updated 3/17/2010 8:34:27 PM ET 2010-03-18T00:34:27

President Barack Obama on Wednesday took to the Fox News Channel, derided by his White House as a wing of the Republican Party, to sell his embattled health care overhaul in an interview punctuated with interruptions from the host and chiding from the guest.

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Obama sat down with "Special Report" anchor Bret Baier in the executive mansion's Blue Room to talk about a health care plan that is inching toward final passage. Several times Obama chided Baier for breaking into his lengthy answers with follow-up questions.

"Bret, you've got to let me finish my answers," Obama told Baier, the news channel's White House correspondent during the Bush administration.

"Sir," Baier responded, "I know you don't like to filibuster, but ..."

"Well," Obama said in cutting him off again, "I'm trying to answer your question and you keep on interrupting."

‘Let me finish’
The tone was set early. Baier first asked about the latest efforts in the House to pass the bill, which elicited Obama's standard talking points about the benefits of the overhaul effort. Baier tried to bring Obama back to the question.

"Bret, let me finish," Obama said.

An unhappy Obama completed his answer, repeating his familiar reasons why lawmakers should pass legislation that would deliver the White House a victory on its top domestic priority during an election year when Democrats face tough prospects.

"Let me insert this," Baier said, trying to regain control of the conversation by citing some of the 18,000 questions Fox News viewers had sent to him ahead of the interview. The two he mentioned were critical of what they called bribery and trickery to pass a bill supposedly good for the country.

"Bret, I get 40,000 letters or e-mails a day," Obama said.

White House criticism of Fox
The White House has been strident in its criticism of Fox News. In October its former communications director, Anita Dunn, called Fox News "either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party" and added, "Let's not pretend they're a news organization like CNN is."

Other White House officials, including press secretary Robert Gibbs, have been fervent in their opposition to the news channel.

"I have watched many stories on that network that I've found not to be true," Gibbs said from the White House podium in October.

Fox has faced withering criticism for its treatment of the Democratic White House. On Sunday, former New York Times editor Howell Raines decried the network and questioned why other news organizations lend it legitimacy.

"Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?" Raines wrote in a column for The Washington Post. Ailes was a prominent GOP media consultant before becoming a national TV news executive.

‘Most for our buck’
It seemed during the interview with Baier that Obama was familiar with the criticism. The president sought to avoid questions about the legislative process Democrats are weighing to pass the proposal.

"I've got to say to you, there are a lot more people who are concerned about the fact that they may be losing their house or going bankrupt because of health care," he said.

Baier acknowledged that he had spoken over the president many times.

"I don't want to interrupt you," he said, trying to get one last question into the interview and drawing a smile from Obama.

Baier wrapped up the interview by noting the tension.

"I apologize for interrupting you, sir," he said. "I tried to get the most for our buck here."

On topics besides health care, Obama said:

  • That the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not in crisis. Obama said new settlement homes that Israel announced for Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden last week "weren't helpful" in carving out a peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But he also said that Washington remains a committed ally for Israel.
  • That keeping Tehran without a nuclear weapon is one of his highest priorities. Obama was asked if a nuclear-armed Tehran would be a failure of his administration. Obama's reply was to emphasize work already under way among international partners to isolate Iran.
  • That Tiger Woods will still be a "terrific" golfer despite his personal issues. Woods announced this week that he will end more than four months of seclusion after revelations of his extramarital affairs by returning to professional competition at the Masters golf tournament in three weeks.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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