Bill O’Reilly: Muffin but the Truth

Heard the one about the $16 government muffin?

That story originated with a Justice Department inspector general report that claimed $16 muffins were served at a conference for immigration judges and attorneys. That was reported on the front pages of the September 21 Washington Post.

But the story fell apart in a matter of days, after the hotel explained the paperwork was being misinterpreted. Post ombud Patrick Pexton (9/30/11) explained that both the original report and the paper’s story were at fault. The real bill was for continental breakfast and afternoon snacks–not a bad price for a D.C. hotel, it turned out.

But for critics of government waste–whose outrage is quite selective–the muffin was pure gold. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly couldn’t stop talking about it.

“Now we have the $16 muffin scandal,” O’Reilly announced.

He explained:

At a training conference in August ’09, $4,200 was spent on 250 muffins. That adds up to $16 per muffin. Now, I’m sure they were delicious muffins. I’m sure they were presented in a pleasing way. But the $16 muffin now becomes a symbol of how wasteful the feds are with our tax dollars.

And he went on:

Now, I have stayed in some of the swankiest hotels on earth. I have never seen a $16 muffin. I want to see that muffin. I want to taste that muffin. You know why? Because I bought the muffin and so did you.

He pleaded:

And now President Obama wants more tax money to buy more muffins…..Why should I or you work hard every day so some guy in a suit can have a $16 muffin?

O’Reilly finished: “Want revenue, Mr. President? Pass a fair and flat tax. Close up
the loopholes. Knock out the $16 muffins.”


There are now accusations that a Justice Department official Darryl Foster spent thousands of dollars dating and charged it to the taxpayer. This goes right alongside the $16 muffins we told you about last week.


O’Reilly played a clip of his appearance on the Daily Show, bragging that his show “broke the story” (by reading it in the Washington Post?).

O’REILLY: Do we all know what the $16 muffin is?


O’REILLY: All right. See, you don’t even know what the $16 muffin is.

STEWART: What neighborhood do you live in? Who makes a $16 muffin.

O’REILLY: This is great. I’m glad. Look.

STEWART: All right.

O’REILLY: A $16 muffin.

STEWART: All right.

O’REILLY: …broke the story last week on the Factor. You were otherwise occupied making your little wise remarks, not reading what’s happening.


But I agree that those of us like myself who have prospered in America, owe our country a lot. I agree with you. And I would be willing to pay 5 percent more in income tax but only if I don’t have to pay for $16 muffins. You know the $16 muffin…. Now, until there are no more $16 muffins, no more Solyndras.


O’Reilly played a clip of himself on the Late Show With David Letterman:

O’REILLY: I would actually give them 50 percent or more of my stuff if they would spend it responsibly. All right? How about the $16 muffin, Dave? Do you know about the $16 muffin? $16 muffin, know about it? Yes? No? Maybe? OK. They have these big conferences, the Department of Justice, a swanky hotel.

LETTERMAN: Coffee and muffins.

O’REILLY: The muffins, 16 bucks. Come on, get an $8 muffin, all right?

O’Reilly went on to marvel at the fact that Letterman and Stewart were unaware of this apparently momentous scandal:

O’REILLY: Letterman is a devoted liberal.


O’REILLY: And he wants more government spending.

GREG GUTFELD (Fox News): Yes.

O’REILLY: And so does Stewart. Jon Stewart. And neither of them know about the $16 muffin.


At this point, O’Reilly finally clued in his viewers to some questions about the story–which, naturally, were part of a liberal plot: “Some left-wing Americans are trying to discredit the $16 muffin story, whereby you and I pay an outrageous amount of money for pastry at
government conferences.”

He went on to say that “the left didn’t like that report and sought to discredit it by saying
there was also juice, coffee and fruit included with the $16 muffin. The DOJ
latched on to that and retracted the muffin scandal.”


But O’Reilly wasn’t buying any retraction: “I don’t want to pay him for $16 muffins,” he declared.


And then they spend it on $16 muffins; that’s what gets me. Look, if they were curing cancer. If they were spreading democracy throughout the whole world and everybody was getting on board with the USA, I would say all right. But you know what they are doing.

He added:

Now, I want everybody to know I made the muffin as a metaphor for the larger picture, which I’m sure [Dennis] Miller understood is not really about the muffin itself. It’s the cause the muffin represents.

Which brings us, many months later, to this comment from O’Reilly Tuesday night (4/3/12):

We all remember this $16 muffin, which was actually a $16 continental breakfast that was worth about $2.50. The Justice Department was responsible for that colossal waste.

“We all remember” what now?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.