As Bill O’Reilly continues to fend off accusations that he, like Brian Williams, embellished his war reporting experiences, Media Matters and O’Reilly’s former colleagues at Dallas’ WFAA-TV are accusing him of injecting himself into the story of the suicide of a key figure related to the JFK assassination. At issue is whether or not O’Reilly actually witnessed the suspicious March 29, 1977 suicide of Lee Harvey Oswald ally George de Mohrenschildt, who, as it happens, had been contacted on that same day by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
O’Reilly said he was present in Palm Beach, Florida on the day that de Mohrenschildt took his own life. In his book, Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly wrote, “In March of 1977, a young television reporter at WFAA in Dallas began looking in to the Kennedy assassination. As part of his reporting, he sought an interview with the shadowy Russian professor who had befriended the Oswalds upon their arrival in Dallas in 1962. The reporter traced George de Mohrenschildt to Palm Springs, Florida and traveled there to confront him. At the time, de Mohrenschildt had been called to testify before a congressional committee looking in to the events of November, 1963. As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood… By the way, that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.”
However, O’Reilly was working at WFAA-TV at the time, and his coworkers say that he was at work in Dallas on that day and could not have witnessed de Mohrenschildt’s suicide. “Bill O’Reilly’s a phony, there’s no other way to put it… He was not up on the porch when he heard the gunshots, he was in Dallas. He wasn’t traveling at that time,” said former WFAA-TV reporter and O’Reilly ex-colleague Tracy Rowlett in comments to Media Matters.
WFAA-TV reporter Byron Harris agrees that O’Reilly could not have been present that day in Florida and said, “He stole that article out of the newspaper. I guarantee Channel 8 didn’t send him to Florida to do that story because it was a newspaper story, it was broken by the Dallas Morning News.” Harris pointed out the fact that, if O’Reilly had been on the scene that day, WFAA-TV would have promoted the story as an exclusive.
Jefferson Morley, who was at one time an editor for The Washington Post, pointed out in 2013 that congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi’s widow produced a series of recorded phone conversations between O’Reilly and Fonzi in which, following de Mohrenschildt’s death, O’Reilly asked Fonzi to confirm whether reports of the suicide were true. O’Reilly said in the recording, “I checked every medical examiner from Satellite Beach to Key West… and there’s no report on this.” After Fonzi confirmed that the reports were true, O’Reilly said in another phone conversation that he planned on flying to Florida the next day to cover the story.
Morley said in his report on O’Reilly, “O’Reilly’s utterances prove that he was not knocking on George Mohrenschildt’s doorstep as he now melodramatically claims. The truth is more prosaic. O’Reilly got a tip on a hot story, worked his sources to confirm it, and rushed to the scene. In making up this story for Killing Kennedy, he slighted the truth of his own professionalism.”