How Fox News Viewed the Debate

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Oct. 4 2012 12:38 PM

The View From Fox News

Bill O’Reilly, Pat Buchanan, and the crew at FNC savor a Mitt victory.

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney participate in their first debate.
Mitt Romney and President Obama in their first debate, at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. on Oct. 3, 2012

Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Bill O'Reilly was bloviating in a grander and juicier style than usual last night. Before the debate, O'Reilly said, "This exposition tonight has the potential to get rowdy." Now, I believe that O'Reilly knows the actual meanings of the words he says. In the aggregate, the "coherence" of these words into ideas does not often amount to much, but he knows what he is saying. He zestily chose exposition for the cigar-chomping grandeur of it and for the carnival barker's hustle. How could he not?

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

He knew as well as the rest of us—Hannity and Megyn and everybody—that no form of stage contest featuring Mitt Romney as a central participant has the potential to get rowdy. Even his wife's horses are wonderfully elegant. Last night, Romney was confident, relaxed, and perky—which was good enough for a win, according to reporters across networks, all with another month to go of keeping the race interesting.

But there was no rowdy. All the rowdy was in O'Reilly's lapel mic. O'Reilly's duty was hyping the fight aspect of the event. If you were listening to this on the radio—and if Al Sharpton's voice were dubbed in—you would have thought you were listening to Don King. If you were watching it on television, you might have wondered, as my wife did, "Is he drunk?"

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No, he was just very loose. O'Reilly wanted Mitt delivering knockout-punch quips and knife-twisting rhetorical displays of wit on incidental topics. He was antsy with Dick Morris, salivating for a bombshell quip from Mitt about "the Chicago tape," which added a certain Great White Hope element to the affair—the Mile High Tangle Up, let's call it? Ya see, if that were him up there, O'Reilly, he'd denounce "fascist death boards" because that's how he rolls.

Pat Buchanan said to Greta last night on Fox, cleaning up the post-game reports from the debate in Denver: "If I had to mark this as a 15-round fight, then I think Governor Romney won 13 of the 15 rounds." This struck me as odd. It's not that I disagree; Obama was soft and snoozy—and the smirk doesn't help, I say as a helpless smirker.

Sure, Romney won 12 or 13 rounds by being lively (as opposed to his usual lifelike M.O.). Romney won—but everything in the post-debate Fox News presentation gave the impression that the anchors, talking heads, and interviewees were all in fact required to mark it as a boxing match, and that they used the card in the souvenir program that came with the peanuts.

Watch: Political Kombat, the 2012 campaign told through video game fights.