Bill O’Reilly Embellished Combat Experiences and Has a Brian Williams Problem-Disputed!
Summary of eRumor:
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly “has a Brian Williams problem” because he lied about reporting from a combat zone during a brief war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands in the 1980s.
Bill O’Reilly disputes reports that he lied about or embellished his combat experience in the Falkland Islands in the early 1980s.
Accusations about Bill O’Reilly’s combat zone experiences in the Falkland Islands War surfaced after NBC News anchor Brian Williams was placed on a six-month suspension for relaying untruthful accounts about his experiences reporting from Iraq. USA Today reports:
“The scandal erupted earlier this month when Williams attended a New York Rangers game with a soldier who helped guard him and other American soldiers while a convoy of military helicopters they were flying on was forced to land on a desert in Iraq in 2003.
“Williams said the helicopter he was on had been hit by enemy fire and forced down. Veterans from the convoy challenged Williams’ story — which he has repeated in the past — on Facebook. And the anchorman recanted the story on air Wednesday after Stars and Stripes wrote a story about their online exchange and interviewed Williams and the veterans.
“Other news reports began emerging after the story, questioning other Williams statements. Williams has said he saw a body floating in front of his hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Advocate pointed out last week that the Quarter was mostly dry and quoted an official questioning his story.”
After the Brian Williams scandal broke, Bill O’Reilly became one of Williams’ most vocal opponents. O’Reilly said that other “distortions” from left-leaning media outlets should be questioned. That led one of those left-leaning media outlets, Mother Jones magazine, to investigate Bill O’Reilly’s own claims about his combat experiences. In a 2004 column, O’Reilly said:
“Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash. If that wounded insurgent had a grenade or other explosive device, the entire marine squad and the photographer could be dead right now. In a killing zone, one cannot afford the luxury of knowing what is certain.”
Mother Jones investigated Bill O’Reilly’s claims about the Falkland Islands War and reported that O’Reilly’s account had changed over time and had been disputed by other journalists:
“Yet his 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.”
Mother Jones also questioned Bill O’Reilly’s account of reporting on protests in Buenos Aires that followed the Falkland Islands War. O’Reilly reportedly said that a major riot had ensued, protestors were killed in the streets, and that he had to rescue a camera man who had been trampled. Mother Jones reported that O’Reilly’s account of the protest contradicts news coverage from that day, including footage that O’Reilly collected for CBS News, where he worked at the time:
“The CBS Evening News that night aired about a minute of video of the protest, apparently including some of the footage that O’Reilly and his camera team had obtained. It showed angry Argentines yelling and denouncing the junta that had lost the war. The only act of violence in the spot was a man throwing a punch against the car of a Canadian news crew.”
Billy O’Reilly disputed the accusations on his Fox News show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” on February 20, 2015. O’Reilly stood behind his previous accounts of the Falklands Islands War and said that Mother Jones had twisted his words:
“33-years ago in June … Argentina surrendered to Great Britain … ending the Falklands War.
“I was covering the conflict from Argentina and Uruguay for CBS News. After learning of the surrender … angry mobs in Buenos Aires … stormed the presidential palace … the Casa Rosada … trying to overthrow the government of General Leopoldo Galtieri.
“I was there on the street … with my camera crews. The violence was horrific. … as Argentine soldiers … fired into the crowd … who were responding with violent acts of their own. My video of the combat … led the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather that evening … and later on … I filed a report … that ran nationwide.
“That’s what happened.
“I never said I was on the Falkland Islands … as (Mother Jones editor David Corn) purports … I said I covered the Falklands War … which I did.”
Fox News also released a statement in support of Bill O’Reilly. So, both O’Reilly and Fox News have disputed claims that O’Reilly has a “Brian Williams problem.” Debate about the situation will likely continue from people on both sides of the argument.
Brian Williams and NBC News, on the other hand, did not dispute claims that Williams had lied about or embellished his combat zone experiences.