Just as the furor over Brian Williams’ embellishment of his Iraq War combat zone reporting experiences has begun to die down, Mother Jones writers David Corn and Daniel Schulman have unleashed an incendiary article on Fox News‘ Bill O’Reilly called Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem. The critical piece scrutinizes Bill O’Reilly’s tales in which he claims to have worked as a war correspondent in an active war zone during the 1982 Falklands War, in which the United Kingdom and Argentina battled over the Falkland Islands. O’Reilly was employed by CBS News at the time.
Said O’Reilly back in 2013 on The O’Reilly Factor, “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 wrote in his 2001 book The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, “You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.”
However, Mother Jones investigated and uncovered the fact that O’Reilly never actually reported from the Falklands War combat zone, which would have been the remote Falkland Islands, located around 1,200 miles offshore of the Argentinian mainland. Instead, O’Reilly reported on the intense Argentinian protests in Buenos Aires that followed the nation’s surrender to the United Kingdom at the end of the conflict. O’Reilly clarified this in comments to The Blaze while responding to the Mother Jones piece and said, “I never said I was in the Falkland islands — ever. I said I covered the Falkland Islands War… And if that moron doesn’t think it was a war zone in Buenos Aires, then [David Corn’s] even dumber than I think he is.” O’Reilly accused Mother Jones‘ David Corn of playing politics. He said, “It’s a bunch of lies and a politically motivated hit piece… It’s all about ideology and money. He’s got a chance to try and tie me into Brian Williams so he throws a bunch of lies to try to make that happen.”
Mother Jones notes that it is well-established that no American reporters were able to report on the Falklands War from the Falkland Islands. A handful of British journalists embedded with the UK military made it offshore to the remote islands, but American journalists could not. However, O’Reilly characterized the protest he reported on in Buenos Aires as an active war zone in which Argentinian soldiers were gunning down civilians. Said O’Reilly of the protests, “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. After a couple of hours of this pandemonium. I managed to make it back to the Sheraton with the best news footage I have ever seen. This was major violence up close and personal, and it was an important international story.” However, reports from The New York Times, CBS Evening News, and The Miami Herald described the protests as clashes between police and protesters in which tear gas and rubber bullets were used, resulting in injuries, but did not mention any fatalities, raising suspicions that O’Reilly’s self-reported combat zone experience was more similar to recent clashes in the US between Occupy Wall Street protesters and police than an active war zone.
O’Reilly’s claimed combat experiences in El Salvador were also questioned by the Mother Jones article, which suggested that O’Reilly’s tales of having experienced firefights during El Salvador’s 1981 civil war did not match up with his own reports. In one instance, O’Reilly noted that little fighting was going on in the location from where he was reporting. In another, he reported from a village called Meanguera which had just sustained an attack by the Salvadoran military in which two buildings had been burned down. In a later anecdote about the incident from his aforementioned 2001 book, he allegedly embellished it, describing the scene as “leveled to the ground and fires were still smoldering. But even though the carnage was obviously recent, we saw no one live or dead. There was absolutely nobody around who could tell us what happened. I quickly did a stand-up amid the rubble and we got the hell out of there.” Footage of his report from the scene shows locals walking around in the background.
The above-embedded footage by Inform notes that Bill O’Reilly harshly criticized former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for lying about his Iraq War combat experiences.