Mother Jones on Thursday reported that Bill O’Reilly back when he was on CBS, lied in his reporting during the Falklands War. The war, to give you some background, was fought between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands from April 2 to June 14, 1982. Argentina was among many South American nations that were ruled by dictatorships one after another. The dictator at the time, Leopoldo Galtieri, led the campaign to take the islands. Argentina invaded the islands and occupied it on April 2. On April 5, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.
Argentina and the U.K. have maintained great relations going back to December 15, 1823, when both nations established diplomatic relations. Following the war which cut off the years of peaceful relations, diplomatic relations were reinstated in 1990. Post-war relations between the two countries improved significantly up until the mid-2000s. But the war has caused a strain in recent years because both countries still are arguing who owns these islands. To add insult to injury, in 1994, Argentina’s claim to the territories was added to its constitution.
Bill O’Reilly who worked for CBS at the time covered the war. The report from Mother Jones’ David Corn and Daniel Schulman, examines O’Reilly’s repeated claims to have seen combat while working as a CBS correspondent in Argentina during the 1982 Falklands war.
Corn and Schulman find that O’Reilly’s on-air claims are not supported by his own memoirs or the recollection of other CBS employees at the time. He was, they conclude, “claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.”
O’Reilly told Politico that the Mother Jones piece is “a piece of garbage,” and called Corn “a despicable guttersnipe” out to get him. “I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was,” O’Reilly told Politico. “I was in Buenos Aires … In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.
O’Reilly has claimed that he saw combat around the Falklands war. In a 2013 Fox News segment, for example, he said, “I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete.”
Corn and Schulman document a number of similar claims from O’Reilly — and then argue that these claims appear likely to be false.
Here’s the core of their piece:
[O’Reilly’s] 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.
“Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands,” Bob Schieffer, the chief CBS correspondent covering the war at the time, told Mother Jones. Susan Zirinsky, a CBS producer who worked on Falklands coverage, said the same thing: “Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war.”
Another part of the story is O’Reilly and the protests following Argentina’s surrender to the U.K. which marked the end of the war. Washington bureau chief David Corn highlighted discrepancies between O’Reilly’s description of his experiences in Argentina in a 2001 book and several public statements regarding his time there.
In the book, Corn stated, O’Reilly says he was reporting for CBS News in Buenos Aires — more than 1,000 miles from the actual warzone — when he was “right in the middle” of a major riot that caused several fatalities. The riot, which was widely reported, followed Argentina’s surrender to United Kingdom forces in July 1982, ending the Falklands conflict. O’Reilly says a soldier aimed his weapon toward him, and that he and other journalists were tear-gassed and attacked before he escaped the scene.
“I managed to make it back to the Sheraton with the best news footage I have ever seen,” O’Reilly wrote. “This was major violence up close and personal, and it was an important international story.”
O’Reilly also claimed in the book that he was “big-footed” when the network’s story that evening featured lead correspondent Bob Schieffer instead of him. Mother Jones posted footage of CBS’ report, which can be seen below.
But according to Corn, though CBS and other U.S. outlets covered the rioting in the city, there were no reported deaths during the incident. However, O’Reilly claimed there was widespread violence during the protest in a television interview in 2009.
“There must have been 5 or 6,000 people, and the army was standing between the people and the presidential palace,” O’Reilly said at the time. “Here in the United States we would do tear gas and rubber bullets. Here, they were doing real bullets. They were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the streets.”
But while his book did not mention covering actual combat in the Falklands, Corn wrote, the Factor host has described himself on multiple occasions as having reported there, including a 2008 episode in which he took a swipe at Bill Moyers.
“I missed Moyers in the war zones of El Salvador, the Falklands conflict in Argentina and the Middle East and Northern Ireland,” O’Reilly said. “I looked for Bill, but I didn’t see him.”
According to other reporters — including Schiffer, O’Reilly’s colleague during that conflict — it was impossible to see any media outlets near the fighting.
“Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands. I came close. We’d been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible,” Schiffer said. “For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals.”
On Thursday, O’Reilly called Corn a “despicable guttersnipe” and said he never claimed to have been on the islands.
“It was clear that I did not say I was in the Falkland Islands,” he told Politico. “I’ve done myriad interviews over the years and I never said that.”
Corn, an MSNBC contributor, posted his own response to O’Reilly on Twitter:
Fox News will not fire Bill, but instead stand behind him because that’s what a fake news channel does and Bill has been there since the channel’s first day in 1996. Bill is important to them and not news or should I say real news? He also continues to being in more war zones or crime sprees such as El Salvador, Uruguay and he made sure that he wasn’t in Grenada when that war happened and he “didn’t want to get in trouble”. Bernie Goldberg also made a dumb argument that Obama has controlled the media by telling them what to report on the administration like the IRS “scandal”.
Mother Jones explains in this video below on O’Reilly’s inaccurate reporting on his own experiences as a war correspondent.
And he once told a viewer who caught his show in Argentina, “Tell everybody down there I covered the Falklands war. They’ll remember.”
O’Reilly has frequently represented himself as a combat-hardened journalist—he has visited US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and reported from those countries—and he has referred to his assignment in Argentina to bolster this impression. On his television show in 1999, O’Reilly responded to a letter from a retired Air Force colonel, who said he had flown 123 missions over Vietnam and who criticized O’Reilly for supporting military action in Kosovo, by citing his Falklands war days: “Hey, Colonel, did you ever have a hostile point an M-16 at your head from 10 yards away? That happened to me while I was covering the Falklands war.” In his 2013 book Keep It Pithy, he writes, “I’ve seen soldiers gun down unarmed civilians in Latin America.” During his radio show on January 13, 2005, he declared, “I’ve been in combat. I’ve seen it. I’ve been close to it.” When a caller questioned him about this, O’Reilly shot back: “I was in the middle of a couple of firefights in South and Central America.” O’Reilly did not specify where these firefights occurred—in The No Spin Zone, the only South America assignment he writes about is his trip to Argentina—and then he hung up on the caller.
In The No Spin Zone, O’Reilly does write vividly about an assignment that took him to El Salvador during the country’s civil war shortly after CBS News hired him as a correspondent in 1981. As O’Reilly recalls in the book, he and his crew drove for a full day to reach Morazán province, “a dangerous place,” and headed to a small village called Meanguera, where, a Salvadoran captain claimed, guerrillas had wiped out the town. “Nobody in his right mind would go into the guerilla-controlled area,” O’Reilly writes. But he did, and he notes he found a horrific scene: “The place was leveled to the ground and fires were still smoldering. But even though the carnage was obviously recent, we saw no one live or dead. There was absolutely nobody around who could tell us what happened. I quickly did a stand-up amid the rubble and we got the hell out of there.” He does not mention being in any firefight.
O’Reilly’s account of his El Salvador mission is inconsistent with the report he filed for CBS News, which aired on May 20, 1982—shortly before he was dispatched to Buenos Aires. “These days Salvadoran soldiers appear to be doing more singing than fighting,” O’Reilly said in the opening narration, pointing out that not much combat was under way in the country at that time. O’Reilly noted that the defense ministry claimed it had succeeded in “scattering the rebel forces, leaving government troops in control of most of the country.” He reported that a military helicopter had taken him and his crew on a tour of areas formerly held by the rebels. (This fact was not included in the account in The No Spin Zone.) From the air, O’Reilly and his team saw houses destroyed and dead animals “but no signs of insurgent forces.”
As part of the same 90-second story, O’Reilly reported from Meanguera, saying rebels had been driven out of the hamlet by the Salvadoran military after intense fighting. But this was not a wiped-out village of the dead. His own footage, which was recently posted by The Nation, showed residents walking about and only one or two burned-down structures. O’Reilly’s CBS report gave no indication that he had experienced any combat on this assignment in El Salvador.
When O’Reilly was excoriating Brian Williams last week for telling a war-related whopper, he said of his Fox television show, “We’ve made some mistakes in the past but very few…We take great pains to present you with information that can be verified.” And he asserted, “Reporting comes with a big responsibility, the Founding Fathers made that point very clearly. They said to us, ‘We’ll give you freedom. We’ll protect you from government intrusion. But, in return, you, the press, must be honest.'”
When the Iraq War of 2003 was coming, Bill O’Reilly speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, O’Reilly promised that “If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it’s clean [of weapons of mass destruction]…I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again.” In another appearance on the same program on February 10, 2004, O’Reilly responded to repeated requests for him to honor his pledge: “My analysis was wrong and I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’m not pleased about it at all.” “With regard to never again trusting the current U.S. government, he said, “I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now than I was at that time.”
But with the apology, O’Reilly hasn’t honored the pledge fully. When the war began and went badly, O’Reilly backtracked on his reporting unlike when it began. O’Reilly told people to “shut up” once the fighting begins and to support the military completely regardless. He hasn’t apologized for his “shut up” comments and he won’t. He lied to us before the war and while he apologized for his analysis, he hasn’t to those he told to “shut up” and let the war start. He still supported the war because America was involved. He argued that if America didn’t go to Iraq in the first place, then it would have terrible for the region and the country. He also supported whatever the Bush administration did in Iraq regardless of when things were getting worse and worse and argues that the U.S. shouldn’t have left in 2011 because it made Iraq worse. The hypocrisy of O’Reilly is common and it’s not a surprise that his lies from years ago are being exposed to the public.
“Reporting comes with a big responsibility, the Founding Fathers made that point very clearly. They said to us, ‘We’ll give you freedom. We’ll protect you from government intrusion. But, in return, you, the press, must be honest.'” O’Reilly hasn’t done what he has said in this quote because he doesn’t care about getting the truth. He only cares about getting ratings and promoting a conservative agenda on Fox News and don’t expect him to leave Fox because he is their “holy warrior” and “crusader” for their “War on Christmas”. And the video below explains how typical O’Reilly conducts any sort of business anywhere and that’s with the “shut up” line.
Media Matters (1), (2)