Real estate mogul and reality show host Donald Trump has officially entered the presidential race. For years, Trump has made regular media appearances (particularly on Fox News) to promote his previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies, including repeatedly questioning the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.
One of Trump's media platforms is likely in jeopardy due to his announcement -- NBC is reportedly planning to "re-evaluate Trump's role as host of 'Celebrity Apprentice' should it become necessary."
Some of Trump's worst media commentary is below:
Trump Spent Months In 2011 Teaming Up With Fox News To Push Birther Conspiracies. In early 2011, as he was supposedly weighing his own presidential run, Trump breathed new life into the conspiracy theory that President Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America. Fox News gave Trump a platform on the network to forward his crusade and repeatedly defended him from attacks from other media outlets. After Obama embarrassed Trump by publicly releasing the long-form version of his birth certificate, several conservative media figures somehow decided the entire ordeal was a win for Trump.
Trump Suggested Obama's Long-Form Birth Certificate Was Forged. During an interview with Greta Van Susteren more than a year after the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate, Trump pointed to the "many, many people" questioning the validity of the document. (Trump had previously reportedly told conspiracy website WND that he thought the birth certificate was a forgery.) After Van Susteren pointed to the existence of a birth announcement for the president in a Hawaii newspaper, Trump claimed that report may have been planted:
A few months ago, during an appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump reiterated that he is not sure whether Obama released "a real certificate."
Trump: Obama Didn't Write His Own Memoir. Borrowing an obscure conspiracy from WND columnist Jack Cashill, Trump repeatedly claimed in 2011 and 2012 that President Obama didn't write his memoir, instead suggesting that the book was actually written by Bill Ayers.
During a 2012 appearance on Greta Van Susteren's show, Trump said, "Who really penned that book, it would be an interesting question for people to figure out ... I think somebody else had a lot to do with that book. I think he wrote the second book, which was certainly not a masterpiece. I'm very good at books, and it certainly wasn't a masterpiece."
Trump: Climate Change Is A "Hoax" Perpetrated By Scientists "Having A Lot Of Fun." During a rant pointing to cold winter temperatures around the country, Trump repeatedly labeled climate change a "hoax," adding, "I think the scientists are having a lot of fun."
As Mother Jones' Jeremy Schulman (formerly research director at Media Matters) notes, Trump has also repeatedly dismissed climate science on his Twitter account, decrying the "GLOBAL WARMING HOAX" and the "very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit."
Trump Repeatedly Linked Vaccines To Autism. Trump has frequently pushed the link between vaccines and autism despite scientific evidence to the contrary. He said on Fox News in April 2012 of vaccines: "I've seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations, and a month later the child is no longer healthy." He later tweeted, "I am being proven right about massive vaccinations--the doctors lied," and "Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!
Trump Called For A "Revolution" After Obama's Re-election. In two tweets he later deleted, Trump called for a "revolution."
Trump: "There Is Something Seriously Wrong With President Obama's Mental Health." Trump questioned President Obama's mental health because he didn't cut off flights from countries with active Ebola cases in 2014 (The CDC stated doing so would actually hurt Ebola prevention efforts). Trump called Obama a "psycho" and said "There's something wrong, there's something going on."
Trump: Arianna Huffington Is "Unattractive," And "I Fully Understand Why Her Former Husband Left Her." In a 2012 tweet, Trump claimed that Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington "is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision."
Video by John Kerr.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox "and hand that title to his son James," according to CNBC. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
According to CNBC, "Rupert Murdoch will continue to be the executive chairman of Fox, while his son Lachlan would also become an executive co-chairman of the company."
James Murdoch has reportedly drawn the ire of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who allegedly called him a "fucking dope" over his inability to contain the hacking scandal. (Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz claims that despite James Murdoch's new position, "Ailes will still report to Rupert.")
A source quoted by CNBC claims "James will have the primary role in running Fox while Lachlan will take on a broader strategic role from his co-chairman position." Lachlan Murdoch has also reportedly butted heads with Ailes in the past.
As Media Matters previously noted, James Murdoch donated between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation, which has been the target of a smear campaign by conservative media figures, including near-constant scandal-mongering on Fox News.
According to federal filings, James Murdoch donated $2,300 -- the maximum amount allowed for an individual -- to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. A review of the OpenSecrets database shows Murdoch has donated to both sides of the aisle, including multiple donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee and various elected Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Steny Hoyer.
Contrary to what Fox News reported last week, 21st Century Fox released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter saying that Ailes will not report directly to Rupert Murdoch. Instead, the Fox News chief "will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert."
New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman reports that Ailes himself ordered Fox Business to read "what now appears to be a rogue statement" on-air last week that suggested he would not be directly affected by the change in management:
Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."
This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
Watch the video of Varney reading the "rogue" statement below:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was paid between $200,000 and $2,000,000 by Fox News and The Washington Times. Carson used his job at both outlets to help build his profile among conservatives prior to entering the presidential race.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that between the start of 2014 and last month, Carson "drew between $200,000 and $2 million from his positions as a contributor at the Washington Times and Fox News," according to disclosure documents reviewed by the paper. (Those numbers likely exclude several months of his contracts at both outlets -- Carson joined the Times in July 2013, and was signed by Fox in October of that year.)
According to the Journal, Carson earned more than $4 million in speaking fees and $6 million in book royalties, numbers that were surely inflated thanks to conservative outlets helping to turn the retired neurosurgeon into a right-wing political celebrity.
Carson not only benefited financially from his employment at conservative media outlets -- he can thank Fox News and the Washington Times for essentially turning him into a political candidate. Fox News in particular repeatedly presented him to viewers as a viable potential presidential contender, with prominent network personalities fawning over him.
Fox News has routinely paid would-be politicians large sums while simultaneously boosting their political careers. The network gave contributor Scott Brown more than $136,000 while he used the network as a launching pad for his unsuccessful New Hampshire Senate run. (After he lost, Brown was rehired by Fox.) Former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum, who left the network to run for president in the 2012 election, was paid more than $239,000 by the network. Mike Huckabee was reportedly making as much as $500,000 per year from Fox News, as of 2011 -- like Carson, he left Fox News earlier this year to run for president.
Former Fox News employee Mike Huckabee led all declared and potential Republican presidential candidates with 70 minutes of airtime on the network in May. Sen. Rand Paul, who was second in total time with 53 minutes, led all candidates with 12 appearances.
As we did during the 2012 presidential cycle, Media Matters will publish regular updates on the amount of interview time Fox News gives each declared and potential Republican presidential candidate. The network provides candidates with an invaluable platform with which to raise their profiles and pitch themselves to Fox's conservative audience.
This cycle, the Fox Primary may be more consequential than ever.
In a May 30 column for the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus argued that Fox News chief Roger Ailes "will decide which candidates can compete in Republican presidential primaries next year." In a move that has raised the ire of some conservative activists and members of the presidential field, Fox News announced that the first primary debate -- to be hosted on the network on August 6 -- will feature a maximum of 10 candidates, chosen based on polling.
According to McManus, "One side effect, GOP strategists say, is that during the next two months, those candidates will be even more desperate to boost their name recognition -- by appearing on Fox News." He added, "Fox won't exactly be judge, jury and executioner, but it will be rule-maker, gatekeeper and moderator."
The Fox Primary has been well underway since President Obama's second inauguration. An April Media Matters study found that potential Republican presidential candidates had already made more than 800 appearances on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday.
In May, the 16 declared and potential Republican presidential candidates made a combined 68 appearances on Fox News, totaling more than 8 hours of airtime. Rick Perry was the only one to not appear on the network during the month.
Megyn Kelly's The Kelly File featured both the most candidate appearances and the most total interview time, though it should be noted that these numbers are inflated slightly by a special her show aired on May 22 featuring a compilation of previous interviews Kelly had done with various Republican candidates.
Most Total Airtime: Mike Huckabee (1 hour and 10 minutes)
Most Total Appearances: Rand Paul (12 appearances)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime: The Kelly File (2 hours and 40 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances: The Kelly File (19 appearances)
Softball Question(s) Of The Month: In Fox & Friends' only interview with Christie, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked only a single question on "the controversy with the bridge and various other things":
KILMEADE: What did you learn over the last year where you had the controversy with the bridge and various other things about yourself and about who your friends are?
For this study, we used FoxNews.com's "2016 Presidential Candidate Watch List."
Media Matters searched the Nexis database and our internal video archive for all guest appearances on Fox News Channel and Fox News Sunday for the 16 declared and potential presidential candidates in question: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, we reviewed the raw video.
Charts by Oliver Willis. Additional research by Media Matters' research staff.
Conservative columnist Morgan Brittany thinks the recent unrest in Baltimore may be a "set-up" and that President Obama might "have to institute martial law to preserve order, form a national police force and postpone the 2016 elections" if the police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death are acquitted.
In her new column for conspiracy website WND, Brittany announces that "something is not right" and speculates, "I don't think the chaos in Baltimore 'just happened'; I think it was planned and is the next step in the breakdown of our society."
Brittany laments that Obama "was supposed to be the one to unite all Americans and heal the divide, but instead, he did everything he could to turn the heat up and make sure the divide became wider." According to Brittany, the president has "inserted himself into every controversy that had a racial component" and "always took the side of the African-American." Following news of Gray's death, Brittany argues, "The leaders of chaos rushed to take advantage of that situation and all hell broke loose."
After suggesting that charges filed against police officers allegedly involved in Gray's death are an "overreach," Brittany pondered whether Obama would react to potential acquittals by imposing martial law, an idea she grants is "maybe" crazy:
So she and all of the people involved in making that decision have possibly created an even bigger problem. If indeed after all of the evidence and testimony is given in this case and the officers are acquitted, what then? I predict at that point the lid will blow off, and we will have another Rodney King situation.
From now until the verdict in this trial, the agitators will continue to travel and communicate city to city, town to town, stirring up unrest and hate, keeping people on edge waiting to see the result of this cliff-hanger. If the verdict is not what they want, perhaps Obama will have to institute martial law to preserve order, form a national police force and postpone the 2016 elections.
Crazy? Maybe, but we are on the edge in this country. Attacks are coming from all sides, from inside and outside of our borders, and we are becoming overwhelmed. What happens when Baltimore spreads across the country and our television screens show four or five cities burning at once? Who will we turn to at that point? "One Nation under God" - we need Him now more than ever.
Last year, Brittany speculated in a column that the Obama administration may have been orchestrating Ebola and other crises in order to declare martial law and seize people's guns.
Brittany's column shares today's WND opinion page with a column from newly-announced presidential candidate Ben Carson, which warns of the dangers of an EMP attack. The day he announced his candidacy, Carson published a WND piece pitching readers on what he will "accomplish as president."
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined Fox News in 2008 after an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in that year's presidential election, launching the weekly Saturday night show Huckabee that ran for more than six years.
As Huckabee took several steps towards running -- including hiring staff, courting potential donors, and repeatedly hinting at a run -- he kept his Fox News show.
Huckabee openly acknowledged the balancing act required to stoke interest in his potential run while not crossing the line and losing his valuable Fox News perch. He told Fox News Radio host John Gibson last November that he needed to be "very, very careful with sort of the obligations that I have doing the show, doing the radio commentaries, to make sure that I stay on the right side of that threshold and not cross it and do something that would compromise, you know, the network, compromise me."
After The Washington Post laid out the many concrete ways Huckabee was seriously prepping for a presidential run last November, Fox News announced it was "evaluating his current status" as a contributor. He ended up sticking around at the network until January, making several appearances in the intervening weeks that confirmed his glaring conflict of interest.
Since President Obama's second inauguration, Sen. Rand Paul has appeared 119 times on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday, far outpacing the other declared and likely Republican presidential candidates not employed by the network. On the other end of the spectrum, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has appeared on the programs studied only three times.
Among the potential candidates that were on Fox News' payroll for all or part of the duration of this study, Fox News contributor John Bolton has made 171 appearances, more often than Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson -- who were both dropped by the network over their presidential aspirations -- combined.
When Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced last month that he is seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, his first TV interview, unsurprisingly, was a full hour on Sean Hannity's show. The same night, Rand Paul (and perennial fake presidential candidate Donald Trump) appeared on Megyn Kelly's show to react to Cruz's announcement and discuss their own presidential aspirations.
Paul followed Cruz's lead by appearing in an "exclusive" interview on Hannity's Fox program Tuesday, hours after announcing the start of his own campaign.
While the first presidential primary is about nine months away, Cruz's and Paul's competing appearances provide a glimpse into what is becoming an election tradition. For the past two years, a slew of Republican would-be presidential candidates have been involved in The Fox Primary, making regular appearances to curry favor with the network's influential hosts and reach out directly to the channel's decidedly conservative audience.
In a February piece for The Hill, Fox News contributor and former congressman John LeBoutillier argued that "the key to winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination is winning the 'Fox Primary.'" Touting the importance of coverage from Fox News for Republican contenders trying to court primary voters, LeBoutillier claimed, "The Fox primary is crucial to any GOP candidate." According to LeBoutillier, "The competition just to get on these shows will be intense."
The Fox Primary is nothing new. In the run-up to the 2012 election, Republican contenders also jockeyed for Fox News airtime. New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley pointed out at the time that "Fox News practically owns and operates" the Iowa primary: "its viewers are seeing the world through the eyes of a Tea Party activist in Davenport, or a small business leader in Ames -- my own private Iowa."
Though the presidential campaign is just kicking into gear, eighteen declared and potential Republican candidates have already made a combined 804 appearances on Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, Hannity, and Fox News Sunday.
Many of the would-be candidates have regularly been introduced to viewers as potential 2016 contenders and have been given a prominent platform to sell themselves and criticize likely Republican primary opponents and potential Democratic nomination frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Greta Van Susteren's show featured by far the most appearances from the stable of potential and declared candidates (313), though the number is inflated due to Fox News contributor John Bolton's 143 appearances on the show. The potential 2016 contenders have made a combined 152 appearances on Hannity's show.
During a February appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity vowed, "On both my radio and television program on the Fox News Channel I promise you this: As somebody who has not made up his mind, I am going to give access to every single solitary candidate as often as I can, as often as they'll come. By the end of the process, I will ask them every question I can possibly think of."
In the past twenty-six months, Paul has appeared twice as often as any other candidate on Hannity's show. Most of the would-be candidates have appeared at least several times with Hannity, with the notable exceptions of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, neither of whom have been on his program in the past twenty-six months:
Individual data and analysis for each of the candidates are below.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson recently criticized potential Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for pitching products like survival food and shady diabetes treatments, decrying the types of ads Huckabee endorsed as a "plague on conservatives." But Erickson is a hypocrite -- his RedState website also cashed in on Huckabee's shady diabetes infomercial and has previously sold out readers to a wide range of hucksters and conspiracy theorists.
On March 15, The New York Times reported that former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee had recently appeared in an "infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore 'Big Pharma' and instead points them to a 'weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,' consisting of dietary supplements."
Times reporter Trip Gabriel explained that the diabetes treatment -- a "Diabetes Solution Kit" from Barton Publishing -- is part of a wide series of shady ads Huckabee has placed in his email commentaries while he explores a presidential bid. (Huckabee also spent years using his celebrity as a Fox News personality to sell out his fans to scam artists.)
After laying out the types of pitches Huckabee has recently sent to his supporters -- including survival food ads and a "miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible" -- Gabriel writes that they are all "designed to pry open the wallets of small-donor conservatives, some of whom distrust mainstream sources of information."
The article then quotes influential conservative activist Erick Erickson lamenting the proliferation of these types of scams as a "plague on conservatives":
"This is a plague on conservatives," said Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential blog Red State, who has criticized ads for products and outside political groups that he calls "hucksters," which prey on conservatives.
While a radio or TV host might not be able to choose his sponsors, Mr. Huckabee can presumably pick who he sells space to on email commentaries. "I don't know that a potential presidential candidate should be running survival food ads," Mr. Erickson said.
While the Times gave Erickson a platform to contrast himself favorably with "hucksters," Erickson's own RedState site has repeatedly sold out its readers to the very same groups.
For example, RedState sent out a paid advertisement last month featuring the Huckabee diabetes infomercial that was the focus of the Times article:
Prior to Huckabee's involvement, Erickson's RedState had previously sent out at least three email pitches -- all featuring the subject line "1 Weird Spice That Destroys Diabetes" -- promoting Barton Publishing's "Diabetes Solution Kit."
RedState has also sent numerous pitches to its readers from "Food4Patriots," the survival food kit company the Times notes Huckabee has promoted.
When Politico noted in January that Erickson's email list had been rented to the "scam PACs" that he has repeatedly criticized, it quoted Erickson saying that he does not control who rents his list and that "and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys." (Salem Media company Townhall Media owns RedState and manages its email list.)
As Media Matters has documented, Erickson's RedState fans have also been sent sponsored messages about "Reagan's Secret Victory Over Cancer," "Obama's Deadly FDA Secret," "1 Weird Trick to KILL old age," and the "Obama scandal" that "WILL KILL MILIONS [sic]."
Bill O'Reilly has told inconsistent stories about a reporting trip he took to El Salvador during that country's civil war in the early 1980s. While O'Reilly has suggested on his radio show that he witnessed a "firefight" with "guerrillas all over the place" and "people just shooting everywhere," in describing what appears to be the same reporting trip in two of his autobiographies, O'Reilly makes no mention of these dramatic details. The alleged episode was also absent from the segment CBS News aired based on O'Reilly's reporting in the region.
O'Reilly has recently faced intense scrutiny for repeatedly embellishing his experiences as a reporter. The Fox News host has made dubious claims about witnessing deaths during a riot in Argentina, even though numerous other journalists present at the incident dispute that anyone was killed. He repeatedly said he "heard" the gunshot that killed a figure linked to the investigation of John F. Kennedy's assassination, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. O'Reilly also suggested he "saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" while reporting in El Salvador, even though the incident in question took place months before he arrived in the country. He claimed to have seen "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens" while reporting from Northern Ireland, another apparent falsehood.
Defending his comments about Northern Ireland and the nuns in El Salvador, O'Reilly and a spokesperson have implausibly claimed that when boasting of having seen these events, he merely meant he had seen images of them.
O'Reilly has also apparently been inconsistent in describing another of his supposed "combat" experiences, this time regarding a reporting assignment for CBS News in El Salvador.
Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally "heard" a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O'Reilly's claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy's death further undermine O'Reilly's story.
George de Mohrenschildt was a Russian emigre who befriended Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and testified before the Warren Commission investigating the Kennedy assassination. On March 29, 1977, the same day he was contacted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he committed suicide at his daughter's home in Florida. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV who regularly reported on stories related to the Kennedy assassination.
O'Reilly has bizarrely inserted himself into de Mohrenschildt's story, claiming in books and on Fox News that he was outside the house seeking to interview de Mohrenschiltd at the time of his death. O'Reilly is under heavy criticism and scrutiny for his false claims about his 1982 Falklands War reporting.
O'Reilly's implausible tale was first flagged by Jefferson Morley in a 2013 post for his website JFKFacts.org. Morley has worked as an editor for The Washington Post, Salon.com, and Arms Control Today, and is a visiting professor at the University of California, Washington Center.
New interviews with former O'Reilly colleagues who say he wasn't in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide and documents obtained by Media Matters bolster Morley's reporting.
In his 2012 best-selling non-fiction book Killing Kennedy, O'Reilly writes on page 300 that as a "reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt's daughter's home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian ... that reporter's name is Bill O'Reilly."
O'Reilly repeated the tale for the Killing Kennedy audiobook.
The Fox News host repeated the tale while promoting his book and movie special on Fox News. During an October 2, 2012, appearance on Fox & Friends, O'Reilly claimed he "was about to knock on the door where [de Mohrenschildt] was, his daughter's house, and he blew his brains out with a shotgun." O'Reilly replayed the clip of his 2012 appearance during a November 30, 2014, O'Reilly Factor special before Fox News' airing of the Killing Kennedy film.
Numerous pieces of evidence contradict O'Reilly's claim that he "heard the shotgun blast" that killed de Mohrenschildt.
In comments to Media Matters, two of O'Reilly's former colleagues at WFAA say that his version of events is a lie.
"Bill O'Reilly's a phony, there's no other way to put it," said Tracy Rowlett, a former WFAA reporter and anchor who worked at the station with O'Reilly. "He was not up on the porch when he heard the gunshots, he was in Dallas. He wasn't traveling at that time."
Byron Harris, a reporter at WFAA for the past 40 years, agreed that O'Reilly had not traveled to Florida for the story and accused him of stealing his reporting on de Mohrenschildt's suicide from a newspaper.
According to Harris, O'Reilly "was in Dallas. 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."
Both Harris and Rowlett said O'Reilly never mentioned having been present for the gunshot during his time at WFAA.
"I don't remember O'Reilly claiming that he was there. That came later, that must have been a brain surge when he was writing the book," Rowlett said.
Harris further pointed out that WFAA "would have reported it as some kind of exclusive -- and there was no exclusive -- if O'Reilly had been standing outside the door."
O'Reilly's claim of having been present when de Mohrenschildt shot himself was also missing from his 1992 Inside Edition report on documents relating to the Kennedy assassination. During that report, O'Reilly told viewers, "moments before he was to be interviewed by House investigators, de Mohrenschildt blew his brains out with a 20-gauge shotgun."
In comments to Media Matters, Jefferson Morley said O'Reilly's claim of being present for the gunshot is "just not true" and speculated that it was "just part of the pattern, to embellish the story and make it a sexier story."
He added, "It is what these guys all do, they inject themselves into a dramatic situation. O'Reilly was chasing this story, but he wasn't there, he made it sound like he was more on the scene than he was, it was show business."
O'Reilly has written about his time at WFAA as being extremely contentious. In his book The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life, he writes that he was "twenty-six going on ten in the worldliness department" when he joined WFAA and describes his colleagues as "ambitious, aggressive journalists battling each other under the strong thumb of an unsympathetic management." O'Reilly concedes that he made "every possible political mistake" when he got to the station, including "mouth[ing] off to the producers" and making "stupid comments in the newsroom."
His admitted abrasiveness clearly made an impression on his former colleagues.
According to Rowlett, "It was my experience with O'Reilly that he was less than an honest reporter, generally. He was the most disliked person in our newsroom. He wasn't to be trusted, he was all about Bill O'Reilly, he wasn't about the news."
Harris painted a similar picture of O'Reilly, saying he was "often not a truthful person" and claiming the Fox News host "was just a jerk, nobody liked him. He was always tooting his own horn."
A Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report about de Mohrenschildt's suicide, a 19-page document that extensively details interviews with numerous relevant parties, makes no mention of O'Reilly. The March 1977 report was posted online by Marquette University Professor John McAdams, who confirmed the document's authenticity to Media Matters and said that a student obtained the original report from the office as part of a class project and gave it to him.
Gaeton Fonzi, as the New York Times wrote in a 2012 obituary, was "one of the most relentless investigators on the House Select Committee on Assassinations" regarding Kennedy's death. Fonzi's memoir and personal recordings show that O'Reilly could not have been in Florida at the time of de Mohrenschildt's death.
Morley also obtained phone conversations between Fonzi and O'Reilly on March 29, 1977, from Fonzi's widow which the former Post editor says show that O'Reilly "certainly did not hear de Mohrenschildt's demise with his own ears. When the fatal shot rang out, O'Reilly was in his office at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away. The confirmation comes from O'Reilly himself."
Morley wrote that in the tapes O'Reilly says "he has been trying to run down the story by telephone from Texas" and O'Reilly later states he's coming down to Florida to investigate the suicide further. He concludes: "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."
The Associated Press' March 30, 1977, report about de Mohrenschildt's suicide quoted Palm Beach County Sheriff's Lt. Richard Sheets stating of the death: "At the time of the shooting, he was alone in the house except for two maids who said they did not hear the shot." The AP report, obtained via the Nexis database, makes no mention of O'Reilly's alleged presence outside the home.