You know, I don't even want Bill to lose his job. It'll be too much fun to simply say, every time someone spouts something they saw on Fox, to reply, "Oh, you mean the same network that lets Bill O'Reilly tell imaginary war stories?"
I just remembered that, back when I was a newspaper editor, I had to edit some really gruesome photos of Rwandan massacres. Does that mean I get to go on Fox and talk about it as if I were actually there? I know a photojournalist who was there -- does that count?
In his 2013 book, “Keep It Pithy,” the Fox News host recounted,“I’ve seen soldiers gun down unarmed civilians in Latin America, Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.”
On another occasion, he said, “I’ve covered four wars,” and ticked off El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s, the 1982 Falklands conflict, Northern Ireland and an unspecified conflict in Israel. “I’ve seen the best and the worst.”
But in light of a week-long controversy surrounding other comments that O’Reilly has made about his career, those statements bear closer examination.
O’Reilly traveled to Northern Ireland in 1984 to research a book about the Troubles, according to Fox News. The book was never finished, and it’s not clear whether he covered the conflict for any news organization. At the time, he was working for a Boston TV station, WCVB, but his then-boss, Philip S. Balboni, said that O’Reilly covered only local news and did commentary for the station.
O’Reilly didn’t mention seeing any terrorist bombings in Northern Ireland during a radio interview with syndicated host Hugh Hewitt last week. Instead, he told a milder story: “We went on a raid in Divis Flats with the police. And it was a pretty intense situation. There was stuff being thrown, arrests being made, all of that.”
“Were you in fear of physical harm?” Hewitt asked.
No, O’Reilly replied.
The long-since-demolished Divis Flats were infamous in western Belfast, occupied primarily by poor Catholic residents. The housing complex was considered a stronghold of the separatist Irish Republican Army and was the scene of many police raids during the decades of the Troubles.
Asked about O’Reilly’s statements Friday, a Fox News spokesman said that O’Reilly was not an eyewitness to any bombings or injuries in Northern Ireland. Instead, he was shown photos of bombings by Protestant police officers.
The clarification is similar to one O’Reilly made in the wake of questionsraised this week about his characterization of his experiences during the Salvadoran civil war.