Bill O'Reilly: Obama Shouldn't Have Done Two Ferns Because "Lincoln Would Not Have"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 12 2014 3:45 PM

Bill O'Reilly: Obama Shouldn't Have Done Two Ferns Because "Lincoln Would Not Have"

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Bill O'Reilly disagrees with President Obama about something. This time, the Fox News host is quite perturbed that POTUS had the gall to sit down with comedian Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns, and spent part of last night's The O'Reilly Factor opining on the various ways the interview rubbed him the wrong way. Among the reasons he listed in his segment (which you can watch for yourself above) was this gem: "Abe Lincoln would not have done it."

Perhaps worth keeping in mind, as long as we're talking hypotheticals here, is that maybe its best not to just assume that Honest Abe wouldn't have been game for an appearance on Between Two Ferns—you know, if such things existed back in the mid-1800s. Lincoln was well-known for his at times off-color sense of humor and, as The New Yorker's cartoon editor put it 2012, may have actually been the first American president to have one of the kind we'd recognize today:

We don’t make the distinction between “wit” and “humor” anymore, but in the nineteenth century people did. Wit was sarcastic and antipathetic while humor was congenial and empathetic. It’s the difference we note now when we distinguish between “laughing with” and “laughing at.” Lincoln was much more about “laughing with” than “laughing at.”
And when “laughing at,” it was often himself he was mocking. In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, when Douglas accused Lincoln of being two-faced, Lincoln replied, referencing his homeliness, “Honestly, if I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?”
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(Also worth remembering: the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated, Our American Cousin, describes itself a "farcical comedy whose plot is based on the introduction of an awkward, boorish American to his aristocratic English relatives," and included such lines as: "Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap.")

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.

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