During an angry response to the latest questions raised about his credibility, Bill O’Reilly said he has reached out to Dan Rather – a guy whose career Fox News did everything it could to destroy – for corroboration.
O’Reilly defended his claims about reporting from a “war zone” in a 16+ minute segment on MediaBuzz today. In it, O’Reilly attacked Mother Jones and reporter David Corn, who published last week’s article examining O’Reilly’s claims about covering the Falklands war and its aftermath, and retired CBS reporter Eric Engberg, who subsequently raised further questions about O’Reilly’s truthfulness.
O’Reilly once again made the dubious claim that Mother Jones (and presumably Engberg) were going after him in revenge for the scandal over Brian Williams’ falsehoods: “This is splitting hairs, trying anything they can, to bring down me because of the Brian Williams situation.”
O’Reilly also demanded that any and all of his critics should come on his show and let him make a spectacle of them debate the situation. That’s when O’Reilly revealed he has reached out to Rather.
O'REILLY: These guys want to come after me, I’m here. Anybody who says my reporting in Argentina was erroneous, they can come on tomorrow night. I got calls into Dan Rather. I’ve got calls into all the CBS brass at the time, I’m gonna get the video. CBS, I think is going to give it to us tomorrow so that people can see for themselves.
…We’ll have more on this. We’re trying to get Rather, trying to get the president of CBS News at the time… and we will have the video… that I shot, my guy shot, we should have it all tomorrow on The Factor.
It takes a lot of chutzpah (or else desperation) for O’Reilly to look to Rather for help. In case anyone doesn’t recall how Fox News has trashed Rather over the years, here are a few reminders:
In April, 2012, O’Reilly told Fox News’ Bernard Goldberg he had considered (and rejected) sending a reporter to ambush Rather for canceling an O’Reilly Factor interview. Goldberg sneered, “I know it doesn’t sound logical, but I think he’s more comfortable with sitting down with a murderer like Saddam Hussein than he is... sitting down with you.”
In a September, 2007 discussion about Rather’s lawsuit against CBS, Fox News’ Liz Trotta described him as a bitter old man and likened him to O.J. Simpson for not shutting up and stay out of the spotlight.
As noted by Media Matters, MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz, then hosting CNN’s Reliable Sources, “stacked a September, 2007 show’s panel with invited guests who all mocked and belittled Rather (“sad,” “pathetic,” “arrogant”).”
Assuming he could back up O’Reilly’s claims, why on earth would Rather help anyone at Fox? It’s not like it’s such an upstanding news organization that doesn’t report falsehoods and promote lies in order to advance a political agenda – which is what Fox condemned Rather for supposedly doing.
You may be surprised to know that I am not salivating for O’Reilly’s humiliation over this bit of history. I’d much rather see him condemned for what he’s done lately – his race baiting, his bogus attacks on President Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak, his loaded declaration of "Holy War" designed to rile clergy into demanding President Obama send troops into the Middle East to fight ISIS, etc. – than I am in litigating whether O’Reilly exaggerated his experiences in the 1980s. After all, isn’t being larger than life what O’Reilly’s supposed appeal is?
But the genie is out of the bottle now and you know that Fox would be going with this 24/7 if the same article had been written by a conservative magazine about, say, Al Sharpton or even Wolf Blitzer.
Karma’s a you-know-what, eh Foxies?
Watch O'Reilly blast his critics below, from today's MediaBuzz.
Again, we should keep in mind that this will not likely change O’Reilly’s status at Fox News. They’ll probably just wait for this to blow over and then act like it never happened. But it does strike another, and potentially fatal, blow to O’Reilly’s desperate wish for mainstream respectability. And in the end, when we discuss this in ten years, that will be all that matters.