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.
UPDATE: The editors-in-chief of Mother Jones have called on O'Reilly to apologize for his "kill zone" comment, Politico reported:
"We are writing with alarm about Bill O'Reilly's response to our report investigating his characterizations of his reporting in 'war zones,'" EICs Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein wrote to Fox News EVP Bill Shine and spokesperson Dana Klinghoffer. "We welcome criticism, but calling for our reporter 'to be in the kill zone' crosses a line. Like everyone in media today, we are concerned about the safety of our staff. We'd have hoped that statements with this kind of violent tone would not come from a fellow media professional."
Jeffrey and Bauerlein said that O'Reilly should either "renounce his 'kill zone' remark and apologize" on air Friday night or "issue a separate statement renouncing the remark and apologizing."
UPDATE 2: O'Reilly responded to the Mother Jones complaint by telling Mediaite that the phrase "kill zone" is "simply a slang expression."