Since our launch in May 2004, Media Matters for America has monitored, analyzed, and corrected conservative misinformation in the news media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our staff recently reviewed the misinformation we've identified and corrected during those eight months in order to choose our first annual "Misinformer of the Year."
Of all the news anchors, columnists, pundits, and reporters whose work we've critiqued and corrected, one stands above all the rest. We're pleased to announce that with at least 75 (we stopped counting) lies, distortions, and mischaracterizations, television host, columnist, radio host, former Inside Edition anchor, man of the people, and Harvard University graduate Bill O'Reilly can now claim the title: 2004 Misinformer of the Year. We've compiled a list of some of his most egregious false and misleading claims of 2004 for your reading pleasure. We've left out comments that were merely offensive, but you can see where he ranks on our list of the Top Ten Most Outrageous Comments of 2004 here.
Without further ado:
- O'Reilly falsely claimed Bush didn't oppose 9-11 Commission. O'Reilly defended President George W. Bush from a Kerry-Edwards '04 TV ad highlighting Bush's opposition to creation of the 9-11 Commission by denying that Bush had ever opposed the commission. In fact, Bush did oppose the creation of the 9-11 Commission. (10/21/04)
- O'Reilly falsely claimed Iraq had ricin. O'Reilly responded to a caller to his radio show by defending the Iraq war: "They did have ricin up there in the north -- so why are you discounting that so much?" In fact, the Duelfer report (the final report of the Iraqi Survey Group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, which conducted the search for weapons in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion) indicates that Iraq did not have ricin. (10/19/04)
- O'Reilly repeated discredited claims on Iraq-Al Qaeda link. O'Reilly interrupted a former Clinton administration official who tried to correct the record on O'Reilly's claim that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi constitutes a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He also allowed a conservative guest to repeat without challenge other discredited claims about Iraq's supposed involvement in terrorism -- claims O'Reilly has himself cited in the past. (9/27/04)
- O'Reilly fabricated "Paris Business Review" as source for success of French boycott. O'Reilly falsely claimed "they've lost billions of dollars in France according to 'The Paris Business Review'" due to an American boycott he advocated of French imports. Media Matters for America found no evidence of a publication named "The Paris Business Review." (4/27/04)
- O'Reilly cited phony stats to argue that taxes on rich are excessive. O'Reilly tried to "blow off" the argument that wealthy Americans ought to pay more taxes by citing phony statistics about the tax burden the rich currently bear. (6/30/04)
- O'Reilly confused on elementary economics. O'Reilly told a caller on his radio show, "We [the United States] have a trade deficit with everybody, because everybody wants our stuff, and we're not wild about snails" -- indicating that he doesn't know the definition of "trade deficit" and implying that the United States runs a trade surplus with France. In fact, in the first four months of 2004, the United States had a $3 billion trade deficit with France. (6/10/04)
- O'Reilly doctored quotation to suggest Soros wished his own father dead. During his smear campaign against progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros, O'Reilly doctored a 1995 quotation by Soros to make it seem as if Soros wished his own father dead. (6/1/04)
- O'Reilly questioned if Kennedy would show up to Democratic convention ... as Kennedy spoke behind him. O'Reilly teased an upcoming segment of The O'Reilly Factor, broadcast live from the Democratic National Convention, by saying of convention speaker Senator Edward Kennedy: "When we come back, we'll let you listen to Ted Kennedy for a while, if he shows up." In fact, Kennedy had already shown up and had been speaking for several minutes, as O'Reilly need only have turned around to see. (7/27/04)
- O'Reilly disparaged Democrats with trifecta of voter falsehoods. In a discussion about what went wrong for Democrats in the November 2 election, O'Reilly claimed that Democrats "lost votes from four years ago"; that "18- to 24[-year-old]s didn't go" to the polls; and that "[c]ommitted Republicans didn't carry the day for the president; independents did." All three claims are false. (11/4/04)
- O'Reilly on the radio: Three lies, one broadcast. Lie No. 1: Bush tax cuts didn't create the budget deficit. Lie No. 2: "Socialistic" French, Germans, and Canadian governments tax at 80 percent. Lie No. 3: Canadian, British, and French media are "government-controlled," but Italian media is free. (7/7/04)