WASHINGTON, D.C. — As if to set the tone for the debate with Bill O’Reilly Saturday night, Jon Stewart‘s first statement at “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” was simply, “My friend Bill O’Reilly is completely full of sh–.”
Inspired in part by the kickoff of the presidential debates, the face-off between the men behind “The Daily Show” and “The O’Reilly Factor” included a 90-minute debate at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The two didn’t hold back cracking jokes at one another using a tone of humorous rhetoric and even including mentions of people like Oprah and Lil Wayne (no Sesame Street characters). The majority of the discourse, however, was devoted to topics like immigration, national debt, foreign policy and health care, where they disagreed on pretty much everything.
So who won?
When asked during a press conference afterward, neither debater conceded nor declared victory, but they did have some fuel left for a few more jabs.
“He didn’t know I was going to be brilliant and frame my arguments in a way that he couldn’t reply to,” O’Reilly said.
“And I didn’t know he was going to bring flash cards,” Stewart replied, referring to the several small posters O’Reilly whipped out on stage ranging from “Debt is bad” to “Bush is gone.”
After spending the first 50 minutes of the debate on a few key topics, moderator and journalist E.D. Hill asked lighter questions including, which American they’d elect as president if they could choose absolutely anyone. O’Reilly chose Clint Eastwood, prompting Jon Stewart to jump out of his chair and talk to his empty chair, referencing Eastwood’s RNC speech. “Well, why don’t we ask him,” he joked.
When asked what advice they’d give to the youth of America, Jon Stewart paused before saying, “There is no time I would rather live in that now and there is no generation I would more entrust the future of this country than this one. I’ve been very impressed with young people and their commitment to want to do anything and I think there’s a tendency in this country to think that other generations possessed an integrity and tenacity greater than the generation does now and I wholeheartedly disagree with that.
“I believe this is a group that will rise to many challenges that will come before them as well as any generation.”
Bill O’Reilly’s advice was to “find what you’re good at and make money doing it.”
When MTV News spoke with students after the debate, the majority seemed to think the win went to Stewart.
“I felt he actually brought up more relevant issues than Bill O’Reilly did,” said Nicolas Lussier, a 19-year-old freshman at George Washington University. “I think Bill O’Reilly played up to passions of the crowd. It’s very easy to talk about cutting things and about how people are exploiting your money and that can rile up the crowd, but Jon Stewart brought up more intellectual arguments.”
“Jon Stewart just appears to be the better debater,” said Rob Wasserstein, an 18-year old G.W. freshman, who saw the debate closely aligned with the presidential election. “I walked in following the Wednesday night debate. Romney persuaded me more than I ever thought I’d persuaded by a Republican and after this I’m very proud to be a democrat.”
For Courtney Hinkle, a 22-year-old recent college grad, the debate inspired issues she’d like to see come up at the next presidential debate. “I think he [Stewart] clarified the role of government and our place in the world and answered the questions that I would like to see Obama answer as well,” she said. “He really put it in perspective that you have to take things in context you can’t just look at an issue and isolate it to understand how you measure Obama and his record.”
This being first-ever event like this with the two commentators, viewers weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but seemed pleasantly surprised. “It was more funny than I thought it was going to be,” Lussier said. “I laughed a lot more with Bill O’Reilly than I thought I was going to. He did a good job of appealing to the crowd and crossing a generational line.”
“It was absolutely hysterical. Both of them have an innate talent to get their points across, but do it in an entertaining way,” Wasserstein said. “This was one of the most enjoyable 90-minute sessions of my life.”