If Bill O’Reilly had a modicum of shame, he would have kept himself well away from the Brian Williams saga. But then he is the Fox News network’s major star, and you don’t get on Fox by having any shame.
Comically, O’Reilly laid into Williams after the news broke that he had fabricated war stories, lambasting the liberal media for ‘distortions’ and using William’s demise as a chance to lecture everyone on the virtues of a free and honest press in honor of the founding fathers. “Stop the corruption,” he told his viewers, “and begin telling the truth without an agenda.”
Yes. Bill O’fucking-Reilly of Fox News lecturing other media outlets on having an agenda.
Either way, news broke yesterday that O’Reilly himself appears to have fabricated a war story of his own. For years, O’Reilly has regaled his audience with tales of his time as a war correspondent during the Falklands war in 1982, telling them that he had experienced real live combat. As Mother Jones reported:
Here are instances when O’Reilly touted his time as a war correspondent during the Falklands conflict:
* In his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, O’Reilly stated, “You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.”
* Conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, in a 2003 book, described how O’Reilly answered a question during a Washington panel discussion about media coverage of the Afghanistan war: “Rather than simply answer the question, O’Reilly began by trying to establish his own bona fides as a war correspondent. ‘I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.'”
* In a 2004 column about US soldiers fighting in Iraq, O’Reilly noted, “Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash.”
* In 2008, he took a shot at journalist Bill Moyers, saying, “I missed Moyers in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but I didn’t see him.”
It turns out that this is almost certainly nonsense – even by O’Reilly’s own account. As the Mother Jones report continues:
His own account of his time in Argentina in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone, contains no references to O’Reilly experiencing or covering any combat during the Falklands war. In the book, which in part chronicles his troubled stint as a CBS News reporter, O’Reilly reports that he arrived in Buenos Aires soon before the Argentine junta surrendered to the British, ending the 10-week war over control of two territories far off the coast of Argentina. There is nothing in this memoir indicating that O’Reilly witnessed the fighting between British and Argentine military forces—or that he got anywhere close to the Falkland Islands, which are 300 miles off Argentina’s shore and about 1,200 miles south of Buenos Aires.
And more damningly:
American reporters were not on the ground in this distant war zone. “Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war,” Susan Zirinsky, a longtime CBS News producer who helped manage the network’s coverage of the war from Buenos Aires, tells Mother Jones. She does not remember what O’Reilly did during his time in Argentina. But she notes that the military junta kept US reporters from reaching the islands: “You weren’t allowed on by the Argentinians. No CBS person got there.”
This has been corroborated by Bob Schieffer, who was CBS News’ lead correspondent covering the Falklands war when O’Reilly claimed to have been “almost killed”.
“Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands,” Schieffer told Mother Jones. I came close. We’d been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible.”
O’Reilly has responded to the article calling it a “hit piece” and the reporter David Corn “guttersnipe”. He told Politico that he was never in the Falklands, and was talking about reporting on a conflict in Buenos Aires. But Corn shot back:
He said he was in the war zone during the Falkland Island conflicts — the conflict was in the Falkland Islands, it was not in Buenos Aires…He covered a protest after the war was over in Buenos Aires. I don’t think that’s a reasonable definiton of a combat situation. If you look up ‘combat situation’ in the dictionary, it’s not ‘an ugly protest’.
Is O’Reilly telling the truth, exaggerating or fabricating events to make himself look like a grizzled war reporter? It’s hard to say, but it is likely a mixture of all three. In this instance it doesn’t appear to be a clear cut case, but Bill O’Reilly has a long, documented history of lying on a very, very consistent basis. His history of lying is so egregious that over a decade ago, Al Franken wrote a book inspired by O’Reilly constant mistruths named, “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them“. After the book was published, he had a very famous back and forth with O’Reilly that descended into a hilarious shouting match after Franken skewered O’Reilly for lying about winning a Peabody award:
The list of lies O’Reilly has told is simply too long to do justice to in one article. Peter Dreier, the professor of politics at Occidental College, wrote a very thorough piece back in 2012 neatly cataloging O’Reilly’s serial distortions. Here’s a sample:
• O’Reilly falsely claimed Bush didn’t oppose 9-11 Commission. O’Reilly defended President George W. Bush from a Kerry-Edwards ’04 TV ad highlighting Bush’s opposition to creation of the 9-11 Commission by denying that Bush had ever opposed the commission. In fact, Bush did oppose the creation of the 9-11 Commission. (10/21/04)
• O’Reilly falsely claimed Iraq had ricin. O’Reilly responded to a caller to his radio show by defending the Iraq war: “They did have ricin up there in the north — so why are you discounting that so much?” In fact, the Duelfer report (the final report of the Iraqi Survey Group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, which conducted the search for weapons in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion) indicates that Iraq did not have ricin. (10/19/04)
• O’Reilly repeated discredited claims on Iraq-Al Qaeda link. O’Reilly interrupted a former Clinton administration official who tried to correct the record on O’Reilly’s claim that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi constitutes a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He also allowed a conservative guest to repeat without challenge other discredited claims about Iraq’s supposed involvement in terrorism — claims O’Reilly has himself cited in the past. (9/27/04)
• O’Reilly fabricated “Paris Business Review” as source for success of French boycott.O’Reilly falsely claimed “they’ve lost billions of dollars in France according to ‘The Paris Business Review'” due to an American boycott he advocated of French imports. Media Matters for America found no evidence of a publication named “The Paris Business Review.” (4/27/04)
• O’Reilly cited phony stats to argue that taxes on rich are excessive. O’Reilly tried to “blow off” the argument that wealthy Americans ought to pay more taxes by citing phony statistics about the tax burden the rich currently bear. (6/30/04)
• O’Reilly doctored quotation to suggest Soros wished his own father dead. During his smear campaign against progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros, O’Reilly doctored a 1995 quotation by Soros to make it seem as if Soros wished his own father dead. (6/1/04)
And the list goes on and on and on. It would be impossible to cover all of Bill O’Reilly’s lies because he lies professionally on a daily basis. The network he works for pays him $20 million a year to distort reality, alongside a vast army of paid liars disguised as ‘reporters’ and ‘news anchors’.
When large non profit organizations are set up to combat the daily falsehoods coming out of your network, you can be sure you don’t have anything to do with “telling the truth without an agenda”.
So yes, O’Reilly probably did lie about his time in Argentina as a war correspondent, but it doesn’t really matter given we knew he was a liar anyway.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.