Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly Doubles Down on Falklands ‘Combat’ Reporting Lies
Bill O’Reilly’s commentary on the Brian Williams scandal lacked the venom with which the longtime host of The O’Reilly Factor, aka the “No Spin Zone,” often blasts the “pinheads” in his cross hairs. The reason for his uncharacteristic leniency may never be known, but what is now known is that O’Reilly has been ‘pulling a Brian Williams’ of his own for at least the past 14 years.
Last week, Mother Jones, a progressive political magazine, broke the news that O’Reilly has, on many occasions, lied about his “combat” reporting during the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and Britain, and possibly also about his time spent reporting from other war zones, including El Salvador, during his brief stint as a CBS News correspondent in the 1980s.
O’Reilly’s biggest lies:
In his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, O’Reilly claimed, “You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.” O’Reilly often repeated this claim, including in 2004 when he wrote in defense of an alleged US war crime in Iraq that he “survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War.”
But that is impossible, since the only American reporter who entered the “active war zone” in the Falklands was NBC News reporter Robin Lloyd. O’Reilly reported on the war from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, which is 1,200 miles (1,931 km) from where the fighting occurred.
“Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ lead correspondent covering the Falklands War, told Mother Jones in refuting O’Reilly’s lie. “For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals.”
“No CBS person got there,” confirmed CBS News producer Susan Zirinsky, who helped manage the network’s wartime coverage from Buenos Aires.
Numerous other former CBS News colleagues refuted O’Reilly’s claims. Charles Krause, a CBS News correspondent from 1980 to 1983 who reported from Buenos Aires during the same period as O’Reilly, called them “absurd.”
In his second major lie, O’Reilly wrote in The No Spin Zone that he covered a violent riot that occurred in the capital when Argentines learned that their US-backed military dictatorship had surrendered to the British. This is true. But O’Reilly claims that “many were killed” during the riot. In a 2009 television interview unearthed by Mother Jones, O’Reilly claimed Argentine soldiers “were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the streets” with “real bullets.”
Yet there was no report by any media, local or international, of any deaths. Nor has there been in the decades since. Argentine security forces opened fire with plastic bullets and tear gas, according to international media reports from the time. As part of the healing process that accompanied Argentina’s return to democracy, the many human rights violations of the military regime were closely examined. There is no report of anyone killed during the demonstration in which O’Reilly claims “many were killed.”
“As far as I know, there were no people killed at the protests,” Argentine historian Federico G. Lorenz, a Falklands expert, told the Washington Post. “[There were] people slightly injured due to gasses and anti-riot munition, but not dead people.”
Caught in these two undeniable lies, O’Reilly is fighting to salvage what remains of his already questionable credibility by doubling down on his lies and threatening those who report the truth. He first addressed the scandal on his show last Friday, calling the Mother Jones article “more proof the American media is corrupt.” He also attacked Mother Jones as “low-circulation, considered by many to be the bottom rung of American journalism.”
For the record, the magazine has won numerous major awards since its founding in 1976, including six National Magazine Awards, three of them for General Excellence. It was also the first general interest magazine to post content on the Internet, starting in 1993.
O’Reilly called Mother Jones reporter David Corn, who along with Daniel Schulman broke the Falklands lie story, a “liar,” a “left-wing assassin” and a “despicable guttersnipe,” saying Corn deserved “to be in the kill zone.” His rabid reaction to being exposed, which has bordered on threats of violence, has not been limited to Corn. In a phone interview, O’Reilly reportedly threatened New York Times reporter Emily Steel if he did not like what she reported about him.
“I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly reportedly told Steel. “You can take it as a threat.”
In what many observers view as a desperate and pathetic attempt to defend his lies, O’Reilly has trotted out a parade of colleagues, both past and present, and video footage from the Buenos Aires riot, which he claims is the “active war zone” he was always referring to. But there was no combat in Buenos Aires, which was 1,200 miles from the “combat” and the “active war zone” O’Reilly still claims to have witnessed.
There is also no evidence in the footage that anyone was killed during the riot, as claimed by O’Reilly, and none of the guests on his show—including Geraldo Rivera and Bernie Goldberg—have said said Mother Jones is lying, or that O’Reilly is telling the truth. They have only expressed outrage that the left-wing media is going after O’Reilly the way Fox News went after Brian Williams, strongly implying that the cases are actually similar.
Seemingly undaunted, O’Reilly is still lying: “Every single fact I reported is true,” he said on his show on Monday.
Argentina may just be the tip of the iceberg of O’Reilly lies. Mother Jones also asked him about other dubious claims he has made about his wartime reporting from El Salvador, the Middle East and Northern Ireland, including having witnessed “soldiers gun down unarmed civilians in Latin America” and having been “in the middle of a couple of firefights in South and Central America.” He has refused to answer any of the magazine’s questions.
Fox News has been caught in lie after lie, with British Prime Minister David Cameron—a Conservative—recently saying he “choked on his porridge” upon viewing a fallacious Fox report about Birmingham, England being “totally Muslim.”
A recent study by the non-partisan media watchdog PolitiFact revealed that only 22 percent of statements made by Fox News were “true” or “mostly true,” 18 percent were “half true” and fully 60 percent were either “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire” lies. The city of Paris, France recently announced it was suing Fox News for disseminating false stories about Muslim-controlled “no-go zones” in the French capital.
O’Reilly responded to the news of the impending French lawsuit by claiming he “didn’t have anything to do” with disseminating the “no-go zone” lies. This was yet another lie; on January 9, O’Reilly cited the alleged forbidden areas as one of the causes of the terrorist attacks targeting the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish delicatessen in Paris.
Despite its many documented lies, Fox News remains the most trusted US news network, according to a a June 2014 Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings Institution poll.