which is why we are happy you came on THE FACTOR tonight, Mr. EARLE.

Good luck with your concert tour.

EARLE: All right. Thank you very much.

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