O’Reilly gets a pass: Here at THE HOWLER, we have a bit of a cultural soft spot for Bill O’Reilly.
(Full disclosure. Years ago, we chatted with Bill on the phone. He called us, of course.)
That said, O’Reilly has made a number of statements down through the years about his journalistic service in the Falklands War. This conflict was fought between two actual nations (Great Britain and Argentina) on and around the Falkland Islands, pretty much way out at sea.
O’Reilly was never in the Falkland Islands, or anywhere close. As everyone agrees, he covered demonstrations about the war—demonstrations which occurred in Buenos Aires, a thousand miles away.
The British navy wasn’t present. Neither was Margaret Thatcher.
Despite these stubborn geographical facts, Bill has occasionally misstated the location of his service in the most elementary way. As recently as 2013, he said this on The Factor:
O’REILLY (4/17/13): 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.Perhaps this was a slip of the tongue, but it was a basic misstatement. Mr. O was never “in the Falklands!”
(To watch tape of Mr. O making this statement, you can just click here.)
Bill was never “in the Falklands.” But uh-oh! In his 2001 book, The No-Spin Zone, O’Reilly said this:
O’REILLY (page 110): You know that I am not easily shocked. I've reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.O’Reilly wasn’t really in an “active war zone” when he was in Buenos Aires. But he certainly wasn’t in any such zone in “the Falklands,” an impression anyone would have gotten from reading that published statement.
O’Reilly has made other statements through the years which gave the impression that he was actually in the Falklands. But how strange!
The New York Times has now published two lengthy reports about this ongoing flap. But as the Times has sifted Bill’s comments, they’ve never noted that O’Reilly has sometimes directly said that he was “in the Falklands.”
Which he never was!
These Times reports have not been brief. On Tuesday, Emily Steel and Ravi Somaiya devoted 1267 words to the flap about O’Reilly’s alleged misstatements. This morning, Jonathan Mahler joined Steel for a report on the same topic which covered 1674 words.
That’s almost 3000 words in all! But in these reports, the Times has never noted the fact that O’Reilly has said, and directly implied, that he was physically present “in the Falklands.”
Instead, the Timesmen have piddled around with other alleged misstatements which are harder to parse. This morning, the Times even said this early on:
MAHLER AND STEEL (2/26/15): David Corn, one of the authors of the Mother Jones article and a former Fox News contributor, said he received the tip about Mr. O’Reilly the day after NBC News announced its suspension of Mr. Williams for six months without pay. According to Mr. Corn’s source, Mr. O’Reilly had repeatedly made false claims about his experience covering the Falklands war as a young CBS News correspondent.“His experience covering the Falklands war?”
That lazy construction may give the impression that he actually performed that service. Arguably, that’s already a stretch!
According to Steel, O’Reilly dropped a T-bomb on her when they spoke on the phone this week. This is the way the incident was originally reported:
STEEL AND SOMAIYA (2/24/15): Mr. O'Reilly's efforts to refute the claims by Mother Jones and some former CBS News colleagues occurred both on the air and off on Monday. During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter's coverage was inappropriate. ''I am coming after you with everything I have,'' Mr. O'Reilly said. ''You can take it as a threat.''Full disclosure: Bill was much more polite to us when we spoke on the phone.
Mr. Bill dropped a threat on Steel. After reading the subsequent Times reports, our analysts came to us with tears in their eyes.
“At the New York Times, threats seem to work,” the youngsters sadly said.
Final point, with one army in flight: In today’s report, the Times has even toned down what Mr. O is said to have said to Steel on the phone. An unpleasant word has been softened:
MAHLER AND STEEL (2/26/15): In the days after the Mother Jones article was published, Mr. O’Reilly mounted an aggressive campaign against the article and its authors on Fox, and aired a video clip and an interview with a former NBC journalist that he said supported his version of events. He also threatened a New York Times reporter that he would come after her “with everything I have” if he deemed her reporting unfair. “I don’t want you to get hurt,” he said. “This is as serious as it gets.”In today’s report, his actual quote with the T-bomb has been disappeared. Again, this suggests a possibility:
At the New York Times, T-bombs may actually work!