By Mandi Bierly
Updated August 03, 2020 at 01:30 PM EDT

Image Credit: Fox News (2); PRN/PR Photos; Insidefoto/PR Photos; Tina Gill/PR Photos; Glenn Harris/PR Photos; Comedy CentralLast month on Late Show with David Letterman, as she’s done on her own MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow made the point that there will always be fear mongers — like the Fox News Channel, she said — who, in her words, want white voters to be afraid of “scary black people” so they’ll vote conservative. What can change, she insisted, is how other media outlets and viewers themselves react to the stories they spin. Instead of going along with the snap judgment on the edited Shirley Sherrod video (which, to be fair, not all Fox News personalities did), CNN spent the day debunking it, she said. “Maybe that’s the best antidote,” Maddow concluded. “Sheer mockery of the people doing it.” With that in mind, let’s rate some of the celebrity performances in the more memorable Fox News battles on a scale of 1 to 10.

John Cusack vs. Fox News: Responding to an Aug. 29 Twitter question asking him if he was for or against the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center, Cusack tweeted: “I AM FOR A SATANIC DEATH CULT CENTER AT FOX NEWS HQ AND OUTSIDE THE OFFICES [OF DICK] ARMEY AND NEWT GINGRICH-and all the GOP WELFARE FREAKS.” ran a piece interviewing experts concerned that Cusack’s (satirical) quip could inspire one of his rabid 200,000+ Twitter followers who may be mentally unstable to carry out a violent act. Suddenly Fox News has a problem with over-the-top rhetoric? Really? SCORE: 4 (which isn’t a bad return for a tweet)

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert vs. Glenn Beck: This is the war that will not end (and will continue to win Emmys). The latest battle: Beck’s Aug. 28 Restoring Honor rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the exact location and date of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. It’s a shame that both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are dark this week, but they each touched on the rally on Aug. 26. Colbert agreed that Beck wasn’t trying to replace King and played a clip of Beck saying, “People are now saying that I am trying to distort Civil Rights history, I’m trying to steal his legacy, etc. etc. Nothing of the kind. I am going to be several stairs down from where he stood.” Cut to Colbert: “Several stairs down. That is totally different… in the same way that I may plan to grow a chinstrap beard, marry a crazy woman, and go to Ford’s Theatre to get shot in the head — but not like Lincoln. Several rows down.” Stewart, who’s been known to use a chalkboard for full-blown attacks on Beck, devoted a solid 10 minutes to his “I have a scheme” plan, showing clips of him contradicting himself on Americans’ need to think for themselves (don’t let the government tell you what to do, but listen to him) and dangers of fear mongering (but have you heard what will happen if you don’t follow his nine principles and 12 values)? SCORE: 10

Jennifer Aniston vs. Bill O’Reilly: Last month, after The Switch star suggested that thanks to artificial insemination, single women are realizing they don’t need to settle on a man if their clock is ticking, O’Reilly accused Aniston of “throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that, Hey! You don’t need a guy, you don’t need a dad. Daaaaad? Aggghhhh, you know! [Makes dismissive wave of the hand.] That’s destructive to our society!” Aniston issued a retort to People: “Of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is obviously two parents of a mature age. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth. And, of course, many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts), but for those who’ve not yet found their Bill O’Reilly, I’m just glad science has provided a few other options.” SCORE: 7 (classy but not boring)

James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Promoting the Avatar DVD last March, Cameron called Beck “dangerous” and his Global Warming-denying ideology “poisonous,” and took objection to Beck calling him the “anti-Christ” back in 2007, when Beck was a host on CNN. Beck responded on his show: “The following segment is a Fox television first — it’s Fox News 3-D,” he said, whipping on a pair of cardboard 3-D glasses. “Yes, James, I am guilty. I did call James Cameron the anti-Christ. But only because of the Celine Dion song. Horrific. Really. But the best part is, this guy has carried this joke around for three long years. This guy is making a billion dollars on a Smurf-murdering movie and he’s stewing about a joke that nobody heard on a network nobody watched! It’s time to walk away from the CGI, Jim. Just for a minute. I don’t think he’s just upset with me, though. He’s also upset with you too,” Beck went on, nodding into the camera, at his show’s viewers. “Because you’re a global warming denier.” SCORE: 2 (Beck easily outdid him)

Fox News vs. Janeane Garofalo: After Garofalo referred to anti-tax tea parties as “straight up racism” against a black president in spring 2009, correspondent Griff Jenkins confronted Garofalo on the street outside of a Starbucks before a standup gig. How does she know the attendees were racist? “What about that one sign that said, ‘What’chu talkin’ about, Willis?’ What do you think about that sign?” she said. He hadn’t seen it, so he couldn’t comment. “Because if it’s about fiscal imprudence, why were they not protesting for the last eight years under the Bush spending,” she said later. Again, no comment. He just wanted her to admit that yes, she thinks all tea party goers are racist. Which she did, with a curtsy. SCORE: 7 (you can debate whether engaging on the street into a handheld camera is dignified, but it does show confidence)

Nas vs. Fox News Channel: In July 2008, Nas and a small group of protesters showed up at Fox’s midtown Manhattan headquarters to deliver a petition from grassroots groups signed by 620,127 people who claimed to have noticed a pattern of racist coverage leading up to the presidential election. Fox refused to accept the boxes containing the petitions. Nas, who hadn’t been a fan of Bill O’Reilly since he argued that Nas was a gangster rapper who shouldn’t be allowed to perform at a concert for Virginia Tech students following their campus shooting, then headed to The Colbert Report and he and Colbert conducted their interview sitting on the boxes — before Nas performed his takedown song “Sly Fox.” SCORE: 7

Sean Penn vs. Bill O’Reilly: In the February 2002 issue of Talk magazine, Penn made his feelings about O’Reilly known loud and clear, calling O’Reilly ”a grumpy, self-loathing joke,” he said, ”[t]here’s a long history of people who capitalize on the lowest common denominator of people’s impulses. Adolf Hitler being one of them. Not everybody wants to hit the wall in a violent rage and break their knuckles, so he does it for them.” O’Reilly has since taken Penn to task for his vocal political views over the years, culminating in them trading jabs during the 2009 awards season as Penn picked up trophies for Milk. “Thank you, and good evening, comrades… That was for O’Reilly,” Penn said while accepting his SAG Award. When Penn took home the Oscar, O’Reilly took issue with the actor telling people who voted for the ban against gay marriage to think about the shame they’ll see in their grandchildren’s eyes. In a March 2009 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, right after The O’Reilly Factor celebrated its 100th consecutive month as the top-rated cable news show, O’Reilly said Penn was the only actor whose political viewers disturb him so much that he won’t see his movies. “He’s a great actor, and if you hire him, you’ll get a good performance. I’m just not going to give a guy who gives aid and comfort to people like [Iran president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and Saddam Hussein, when he was alive, my 10 bucks. That’s my right as an American,” O’Reilly said. SCORE: 5 (we can appreciate the longevity of the feud, but nothing’s particularly clever)

George Clooney vs. Bill O’Reilly: Each time Clooney helps organize a telethon, watchdog O’Reilly is there to question if all the funds are getting to the right people. After O’Reilly made the on-air accusation in 2001 that the September 11th fund was being mishandled and misused, Clooney sent him a letter, detailing the factual inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s report and agreeing with him that yes, celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks lied when they said they were “too busy” to respond to O’Reilly’s queries. “You’re right, Mr. O’Reilly, we lied — all of us. Of course we weren’t too busy,” Clooney wrote. “And if you were Peter Jennings, or Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose, The Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, or pretty much anybody else, we would have dropped everything and explained what we know. You see Bill, these are journalists. So, yes we lied when we said we were too busy to do your ‘entertainment show.’ We were just trying to not hurt your feelings.” After another sparring match before 2005’s Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope telethon, O’Reilly accepted Clooney’s written invitation to appear on the broadcast. SCORE: 8