Fox News host Bill O'Reilly wrongly attacked American Cyrus Kar, an aspiring filmmaker detained for seven weeks and later released by the U.S. military in Iraq for suspected links to the Iraqi insurgency. O'Reilly falsely claimed that Kar possessed bomb components when he was captured by Iraqi police. In fact, the Pentagon determined that the components -- washing-machine timers typically used by Iraqi insurgents to detonate bombs -- did not belong to Kar, but instead belonged to the driver of the cab he had hired. Kar was eventually cleared of any connection with terrorists.
Responding to a caller on his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly claimed that Iraqi police had arrested Kar, "a left-wing guy," when they "found two plastic bags filled with washing-machine timers in the trunk of his car." Co-host E.D. Hill echoed the charge, commenting: "Everyone carries those around, don't they?"
But the timers were not Kar's. An American citizen originally from Iran, Kar had gone to Iraq to film archeological sites around Babylon. On May 17, he and his cameraman hired a cab to return to the city of Balad, but Iraqi police at a checkpoint detained the two of them and the cab driver after they found the timers in the cab's trunk. The Iraqi police subsequently handed Kar over to the U.S. military, which detained him until July 10. Pentagon officials have released Kar and have cleared him of any connection to terrorism or the insurgency. In interviews, Kar has said that interrogators told him within days of his arrest that the timers belonged to the cab driver. Also, FBI documents reportedly show that, on June 14, FBI agents returned items seized in their May 23 search of Kar's Los Angeles apartment. Kar's relatives say that the FBI agent who returned the items told them at that time that Kar had been cleared [The New York Times, 7/11/05, 7/24/05; Los Angeles Times, 7/24/05].
From the July 25 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
CALLER: The guy that was on [ABC's] Good Morning America this morning that was -- he was over there doing a documentary in Iraq. He's Iranian by birth, but he's been raised in the United States, was in the Navy.
O'REILLY: Yeah, yeah, I know.
CALLER: He was on Good Morning America this morning, and the last thing that he said before they were done interviewing him was that people like him that have been, you know, innocently detained -- or shouldn't have been detained, and he was innocent, but the first thing they're going to do is look for the next terrorist group to join. And I think that is inciting people who are --
O'REILLY: Look, this guy -- this guy's name is Cyrus Kar. He's a left-wing guy. He was arrested -- he and his Iranian cameraman were arrested on May 17 by the Iraqi police, who found two plastic bags filled with washing-machine timers in the trunk of his car.
HILL: Everyone carries those around, don't they?
O'REILLY: Again, you know, look, when people are dying all around you, you don't give the benefit of the doubt. You don't give them the benefit of the doubt. When everybody's dying and bombs are going off, the benefit of the doubt gets you and everybody else killed.
HILL: But are news organizations, by giving this guy legitimacy --
O'REILLY: Of course.
HILL: -- helping?
O'REILLY: That's what they do. But I've had this guy on my show. I didn't care about the story that much, one guy --
HILL: Why would you have him on the show?
O'REILLY: Well, because I challenge him. I say, look, if I caught you with washing-machine parts that can be used to make bombs, I'd hold you too.