Instead of a dispassionate examination of the questions raised about Bill O’Reilly’s credibility in a Mother Jones article, Fox News' media critic Howard Kurtz helped his team circle the wagons.
As I posted yesterday, Mother Jones came out with a meticulously detailed and sourced article pointing out discrepancies between O’Reilly’s claims about his war reporting and known facts. The authors gave O’Reilly and Fox News many opportunities to respond before they published it. Fox chose to ignore the questions and instead launched personal attacks on co-author David Corn and Mother Jones.
If you ask me, Kurtz is not entirely convinced of O’Reilly’s innocence. Rather than come right out and say there’s no there there in Mother Jones’ piece, Kurtz focused on O’Reilly’s response and Mother Jones’ left-leaning bias. Kurtz began his column by saying:
Bill O’Reilly responded to a Mother Jones story accusing him of making false claims about his reporting on the Falklands War by calling its author a liar.
The Fox News host told me in an interview that he has always accurately described what happened during that period and that David Corn, Washington bureau chief of the left-wing magazine, “is a liar, a smear merchant, and will do anything he can to injure me and the network. Everybody knows that. Everything I’ve reported about my journalistic career is true.”
And yet Mother Jones had just proved that O’Reilly has not “always accurately described what happened.” O’Reilly now says he never claimed to have been on the Falkland Islands, where the war actually happened. But among other examples, Mother Jones has video (embedded below) of him saying:
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. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.
Kurtz tries to validate O’Reilly’s attacks on Corn and Mother Jones by saying:
The adversarial tone of the story (Corn) co-authored is telegraphed in the headline: “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem.”
That clearly accuses O’Reilly of telling lies on par with the false tale that prompted NBC to impose a six-month suspension on Williams, who had to apologize for claiming that he was on a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade over Iraq in 2003.
And yet the Mother Jones piece appears to turn on semantics, not some specific story that O’Reilly told about being in the Falklands.
As Simon Maloy writes in Salon.Com, Kurtz defends O’Reilly by arguing that in the above specific story, “Falklands” is “shorthand” for “Argentina.”
Kurtz apparently adheres to a more expansive definition of the term that allows a journalist who is 1,200 miles from the actual fighting to say he was “on the ground” in the “war zone.” That’s like saying you covered the Battle of Gettysburg “war zone” from a hotel in Dallas, or reported the Normandy landings while on the ground… in Iceland.
But “in the Falklands war zone” is not the only O’Reilly tale under question. More from Maloy:
Part of O’Reilly’s defense is that he did actually experience danger as a correspondent in Argentina – at a post-war protest in Buenos Aires that turned violent. As O’Reilly describes it: “A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head.” But as Corn lays out, there was rioting at the protest, but there’s no evidence that anyone was killed. O’Reilly just made it up. Kurtz’s reaction? “Corn’s own piece largely backs up O’Reilly’s account of the dangerous situation, except for O’Reilly’s recollection that there were fatalities.” Set aside the fact that we’re still not talking about a “war zone,” that’s a pretty big thing to, ahem, misremember.
O’Reilly’s tendency to uh, exaggerate is well known. There’s his ridiculous declaration of success for his French boycott, complete with a citation to a fake publication. Just a month ago, we disproved his claim that he never promoted Fox’s “Muslim no-go zones” falsehoods. Or, my personal favorite, his claim that he only once used the “shut up” line. That one was memorably debunked in Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism (for which I proudly served as a researcher, though not on anything to do with O’Reilly).
I’m including that clip below.
By the way, there’s no indication Kurtz will cover this on his MediaBuzz show on Sunday.
(O'Reilly graphic by Nina Brodsky)
Well, if I were Kurtz, I wouldn’t cover it on MediaBuzz either. It’s ridiculous and professionally embarrassing for him that he’s trying to defend BOR by blowing off MJ/Corn’s article as nothing more than a hissy fit over “semantics” and that BOR should be given a pass for his Falkland “shorthand”. Kurtz is far more a FOX “news” water carrier than he is a legit media analyst.
I’m with you, Ellen, as I don’t think he really believes that BOR has been above board. I’m thinking that Kurtz knows damn well that BOR did some exaggeration with regards to his being in a war zone and his being in the Falklands. For crying out loud, there’s BOR’s own past words that contradict what he’s saying now. But, being that he is a part of the FOX “news” team, Kurtz punked out. Pffft.
Thanks for the Salon link too, Ellen.
As O’Reilly describes it: “A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head.”
Now, that’s at least two lies that I can see right there. First, the “heart attack.” Don’t you actually need to HAVE a heart in order to suffer a “heart attack,” much less DIE from one? And secondly, the soldier standing “ten feet away” bit. Oh come on. If BillO was really “right in the middle” of the riot, how does he know the soldier was pointing at him and not someone behind him? (Also, why do I get the feeling that BillO wasn’t as sympathetic towards the Occupy Wall Street protestors across the country when they had weapons being pointed at them?)