Actually it was the reverse. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly really got on Republican candidate Rick Santorum about his campaign and views and likelihood of success going forward. The day after he was victorious in Iowa.

It’s one thing to ask the tough questions, Santorum and the rest of the field should be used to that or get used to it fast from now on. It’s another to step outside the ‘No Spin Zone’ and pitch the zingers O’Reilly snapped off at Santorum to elicit the responses he was looking for, sometimes without letting the candidate finish his answer. It was O’Reilly-like, and I listened to it again before saying anything.

Here’s what I saw and heard…

O’Reilly was testy from the start. Fair enough to say that’s an impression rather than a fact, but that’s my impression, and I’m neutral on the candidates at this point. It was just a surprisingly terse host in this interview.

O’Reilly starts by asking Santorum: ‘Who are you going to take from in New Hampshire? You’ve got 10 percent now, who are you going to take from?’ in order to rise in the polls. Santorum did his best responding about raising support and resources.

O’Reilly: ‘Are you ready to be demonized? Now it’s a national race, and you’re going to be portrayed as an extremist. And some of your positions are out of the mainstream. You know, 98 percent of Americans think contraception is fine, that states have the right to legislate that.’

Santorum: ‘As you know as a Catholic…’ and he starts to refer to that shared understanding of birth control.

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘But the majority of Catholics don’t follow that, it’s like the meat on Fridays thing, it’s not that Jesus said it, it’s not a dogma, it’s a doctrine made by man. I’m not justifying it or and I’m not giving my opinion about it one way or the other. I’m just pointing out they’re going to come after you on that, and they’re going to come after you on gays in the military. And they’re going to come after you on gay marriage, on a marriage license that’s already given. You would have them rescind it. All I’m saying is, I’m not debating the issue with you. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong. I’m just saying this is going to be put to you, that you’re an extremist, out of the mainstream. How are you going to reply to that? You want to rescind a license that’s already given? That’s a big deal.’

Santorum says defining marriage as between a man and a woman is not extreme.

O’Reilly asks if passing a constitutional amendment defining marraige would be in the forefront of a Santorum administration.

Santorum: ‘As you know Bill, if you’ve been following me out on the trail, I haven’t been talking a lot about this although I strongly believe in it. What I’ve been talking about as I did last night in my acceptance speech, where I didn’t talk about this issue, I talked about getting this economy going. I talked about my grandfather, and coming here for freedom. This is the fundamental issue in this campaign, whether government is going to be big and obtrusive and telling people how to manage their lives, or they’re going to support the values of faith and family that allow government to be limited, that allow our economy to be strong. Those are things I talked about. I did across Iowa and I will here in New Hampshire and…’

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘Alright you’re going to de-emphasize the controversial social stuff, and then get into the smaller government stuff, more self-reliance and the economy stuff. Okay.’ Santorum shakes his head.

After some questions about judges and the Ninth Circuit, O’Reilly wraps up saying: ‘We hope you’ll come on again, and congratulations on the Iowa deal…’

Wherever this goes from here, it may have been a high point last night in Santorum’s candidacy. But it was one of the less than high points in O’Reilly’s professional reign.

That interview was poorly handled. ‘Word of the Day’? Don’t be tendentious, Mr. O’Reilly.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....