On Thursday, Mother Jones published an article by Daniel Schulman and me that documented how Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has mischaracterized his wartime reporting experience. Most notably, he has more than once said that during his short stint as a CBS correspondent in the 1980s, he was in the “war zone” during the Falklands war between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982. He even once told the story of heroically rescuing his cameraman in this “war zone” while being chased by army soldiers. Yet according to O’Reilly’s former CBS colleagues in Argentina and other journalists there during the war, no American journalist reached the war zone in the Falkland Islands and other territories iin the southern Atlantic Ocean during this conflict. O’Reilly and his colleagues covered the war from Buenos Aires, which was 1200 miles from the fighting.
Mother Jones sent O’Reilly and Fox News a detailed list of questions at 8:30 am on Thursday. We asked for a response by 3:00 pm. We then called Dana Klinghoffer, a spokeswoman for the network, several times to make sure the questions were received and to determine if O’Reilly and Fox would respond. She never took the call or returned the message. Shortly before 3:00 pm, we sent an email containing the questions to Bill Shine, a top exec at Fox News, saying that if O’Reilly and Fox needed more time, we would try to accommodate them. He, too, never responded. At 5:26 p.m., we posted the article.
Immediately afterward, O’Reilly granted interviews to multiple reporters. He resorted to name-calling, saying I was a “liar,” a “left-wing assassin,”and a “despicable guttersnipe.” He said that I deserve “to be in the kill zone.” (You can read one of my responses here.) It was clear that O’Reilly had no interest in answering the actual questions about his wartime reporting claims.
Here, for the record, are the questions we sent to Fox. (We included links to his past assertions to make it easy for O’Reilly to review what he said.) Will he answer these questions?
- In numerous instances—on his television and radio shows and in his book, The No Spin Zone—Bill O’Reilly has said that he was in the “war zone” during the Falklands war when he was a correspondent at CBS News. But it appears no American correspondents were allowed in the Falkland Islands war zone during the conflict. How does Mr. O’Reilly explain his comments?
- In a 2004 column, Mr. O’Reilly noted, “Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War, I know that life and death decisions are made in a flash.” What combat situation was that?
- In a 2003 book, journalist Tucker Carlson reported on how Mr. O’Reilly answered a question during a Washington panel discussion about media coverage of the Afghanistan war: “Rather than simply answer the question, O’Reilly began by trying to establish his own bona fides as a war correspondent. I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.'” Does Mr. O’Reilly have any comment on this? Can he describe his experiences in each of these locations?
- On his television show on April 17, 2013, Mr. O’Reilly said, “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.” When and where did this happen?
- In his book, The No Spin Zone, Mr. O’Reilly describes covering a protest in Buenos Aires when the military junta surrendered in the Falklands war. He wrote, “A major riot ensued and many were killed.” News reports of the protest did not report any fatalities, only several injuries. And the CBS News report on the protest for which O’Reilly gathered video footage also did not refer to any deaths. Did Mr. O’Reilly report this accurately in his book. Does he have any comment on why other reports of this protest do not appear to be consistent with his?
- On his radio show on January 13, 2005, Mr. O’Reilly said, “I was in the middle of a couple of firefights in South and Central America.” In which countries and when did these firefights occur? Can Mr. O’Reilly describe them?
- In The No Spin Zone, Mr. O’Reilly writes about an assignment he had for CBS News in El Salvador in 1982. He says that he reported from a village called Meanguera that was “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.” The CBS News report that he filed and narrated and that was broadcast on the CBS Nightly News showed him in Meanguera, but there were people walking about and only two or so structures burned. Did Mr. O’Reilly report his trip to this village accurately in his book? Does he have any comment on why the CBS report does not appear to be consistent with the description in his book?
- Did Mr. O’Reilly ever conduct any other reporting trips to El Salvador or Argentina or elsewhere in Central and South America other than the two described in The No Spin Zone (the trip to Argentina at the end of the Falklands war and the trip to El Salvador that included the visit to Meanguera)?
- In 2008, Mr. O’Reilly said on his television show that he had been in “in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland.” Which war zones was he referring to regarding the Middle East and Northern Ireland? When was he in these war zones? Can he describe his experiences in those locations?
- Did Mr. O’Reilly ever report from Montevideo, Uruguay. If so, when and what did he cover? Can he describe his experiences there?
- In his book Keep It Pithy, Mr. O’Reilly writes, “I’ve seen soldiers gun down unarmed civilians in Latin America.” Where did this occur?