February 19, 2015

I'm sure Billo and Fox News will have an excuse for this, because they would never, ever lie to their viewers. Would they?

David Corn at Mother Jones has the story, which should by all rights disqualify Bill-o even with his own fans.

After NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for erroneously claiming that he was nearly shot down in a helicopter while covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly went on a tear. On his television show, the top-rated cable news anchor declared that the American press isn't "half as responsible as the men who forged the nation." He bemoaned the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other "distortions" by left-leaning outlets. Yet for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.

O'Reilly has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between England and Argentina. He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it, "I've been there. That's really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I've seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven't."

That Falklands war claim has been told and retold by O'Reilly and his compatriots in conservative media, including Tucker Carlson. But here's the problem: No U.S. correspondents were allowed into that war zone. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

As Caroline Wyatt, the BBC's defense correspondent, recently noted, "It was a war in which a small group of correspondents and crews sailing with the Royal Navy were almost entirely dependent upon the military—not only for access to the conflict, but also for the means of reporting it back to the UK." And Robert Fox, one of the embedded British reporters, recalled, "We were, in all, a party of about 32-34 accredited journalists, photographers, television crew members. We were all white, male, and British. There was no embedded reporter from Europe, the Commonwealth or the US (though they tried hard enough), let alone from Latin America."

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."

There was a riot that O'Reilly covered, but that's not what he's claiming. Bill-o claims he was in the war zone, covering the war. And even with regard to the protest in Buenos Aires, Corn notes that O'Reilly's account doesn't even square with CBS' reporting at the time.

Bill-O wasted no time responding. He ran to Politico and fired off some epithets.

Bill O'Reilly says a new Mother Jones report alleging that the Fox News host made false claims about his Falklands War experience is "a piece of garbage" and that its principal author, David Corn, is "a liar."

In a telephone interview with the On Media blog, O'Reilly called Corn a "despicable guttersnipe" who has been trying to take him down "for years."

"It's a hit piece," O'Reilly said. "Everything I said about what I reported in South and Central America is true. Everything."

I'm certain Bill-O will use his Fox News platform to explain to all of us how he managed to get into a war zone where no U.S. reporters were allowed then. Right?

I encourage you to read Corn's entire article. He bent over backwards to be fair to O'Reilly, even in the face of claims that are, on their face, specious.

Bill-O can bloviate, but David Corn just caught him in an outright lie, and he now has a bigger problem than Brian Williams does. Methinks he doth protest too much.

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