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October 8th, 2012
06:42 AM ET

Wall Street Journal's Christopher John Farley on Stewart-O'Reilly debate: 'It's hard to say who won'

The "Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” finally went down this past Saturday night. It was the highly anticipated mock-debate between conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly and comedian Jon Stewart. Plenty of comical punches definitely made it in the ring. But were there a couple of seriously hard-hitting throws too.

Christopher John Farley, senior editorial director of digital features for the Wall Street Journal, spoke to O’Reilly prior to the debate. Farley talks to John Berman on “Early Start” this morning with a recap of the showdown.

Intended to raise money for charity, Farley says O’Reilly told him it didn't matter who would win the debate. But Farley says he thinks O’Reilly wanted to win. “He wanted to make a good show of himself versus Jon Stewart,” Farley says. “I think there were lots to say on either side,” depending on what side you favor, he adds. There was some strikingly substantive discussion when it came to the issue of healthcare, for instance. Farley says this is because Stewart and O’Reilly are “not running for anything so they can say whatever they want,” unlike the presidential nominees. “They can speak their minds freely and make jokes about it, and that’s what made this debate much entertaining than most presidential debates you end up watching.” Their agenda may have been to raise money for charity, but Farley thinks the point was “to discuss some of these issues.”

However, Farley says, “Even though there were lots of jokes on Saturday night watching this debate, the biggest joke of all was just trying to watch the debate. People had major problems trying to log on to see what these guys had to say.”

Whatever the technical issues, “it’s hard to say who won,” Farley says. Funny man Stewart was able “to score joke after joke in ways that O’Reilly couldn't." But O’Reilly is seen as a guy who is a straight shooter by people who are conservative, and so a lot of people thought that that he came out on top of this, Farley adds.

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