Media Matters for America is proud to present Killing Truth, senior fellow Eric Boehlert's eBook chronicling the many fabrications Bill O'Reilly has told about his life and reporting background.
Over the past six weeks, the Fox News host has been consumed by a media firestorm as reporters and advocates revealed that a variety of stories O'Reilly has told about his journalistic exploits during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, were inflated or false. Those tall tales include:
- O'Reilly claimed he reported from a war zone in the Falklands; the closest he got to that conflict was Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, a thousand miles away.
- O'Reilly claimed he witnessed civilians get killed during a protest in Buenos Aires; other reporters and a historian say no such deaths occurred.
- O'Reilly claimed he was on the doorstep of a figure connected to President Kennedy's assassination when that man committed suicide; this is debunked by significant evidence, including O'Reilly's own taped statement from the time.
- O'Reilly claimed he saw nuns get shot in the head in El Salvador; he later acknowledged he had only seen photos of the deceased.
- O'Reilly has told two different stories about his El Salvador reporting trip; in one he says he witnessed a firefight, but in the other he makes no mention of the dramatic events.
- O'Reilly claimed to have seen terror attacks in Northern Ireland; he later admitted he had only seen photos of those events.
- O'Reilly claimed to have been attacked by protestors while reporting for Inside Edition during the 1992 Los Angeles riots; this was subsequently disputed by six of his former colleagues.
Killing Truth makes the case that O'Reilly has stretched the truth again and again in order to build his reputation as a hardened reporter who doesn't just talk about violent conflicts but has risked his own life to witness them.
The eBook, available here, is timed to coincide with the release of O'Reilly's newest book, Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Real West, the companion to a forthcoming Fox News miniseries on the Old West. The series reportedly promises to "separate the legend from the lie."
Here's an excerpt from Killing Truth:
As the face of Fox News, the most powerful cable news channel in the country, as well as a best-selling author, the controversy brought into focus O'Reilly's unique brand of pathology. He appears to be a man focused on reinventing a version of himself that's more compelling than the real thing. O'Reilly has insisted that while he might be a "champion bloviator" who sits behind a desk for a living, he earned that right to pontificate because he put in all the hard work as a fearless reporter who rushed into danger in the name of breaking news. "I bloviate about stuff I've seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven't," he once bragged.
Partisan misinformation is one thing. It's the Fox News hallmark after all, and O'Reilly has trafficked in that, enthusiastically, for decades. But there's something even more troubling about a broadcaster who not only makes up facts in pursuit of winning a political debate, but who makes up facts about his own life in order to portray himself as tougher, more accomplished, and more credible than he really is.
For a man who once bragged that he was the second most powerful man in America (behind only the President of the United States), O'Reilly seems desperately concerned with puffing up his resume by reimagining his past. Recall that O'Reilly wasn't always just a partisan player regurgitating Republican talking points for a living. He had a taste of the network news life, with stints at both CBS News and ABC News back in the 1980s. (He once had dreams of replacing Peter Jennings as ABC's nightly news anchor.) But they didn't work out. He was never more than a minor player at both networks, and to this day he seems unable to contain the lingering resentment.
Does that explain O'Reilly's need to rewrite his reporting past? It's possible. The lies of O'Reilly also seem closely connected with the persona of class resentment he's fed off for decades. With a professional chip on his shoulder about the inside elites who have tried to keep him down, and who are now supposedly offended by his professional success, the need to improve O'Reilly's past becomes paramount to that narrative.
On Tuesday, Bill O'Reilly will enter another network's studio for the first time since the wave of stories exposing his embellishments about his reporting background broke last month. According to O'Reilly's website, he will appear with David Letterman on CBS' The Late Show to promote the National Geographic Channel adaptation of his 2013 book, Killing Jesus.
O'Reilly has faced intense scrutiny over the past month as various outlets have uncovered discrepancies in stories the Fox News host has told about his work regarding the suicide of a figure linked to the investigation of John F. Kennedy's assassination and conflicts in El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Los Angeles, and Argentina.
O'Reilly has not been interviewed by a non-Fox journalist since the early days of the firestorm, instead issuing statements about aspects of it and referencing the controversy on his own show. There remain many lingering questions about O'Reilly's past statements.
National Geographic Channel is reportedly taking steps to ensure that tough questions about O'Reilly's embellishments don't interfere with the launch of their film. CNN reporter Tom Kludt -- who has reported extensively on the O'Reilly controversy -- said on Twitter this afternoon that the network had informed him that they had denied his credential to cover the program's premiere "out of respect" for the Fox host.
Bill O'Reilly has finally responded to the mounting evidence undermining his claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure linked to President Kennedy's assassination. Last night, O'Reilly directed viewers to a statement from his book publisher that highlighted the account of a former O'Reilly colleague. But even that former colleague -- who has since worked for Fox News and is now a freelance reporter -- is unable to corroborate O'Reilly's tale.
O'Reilly claimed in his books on Kennedy's death and on Fox News that he was outside the residence where George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, killed himself in Florida in 1977. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV.
Over the past weeks, that story has unraveled. Several of O'Reilly's former colleagues and other reporters who covered de Mohrenschildt have disputed the tale. CNN produced audio that included O'Reilly telling a congressional investigator "I'm coming to Florida" only after learning of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. And the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report makes no mention of O'Reilly, strongly refuting the notion that he was at the residence at the time of the suicide.
O'Reilly had declined to directly address these discrepancies, while the publisher of his JFK books, Henry Holt and Co., released a statement standing by their author. Fox News has described O'Reilly as the victim of "an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates" and called responding to such allegations "an exercise in futility." But last night on his Fox News show, O'Reilly finally responded to what he termed "the far-left attacks on my reporting" of the JFK story by directing his viewers to a statement on the controversy that had been posted by his publisher.
The statement comes from O'Reilly's former WFAA colleague Bob Sirkin, who has previously said he was with O'Reilly in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. Sirkin, a freelance reporter who has worked for Fox News, previously described himself as one of the few people at WFAA who got along "very well" with O'Reilly.
But even Sirkin, O'Reilly's defender, is unable to corroborate his claim that he heard the gunshot that killed de Mohrenschildt. He also offers no explanation for the existence of O'Reilly's own recorded remarks that he's not in Florida, and why the police report didn't mention of O'Reilly.
According to Sirkin, he and O'Reilly had "split up" that afternoon and did not "reconnect" until after the death. From the statement (all caps in original):
So following the hotel incident, O'Reilly and I split up, it's now early afternoon. Bill is going to the Manalapan home in which George de Mohrenschildt and his daughter were staying, this is the house where de Mohrenschildt's body was found. I on the other hand, go on to do some additional reporting, phoning in a report for WFAA into their newsroom. Later, after de Mohrenschildt allegedly committed suicide, O'Reilly and I reconnect at the house in Manalapan.
In an interview with Media Matters last month, Sirkin likewise said that he was unable to confirm O'Reilly's account of having heard the gunshot.
Sirkin previously wrote a September 2012 blog comment claiming he visited Florida with O'Reilly prior to de Mohrenschildt's suicide. The entry makes no mention of O'Reilly hearing the gunshot. As Washington Post writer Erik Wemple notes, "There's no mention of Sirkin and O'Reilly splitting up or of O'Reilly heading over to the house where de Mohrenschildt committed his last act." Sirkin emailed Wemple later stating that he didn't include that detail "because of brevity and because I was not with Bill when he claimed to have heard a shot."
Sirkin's statement to O'Reilly's publisher also includes information that undermines his claim that he and O'Reilly were in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's death. Sirkin identifies the freelance cameraman who worked with them in Florida. (Note: while award-winning filmmaker Frank Eberling has previously attested to being Sirkin and O'Reilly's cameraman during their 1977 Florida trip, Sirkin's statement on the publisher's website, which appears to be a transcription of a verbal comment, identifies him as "Frank Everly.") Eberling told Media Matters last month that while he is unsure, he thinks O'Reilly arrived in Florida the day after the suicide.
That account is consistent with tape recordings of a phone conversation between O'Reilly and a congressional investigator on the day of the suicide. In the recordings, O'Reilly can be heard asking the congressional investigator where the suicide took place, if a gun was used, and saying "I'm coming down there tomorrow. I'm coming to Florida ... I'm going to get in there tomorrow."
Doug Fox, another of Sirkin and O'Reilly's former WFAA colleagues, claimed in an interview with Media Matters last month that he spoke to Sirkin "a few months ago" about seeing a story questioning O'Reilly's de Mohrenschildt reporting. According to Fox, Sirkin "called me and he didn't think the assertion was correct that O'Reilly heard the gunshot. Sirkin and I were in agreement that that's not what we recall happening down there. He said, 'It doesn't sound right to me, either.'" Sirkin responded by claiming that he had merely told Fox that he hadn't been present with O'Reilly for the gunshot.
O'Reilly has recently faced widespread criticism for a series of fabrications about his reporting career. On his program last night, he lashed out at his critics, including Media Matters, which he termed "the chief attack vehicle for the left."
UPDATE: Eberling disputed several aspects of Sirkin's story in an interview today with Media Matters' Joe Strupp.
While Sirkin claims that he and O'Reilly were in the area and using Eberling ("Everly" in the transcript) as their freelance cameraman on March 29, the day of de Mohrenschildt's death, Eberling recalls that he was working his regular job at the local ABC affiliate that day and did not meet up with the WFAA reporters until March 30.
"I highly doubt that [O'Reilly] actually was there when [the suicide] happened, I don't think he came into town until the next day," said Eberling.
Sirkin also writes that on March 29, he, O'Reilly, and Eberling were escorted off the property of the Breakers Hotel after trying to ambush de Mohrenschildt while he was being interviewed by investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein in Epstein's hotel room. Eberling recalled a similar story, but puts it on March 30, and said the altercation occurred when O'Reilly attempted to speak with either congressional investigator Gaetan Fonzi or investigative reporter Willem Oltmans.
Asked about O'Reilly's claim of being on the porch when the suicide occurred, Eberling said, "That's something I would have remembered and I don't remember him saying that."
Conservative media have accused Hillary Clinton of hypocrisy, claiming that a U.S. ambassador was forced to resign for using a personal email account at the same time Clinton was engaged in a similar practice during her tenure. In fact, the ambassador in question was fired following an investigation that accused him of a vast array of failures and mismanagement, not just improper use of email.
Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney writes that the news of Hillary Clinton's private email account is significant because it could provide evidence of her aide Huma Abedin's purported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, his latest effort to push the bigoted conspiracy theory for which he has been widely condemned.
Her emails are of particular interest insofar as Ms. Abedin has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the Islamist organization whose self-declared mission is "destroying Western civilization from within."
The indispensable investigative group Judicial Watch has filed suit in federal court for access to these emails. It remains to be seen if they are provided and, if so, what they reveal about these ladies' contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood - and their damage-control concerning revelations about Ms. Abedin's connection to it.
Gaffney's think tank is responsible for the conspiracy theory that Abedin, who is "of mixed Indian and Pakistani heritage," has family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood that call into question her loyalty to the United States.
After then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) cited Gaffney's claims while questioning Abedin's "routine access to the secretary and to policy-making" in a 2012 letter to the State Department, she was widely denounced, including by Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The vast majority of Americans believe Fox News host Bill O'Reilly should resign, be suspended without pay, or apologize if he lied about his experiences as a reporter who supposedly reported from combat zones, a new poll finds.
Over the last week, O'Reilly has been at the center of a media firestorm over the revelation that he has dramatically embellished aspects of his career in journalism. That criticism began with Mother Jones' report that O'Reilly had falsely suggested that he had reported from an active combat zone "in Argentina, in the Falklands" during the 1982 conflict there.
O'Reilly responded by lashing out at Mother Jones and claiming that he never meant to suggest that he was in the Falkland Islands during the war, only that he was in Argentina when a violent protest broke out. Numerous journalists who reported from that protest say that O'Reilly exaggerated how dangerous it was. For its part, Fox News has stood behind O'Reilly.
But the burgeoning scandal is damaging O'Reilly's credibility and requires a response, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted this week.
If O'Reilly "lied about his experience as a war reporter," 31 percent of respondent say he should apologize and explain himself, 21 percent say he should resign, and 18 percent believe he should be suspended for at least a month. Only 10 percent say that his actions wouldn't call for a response.
The poll also found that 37 percent have an unfavorable opinion of O'Reilly compared to 33 percent with a favorable one, and that respondents are split on whether the Fox host is trustworthy or not, 35 to 37.
Fox News is not commenting on reports that Bill O'Reilly lied in his books and on Fox News that he was nearby and "heard" a shotgun blast when a figure linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy committed suicide. The network is instead directing reporters to the host's publisher.
The network's reaction is a dramatic reversal of their aggressive communications strategy following Mother Jones' report that the stories O'Reilly has told about reporting from combat zones "don't withstand scrutiny."
Yesterday, Media Matters reported:
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.
According to CNN, "When reached for comment, a Fox News spokesperson referred CNNMoney to Henry Holt and Company, the imprint that published O'Reilly's book on the Kennedy assassination."
In seeking to pass off responsibility for O'Reilly's falsehoods to his publisher, Fox News is trying to hide the fact that he offered the same claim on their airwaves.
Directing reporters to the publisher represents a substantial shift from how Fox News responded to the Mother Jones story, which similarly detailed how O'Reilly had repeatedly made exaggerated claims about his reporting experience in his books and on Fox News. The report showed how O'Reilly had supposedly reported from a "combat zone" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War, and at times suggested he had reported from the Falkland Islands themselves. Numerous journalists who reported on that war subsequently disputed O'Reilly's claims.
Within hours of the story's publication, Fox News made O'Reilly available for a series of scathing interviews with media reporters in which he denied the allegations and attacked David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, as a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage."
While several of the claims O'Reilly has offered in his defense have turned out to be false, some commentators have nonetheless said that O'Reilly's public reaction shows that the Mother Jones story has "backfired" because the network is using the criticism from a progressive publication to bolster O'Reilly's standing with his fans.
Fox News has gone to war with Mother Jones after the liberal magazine published a story raising questions about the credibility of host Bill O'Reilly's past statements about his experience as a war correspondent.
Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported yesterday that "for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny--even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in."
The reporters noted that "Fox News and O'Reilly did not respond to multiple requests for comment." In an interview with Politico, Corn detailed his extensive effort to get the host or network to address the discrepancies in O'Reilly's stories.
Rather than responding to Mother Jones, the network apparently prepared to lash out. Fox "immediately put O'Reilly on the phone with a bunch of reporters to attack this story," CNN's Brian Stelter noted. "So they were on the offensive right away."
And respond he did. In a series of scathing interviews last night, O'Reilly declared that Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, is a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage" who authored "a politically motivated hit piece." He denied the allegations, claiming that "Everything I said about my reportorial career -- EVERYTHING -- is accurate" (this is obviously and demonstrably false).
In one interview with TVNewser, he even appeared to threaten Corn, saying, "When everybody writes the truth, I've talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I'm saying, because it's easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be."
"Rather than calling anyone a liar or a guttersnipe, he had ample opportunity to deal with the facts of this case. He elected not to, and instead engaged in name calling," Corn told Politico. "He chose not to address the issue, he chose to throw mud. And I would say that his right to impugn others ought to be diminished until he answers the basic questions about his statements."
"They purposely ignored Mother Jones and then once the story came out, they went ahead and talked to a number of other outlets," Stelter explained."And they made it very personal. I think what's striking about O'Reilly's response is the anti-Brian Williams. Brian Williams apologized and went silent. O'Reilly started calling your colleague, David Corn, a gutter snipe, a piece of garbage, a liar, a left wing assassin."
But it's no surprise Fox chose to respond with O'Reilly's attacks rather than seeking to shed light on the situation. The network's PR department is famously aggressive, frequently using personal attacks and retaliatory tactics to respond to critical reporters.
The American Thinker - "one of my most favorite and thoughtful blogs," according to Rush Limbaugh - reports that President Obama flashed a "Muslim gang sign" at an event last year by pointing his index finger upwards.
F.W. Burleigh, "author of It's All About Muhammad, a Biography of the World's Most Notorious Prophet," wrote for the conservative website that an "astonishing photo" of Obama during a summit with African leaders shows him "flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates." According to Burleigh, "the one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign" and "With his forefinger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe." He also postulates that Muslim African leaders present at the event were "all smiles" because "They knew what Obama's upright forefinger meant." The post also includes an image in which an "ISIS fighter displays the gang sign."
Conservatives have spent much of Obama's presidency laying out ludicrous theories for how Obama is secretly Muslim.
There are two main flaws with Burleigh's argument. First, video of the event captured from two angles indicates that Obama was actually wagging his finger, not pointing it. (Burleigh criticized the editors of the paper that published the photo for captioning it "finger wagging," claiming that they "did not understand what they were looking at.)
Second -- and it's difficult to believe we need to point this out -- many, many other world leaders have previously been photographed pointing their index fingers upward, suggesting either that Burleigh's argument is nonsense, or that several other recent U.S. and foreign leaders were secret Muslims.
Melissa Harris-Perry's guest pool remained extremely diverse while diversity on Up with Steve Kornacki dropped in 2014, according to a Media Matters review.
Because the MSNBC programs feature significantly different formats than the Sunday morning political talk shows on the four major broadcast networks and CNN (they are two-hour programs that air on both weekend days and are less focused on the news of the week), we did not review the ideology of their guests nor, for the sake of consistency, include them in our initial capsule report. But as the data from their Sunday editions contained in our full report shows, both programs demonstrate that it is possible to produce a show featuring more women and people of color than seen elsewhere.
For the second year in a row, Melissa Harris-Perry was the most diverse program of the seven we reviewed for gender and ethnicity. 55 percent of the program's Sunday guests were people of color and 45 percent were women. Only a quarter of guests were white men. All three measures were virtually unchanged from 2013, showing a clear commitment to a diverse guest pool.
Up's guest pool remained the second most diverse of the seven programs in 2014, but the program slipped from 2013, booking a larger percentage of white men and fewer women and people of color.
Here's the data for gender in 2014 and 2013:
*This chart has been updated for accuracy
And for gender and ethnicity combined: