NBC Olympics anchor Bob Costas appeared on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” Monday night to address head-on the controversy that had brewed in some conservative media circles over how the veteran sportscaster characterized Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Sochi Winter Olympics last month.
Costas came under fire after a segment during NBC’s Feb. 6 opening night coverage in which conservative blogs like NewsBusters say he praised Putin as a statesman “superior” to U.S. President Barack Obama.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asked the sportscaster whether he thought the criticism was fair.
“No, because it was entirely out of context,” Costas said.
He went on to say that he was actually hesitant to appear with O’Reilly — who actually defended Costas at the time — for fear of continuing to call attention to a “nonissue.”
“I was reluctant to come on,” Costas said. “I come on out of respect to you; you’ve always been fair to me, but I run the risk of amplifying what should be a nonissue.
“This is a controversy only for those looking for the most flimsy pretext for a controversy and a kind of cut-and-paste thing that isn’t even journalism,” he added.
Costas said that all of his coverage was available on the NBC Olympics website and chastised critics who he says deliberately misinterpreted that Feb. 6 segment on Putin and ignored the fact that Costas regularly contextualized “Putin’s Olympics” against the backdrop of an oppressive, nondemocratic Russian regime.
O’Reilly, for his part, played several clips of Costas doing just that.
“What you’re saying is, you were critical of Putin even while discussing his influence on the games,” O’Reilly said.
Watch the second half of Costas’ interview here: