No, Bill O’Reilly has not proved he told the truth about his “war zone” experiences in Argentina during the Falklands war.
Last night, O’Reilly spent about 10 minutes purporting to put allegations of his untruthfulness to rest. O’Reilly didn’t mention that he was unable to find a single former colleague from CBS to back him, nor did he mention that at least seven of them have contradicted him. Instead, he aired some old CBS footage from a riot in Buenos Aires, trotted out a sympathetic NBC News person and a slobbering Mediaite columnist, each of whom ignored the remaining holes in O’Reilly’s story about his “combat zone” experiences – and considered himself vindicated.
Last night, O’Reilly ignored all the times – as documented in a Mother Jones article that started the controversy – he has said or implied he had been in the middle of a “war zone” or had survived “a combat situation” as a CBS News reporter. Apparently, that’s because he now insists he never said he was on the Falkland Islands where the actual war happened.
Instead, O’Reilly focused on the riot he covered in Buenos Aires following Argentina’s surrender to the British. As Mother Jones described it:
O’Reilly, who was reporting on the protest as a correspondent for CBS News, has asserted that during the demonstration, Argentine soldiers fired into the crowd with “real bullets” and slaughtered “many” civilians. As he put it in a 2009 interview, “Here in the United States we would use tear gas and rubber bullets. They were doing real bullets. They were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the street.”
The clip that O’Reilly played did not note “real bullets” or anyone being “gunned down” or killed. CBS News reported:
"Police moved in with clubs and tear gas. They dispersed the crowd, some television crew members were knocked to the ground.
The fighting in the Falklands is over, but there is new fighting now, on the streets of Buenos Aires.
…Angry protesters gathered outside the gates of the presidential palace
…There were arrests and beatings, then with guns that fired tear guns and plastic bullets, the police opened fire. It is not known how many were hurt but witnesses reported at least some serious injuries.
The mob… broke through police lines, pelting officers with coins and garbage. An unknown number of demonstrators were injured, unknown because of a virtual news blackout in Buenos Aires.”
O’Reilly has also said (on video provided by Mother Jones, embedded below):
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.
O’Reilly didn’t say a thing about his injured cameraman last night. Even though his CBS colleagues have expressly disputed that claim.
O’Reilly spoke with Don Browne, former NBC bureau chief who was reportedly in charge of that network’s coverage of the Falklands war. Browne said, “There were tanks in the streets of Buenos Aires” but Browne never said there were tanks going after the demonstrators, never said there were deaths nor people shot with bullets.
Browne said about his crew, “These were veteran correspondents. We saw the situation escalating. They weren’t surprised. But they were surprised at the overreaction, but to them it was business as usual. It was a progression…You call it a riot, it was a very intense situation where people got hurt and there was a very serious confrontation and it was a defining moment when the populace really turned on the military.” O'Reilly did not ask Browne to elaborate about what injuries he knew of.
O’Reilly said, “It was extremely violent from the street, where I was and we couldn’t get casualty numbers because as you know, it was a military dictatorship and they don’t give that to you. But I saw people hit the ground hard, I saw them hauled off, put into ambulances and police vehicles and the local reportage was that there were fatalities. We have not been able to say how many, alright? But I believe there were. …There is no doubt that this was an extremely violent and volatile situation where reporters were in danger.”
Browne agreed that it was.
Whether or not you think this amounts to "war zone" reporting or whether these inconsistencies should matter to O’Reilly’s current standing at Fox, you can’t say O’Reilly has backed up his claims.
But O’Reilly’s next guest, Mediaite columnist Joe Concha, either didn’t notice or didn’t think it worth mentioning.
Concha seems to write his columns with an eye toward showing his solidarity with Fox News. When he’s not openly cheerleading for Fox, as he did here, he’s talking up Fox’s pet causes, like American Sniper or its dispute with DISH Network or helping to deflect criticism from Fox over its “Muslim no-go zones” falsehoods. Or talking down Fox’s favorite foes such as President Obama, The New York Times, and CNN and MSNBC. With an occasional gentle Fox rebuke that more resembles Fox’s version of balance than real critique.
Concha’s column about O’Reilly – the one that earned him this prime time booking – could have been written by someone at Fox. Concha seemed more interested in denigrating O’Reilly’s critics than in examining the evidence. For example, Concha said about Mother Jones and the article’s co-author, David Corn:
As few are noting, Mr. Corn worked for Fox News as a contributor from 2001-2008. His career would end abruptly there, as the network decided not to renew his contract (which is a nice way of firing someone). Corn would go on to make an impact in the 2012 presidential election after receiving that infamous tape of Mitt Romney‘s “47 percent” comments. It’s still hilarious to see all the acclaim Corn got for basically signing for a FedEx package and uploading a tape to the Mother Jones website. He even won a Polk Award for the effort, even though it was Jimmy Carter‘s grandson who introduced the guy who actually recorded Romney (Scott Prouty) with Corn. Talk about a silver platter, but that never stops Corn from still mentioning it as if he’s trying to beat some kind of quota when appearing on MSNBC, where he serves as a contributor.
Concha also echoed Fox’s Howard Kurtz by calling the controversy “a case of semantics” before adding:
Note: O’Reilly never said he was on the Falkland Islands, as the Corn piece claims — he’s been consistent in stating he was always in Argentina (Buenos Aires) at the time.
Well, if that isn’t a case of deliberately missing the point (while coincidentally promoting O’Reilly’s defense), I don’t know what is.
On The O’Reilly Factor last night, Concha again went after Corn and also retired CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg. Engberg has gone public with scathing criticisms of O’Reilly’s reporting in Argentina as well has his subsequent claims about it. But Concha sneered:
You say that (Engberg) was called “room service Eric,” right? I’ve got to think that turkey was on the menu that night, because you would have to eat something that would make you fall asleep very heavily.
Concha went on to say that the video O’Reilly played “completely contradicts” Engberg’s criticisms of O’Reilly. Concha did not say which criticisms were contradicted. Maybe he was too distracted with hopes for a Fox News contract.
O’Reilly may well survive this controversy. But it won’t be because he’s proved his case.
UPDATE: Engberg has some interesting comments on this segment that further undercut this video as "proof" of O'Reilly's credibility.
“Billy is a thorn to his colleagues. A few of them are hoping Nixon Trainee Ailes will toss this aging Irish volcano to the streets.”
I hate to break this to you Antoinette, but my gut feelings tell me that because of his girth, Jabba the Ailes won’t be “Dublin” his efforts to terminate O’Lielly.
Billy’s mental health is getting worse by the week.
I sure wish this commenting system had a way to edit.
0:35 “One time in a war zone, in Argentina, in the Falklands”
Here he clearly gives the impression he is in the Falklands.
0:45 " … and the army was chasing us … "
Again, giving the impression he was in the midst of armed conflict. Notice he says “the army” and not “the police” again giving the impression he is on the islands and not in the Plaza de Mayo. Compare to first video which talks about police repression of protestors, not army repression.
I agree – the video did not vindicate BOR/prove his claims to be true. But, so far, this is all he’s got. He has chosen not to answer to all his discrepancies (as highlighted by MJ) because, frankly, there is no way to spin that mess away; it’s a matter of record and his own words. As of yet, his cameraman, Robert Moreno, has refused to talk.
Like Kevin said, nothing’s going to happen to BOR in a professional sense – he’ll be allowed to stay on FOX “news” until he decides to leave and his true believers won’t be swayed no matter how many actual facts are put in front of them.
But despite his continued tenure at FOX “news”, BOR damn well knows that his professional record will have an asterisk beside his name. He has fudged and exaggerated in order to give himself more credibility/war time gravitas. It will forever be on his Wiki page and, whenever anyone Googles him name, his lies and the embellishments emanating from this debacle will pop up for everyone to read (as will the deplorable way in which he reacted – his name calling was ridiculous and extremely unprofessional; what a poor example he set for his own kids and the other young people who are aware of this matter).
In the upcoming days, BOR will act like he’s put this matter to bed with his lame-ass “evidence” and try to move on in a public sense. But it will be eating him up inside for the rest of his life. His own colleagues don’t respect him because of his selfish, braggadocio antics and so many of the folks will now wonder about his veracity. His reputation is tainted. His legacy is forever tarnished. A thoughtful mea culpa about his contradictions might have gone a long ways towards helping with the matter but he chose to dig in his heels, hurled personal, immature insults and, in his latest move, made a threat against the NYT reporter, Emily Steel. Way to keep it classy, BOR. Geez.
If you don’t believe me, just ask him.
The truth is, he has spent years embellishing his experiences as a younger newsman, among other things. He’d like the record to show him as an intrepid Good Journalist working for Bad People who didn’t recognize his worth. He’d like to act as if he has combat experience, even if it’s just at the level of reporting from the middle of the battle. Except that he doesn’t have that experience. So he puffs it up a bit. He says he was in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands. Except that he wasn’t actually in any active war zones. He says that he saw soldiers shooting people to death in front of him. Except that the evidence shows that he only saw them firing tear gas and plastic bullets. He says that he rescued his cameraman who he says had been bloodied up. Except that the evidence shows it was other reporters who had tense moments with the demonstrators, and that O’Reilly’s own disobedience of safety precautions caused problems. He says he was the only reporter to get a team out covering the protests. Except that the evidence shows there were five teams out there. And the problems for his credibility here just go on and on.
And I’m not even going to go into his novel Those Who Trespass, since it seems to show a fictional version of O’Reilly murdering the CBS folk who’d done him wrong, and then being tracked by another fictional version of O’Reilly as investigator…
If we were to believe O’Reilly’s version of these events, we’d think of him as a sage voice of authority – a person who’s been in combat situations and knows the military issues and certainly knows more about this stuff than critics who want to peck at him. We’d think of him as an elder statesman who’s always been straight with everyone and just wants to look out for “the folks”, and that his experiences have taken him to some awful places in order to do that. Unfortunately, the reality of O’Reilly’s career would tend to indicate something else. Just watching the various tapes of his performances (“We’ll DO IT LIVE!!!”) and listening to the various recollections of his co-workers and supervisors, we can see him for who he’s always been. His behavior at CBS is consistent with his behavior on Inside Edition, which is consistent with his attitude even today. And that, sadly for him, will be his real legacy.