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Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly Talk Russia and Putin Before Super Bowl

Variety logo Variety 2/5/2017 Ted Johnson
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By the time that Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Donald Trump aired on Sunday, the big news out of the exchange was already well known.

That’s because Fox, to their credit, released an excerpt on Saturday in which Trump appeared to equate the “killer” actions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin with those of the U.S. government.

“We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump told O’Reilly. “Boy, you think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?”

Trump is not the first president to be interviewed during a Super Bowl pre-game — but he’s certainly testing the notion that the American pastime should be a politics-free zone. His exchange with O’Reilly was hardly a time for feel-good chatter and, for good measure, Trump tweeted out a comment just before it aired that was enough to stir up a new round of social media alarm.

Before he refreshed the latest news cycle, Trump’s Putin comments triggered all sorts of controversy and condemnation, from the left and a few on the right. Bret Stephens, an editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal, said that Trump had “slandered” the United States, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, appearing on “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, tried to distance himself from the statement.

O’Reilly wasn’t exactly prosecutorial in the interview, but he did follow up with Trump’s suggestion of moral relativism.

“I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers,” he said.

“Well, take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I have been against the war in Iraq from the beginning,” Trump responded.

O’Reilly again tried to distinguish between Putin-esque killing of political opponents, and mistakes made in U.S. foreign policy.

“A lot of mistakes. But a lot of people were killed. So a lot of killers around, believe me,” Trump said.

Then they moved on.

O’Reilly pressed Trump on his claims of massive voter fraud, and the president said that it would be something that Vice President Mike Pence would handle as head of an investigating panel. But Trump still couldn’t offer any evidence that massive fraud took place.

Trump again slammed President Barack Obama for the Iran nuclear deal, calling it the “worst deal I ever seen negotiated. But he did not commit to backing out of the deal.

Trump still referred to Obamacare as a disaster. But he suggested that it may not be until next year that they have a replacement plan in place.

He did offer his Super Bowl prediction: The Patriots by 8.

And Trump described settling into the White House as a “surreal experience, but you have to get over it.”

“Surreal”? Certainly many people share that sentiment. “Get over it”? We’ll see.

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