All The Journalists Disputing Bill O'Reilly's Falklands War Tales

››› ››› BEN DIMIERO & HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

Bill O'Reilly's claims about his 1982 Falklands War reporting have been disputed by numerous journalists who covered the events for CBS News, NBC News, and CNN, as well as an Argentine historian.

Mother Jones Highlights O'Reilly's Fibs About Falklands War Reporting

Mother Jones: "O'Reilly Has Recounted Dramatic Stories About His Own War Reporting That Don't Withstand Scrutiny." Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman released an investigation detailing how O'Reilly has repeatedly overstated his experiences as a CBS News correspondent covering the 1982 Falklands War:

[F]or 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. [Mother Jones, 2/19/15]

O'Reilly Repeatedly Claimed He Reported "In The Falklands," But His Former Colleagues Say CBS Reported From 1,200 Miles Away In Buenos Aires

Mother JonesOn Fox News, O'Reilly Said He Was "In The Falklands" During The War. As Mother Jones noted, in April 2013, O'Reilly claimed on Fox News that he "was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands."

O'REILLY: I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I'm looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/17/13, via Mother Jones2/19/15]

O'Reilly In 2006: My Experience Reporting "Got A Little Hairy In The Falklands." On the January 30, 2006 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly said things "got a little hairy in the Falklands" while he was reporting:

O'REILLY: But again, look, I mean all of us who are reporters -- and I was a reporter for 24 years, even, you know -- and I was in El Salvador, and in the Falkland War in Argentina, and in Northern Ireland, and in the Middle East.  And I did some pretty risky things. I was single and nobody cared, but you know -- a couple of girlfriends would have been - 'oh, no more free dinners from Bill.' 

But I did. I put myself, you know, in positions that perhaps I should not have, but I got good stories.  And that's what people do.  That's what journalists do. But I volunteered.  Nobody sent me.  Nobody forced me.  I went it.  And that's what these guys did.  And these guys were in much more danger than I was ever in, although it got a little hairy in the Falklands, that's for sure. [Westwood One, The Radio Factor1/30/06]

CBS' Bob Schieffer: "Nobody From CBS Got To The Falklands." Mother Jones reported that CBS News' Bob Schieffer disputed O'Reilly's account, saying "Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands. I came close. We'd been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible ... For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals."[Mother Jones2/19/15]

CBS Producer Susan Zirinsky: "Nobody Got To The War Zone During The Falklands War." Mother Jones also reported that longtime CBS News producer Susan Zirinsky, "who helped manage the network's coverage of the war from Buenos Aires," told them "Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war." The publication added: "She does not remember what O'Reilly did during his time in Argentina. But she notes that the military junta kept US reporters from reaching the islands: 'You weren't allowed on by the Argentinians. No CBS person got there.'" [Mother Jones2/19/15]

O'Reilly Subsequently Responded To Mother Jones Report By Claiming "I Never Said I Was On The Island." In an interview with Fox News' Howard Kurtz, O'Reilly denied Mother Jones' report, claiming that "There is not any way anyone on earth could say I said I was on the Falkland Islands," instead insisting "Nobody was on the Falklands and I never said I was on the island, ever." [FoxNews.com, 2/20/15]

Numerous Journalists Who Reported From The Scene And A Historian Dispute O'Reilly's Claim That "Many Were Killed" During 1982 Protest He Covered In Buenos Aires

O'Reilly Claimed He Was In "Combat Situation" During Violent Protest In Buenos Aires. As part of his defense of his past statements, O'Reilly told Politico media reporter Dylan Byers he was "in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered," claiming that his experience covering what he described as a violent protest immediately after the end of the war was the combat reporting experience he had previously referenced. From the Politico report:

In the interview, O'Reilly said that he never claimed to have been on the Falkland Islands.

"I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was. I was in Buenos Aires... In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered."

As he writes in The No Spin Zone, O'Reilly was in Buenos Aires when thousands of Argentines took to the streets to protest the military junta for surrendering to the Brits. O'Reilly says that the Army shot into the crowd. (Corn and his colleague Daniel Schulman say this was not war action.) [Politico, 2/19/15]

O'Reilly: "Many Were Killed" During Protest In Buenos Aires. In his book No Spin Zone, O'Reilly writes of covering a violent protest on the streets of Buenos Aires, during which he claims "many were killed":

A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head. [Mother Jones, 2/19/15]

O"Reilly: I Saw Soldiers "Shooting People Dead" During Protest. Similarly, O'Reilly claimed on his radio show in 2008 that he witnessed Argentine soldiers "shooting people dead" during the protest:

O'REILLY: When I got shot at I was covering the Falklands war and I was based in Argentina in Buenos Aires [...] And when the Argentines surrendered to the British there was a huge riot in Buenos Aires. I was in the middle of that riot when Argentine soldiers came out of the barracks and got into the streets and actually shot people dead in the street, because people were rioting. And it wasn't like warning shots or rubber bullets or teargas. They were shooting people dead. [Media Matters, 2/23/15]

CNN: O'Reilly's Riot Story "Sharply Contradicted By Seven Other Journalists Who Were His Colleagues." CNN media reporter Brian Stelter wrote that seven of O'Reilly's former CBS News colleagues strongly disagreed with his claim that people were killed during the riot:

[Eric] Engberg, [Manny] Alvarez and [Jim] Forrest spoke on the record about their recollections of the Argentina coverage. Four other people who were there for CBS spoke on condition of anonymity, some because they still work in the television industry and others because they don't want to be publicly criticized by O'Reilly.

All of the people said they're unaware of any civilians being killed in the riot. In O'Reilly's 2001 book, he said "many were killed."

"There were certainly no dead people," Forrest said. "Had there been dead people, they would have sent more camera crews."

Alvarez called the claims of deaths "outrageous, outrageous."

"People being mowed down? Where was that? That would have been great footage. That would have turned into the story," he said. [CNN, 2/22/15]

Argentine Historian: "There Were No People Killed At The Protests." In comments to Washington Post writer Erik Wemple, Argentine historian Federico G. Lorenz says that people were "slightly injured" during the protest, but nobody died as far as he knew:

Seeking to explain the discrepancy, O'Reilly yesterday told the Erik Wemple Blog through a spokeswoman, "Fatalities were reported locally, the military government refused to provide any information on injuries, arrests etc. I saw folks hit the ground and stay there but no one could get info from the [Leopoldo] Galtieri crew."

As the Erik Wemple Blog pokes around in the archives of Argentine newspapers, we reached out to a historian for perspective. Federico G. Lorenz, an author who has written extensively on the Falklands/Malvinas war, tells the Erik Wemple Blog via correo electrónico:

"As far as I know, there were no people killed at the protests after the news of the Argentine surrendering arrived to [Buenos Aires]. There were incidents at May Square...and people slightly injured due to gasses and anti riot munition, but not dead people. Press from June 15, 1982, reports about 5 buses burnt 'many detainees and injured people'. One of the photographs shows precisely a wounded lying surrounded by people." [Washington Post, 2/23/15]

Former CNN Reporter Jim Clancy: "I Was There...It Is Clear To Me Bill O'Reilly Is Not Truthful." In a series of tweets highlighted by Mediaite, former CNN reporter Jim Clancy, who said he was at the protest in question, says O'Reilly "isn't telling the truth when he says he saw people killed in front of his eyes":

[Mediaite, 2/23/15]

Former CBS News Correspondent Charles Gomez "Did Not See Any Bloodshed." The New York Times quoted former CBS News correspondent Charles Gomez saying that while there was "tension," he "did not see any bloodshed" at the protest:

Another CBS News correspondent on the ground, Charles Gomez, said in an interview that though he likes Mr. O'Reilly and was surprised by the accusations, his memories matched those of his former colleagues.

"I do remember that there was tension between the authorities and the crowd," he said, but added that he "did not see any bloodshed." No cameraman was injured, he said, to the best of his recollection. Mr. Gomez, who covered wars in Nicaragua and other conflict zones, said he would not describe the events that night as war.

"What was happening on the Falkland Islands was a war zone," he said. "What was happening in Buenos Aires was unrest." [New York Times, 2/23/15]

Former CBS News Correspondent Charles Krause: O'Reilly's Claim He Reported From A "War Zone" Is "Absurd." In comments to Media Matters, former CBS News correspondent Charles Krause, who reported from Buenos Aires while O'Reilly was there, said O'Reilly's description of Buenos Aires as a "war zone" and a "combat situation" at the time is "absurd." Krause also disputed O'Reilly's description of the 1982 protest. From Media Matters' report:

O'Reilly responded with claims he had never said he was in the Falklands, but stood by his assertions that he had been in Buenos Aires and covered what he termed a "war zone" and "combat situation."

[...]

Krause, a former Washington Post reporter who had lived in Buenos Aires for three years prior to the war, said O'Reilly's claims are wrong.

"That's absurd because Buenos Aires was Buenos Aires," Krause said about the war zone claim in an interview Sunday. "It was just like it always was, there was very little evidence of the war in Buenos Aires. The war was being fought thousands of miles away."

Krause joined several of the journalists quoted by Stelter in casting doubt on O'Reilly's claim that he had witnessed a violent protest in which several demonstrators had been killed. "There's a difference between demonstrations and rioting," Krause said. "I don't recall there being rioting, there could have been scuffling." [Media Matters, 2/23/15]

Former NBC Correspondent George Lewis: Protest Was "A Little Nasty," But "Not A Combat Situation." In a Facebook comment, former NBC News correspondent George Lewis agreed with former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg's description of the 1982 protest as "a little nasty," but added that it was "not a combat situation":

The NBC guy was Robin Lloyd. He was the only American TV reporter to set foot on the Falkland Islands but it was weeks before the Brits got there to retake the place. If you read O'Reilly's remarks, he makes it sound as if he, too, had been there and at the height of the action. Eric, I was in BA for the Peacock and I remember it the way you described it. I was at the Casa Rosada when it was hitting the fan and it was, like you said, "a little nasty," not a combat situation. [Facebook, 2/20/15]

In a separate comment, Lewis described it as the "cushiest war I ever covered." [Facebook, 2/20/15]

Former NY Times Editor: O'Reilly Misrepresented My Reporting To Defend Himself. In an attempt to prove his assertion of violence at the protests, O'Reilly cited a 1982 article by former New York Times editor Rich Meislin. But as Meislin pointed out on Facebook, O'Reilly omitted a key phrase from Meislin's report in his retelling that gave the false impression it verified his version of events. From a Media Matters report:

O'Reilly attempted to defend himself by reading from a New York Times report of the protest during an interview on the February 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz. At one point O'Reilly quoted from the story, saying, "One policeman pulled a pistol, firing five shots."

But as the author of the story, Rich Meislin, pointed out on Facebook, O'Reilly omitted the end of the sentence from the original Times report during his retelling on Fox News, which reads, "One policeman pulled a pistol, firing five shots over the heads of fleeing demonstrators."

As Meislin notes, "As far as I know, no demonstrators were shot or killed by police in Buenos Aires that night. What I saw on the streets that night was a demonstration -- passionate, chaotic and memorable -- but it would be hard to confuse it with being in a war zone." [Media Matters, 2/23/15]

O'Reilly Sticks By Claim Of Fatalities At Protest. Responding to criticism on his Fox News show, O'Reilly reiterated that he "believe[s] there were" deaths during the protest:

O'REILLY: It was extremely violent from the street where I was. And we couldn't get casualty numbers because, as you know, it was a military dictatorship and they don't give that to you. But I saw people hit the ground hard, I saw them hauled off, put into ambulances and police vehicles. And the local reportage was that there were fatalities. We have not been able to say how many. All right? But I believe there were. And in The New York Times article, ... [Meislin], he did a pretty good job. You know, everybody was trying to get the numbers, but the numbers were impossible to get. But there is no doubt that this was an extremely violent and volatile situation where reporters were in danger, or am I wrong? [Fox News, O'Reilly Factor, 2/23/15]

O'Reilly Claims He Helped An Injured CBS Photographer During Riot, Numerous Former Colleagues Have No Recollection Of Incident   

O'Reilly Claimed He Helped CBS Photographer Who Hit His Head In The Riot. As Mother Jones noted, in April 2013, O'Reilly claimed on Fox News that the CBS photographer with him "in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands," was injured:

O'REILLY: I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I'm looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/17/13, via Mother Jones2/19/15]

CNN: O'Reilly's Former Colleagues Dispute Photographer Claim: "If Somebody Got Hurt, We All Would Have Known." CNN interviewed seven of O'Reilly's former CBS colleagues who were in Argentina with him, and reported that "none of them recall anyone from the network being injured." While the photographer in question, Roberto Moreno, declined to comment to CNN, a former colleague who "has stayed in touch with Moreno for decades" told the network he never told her about being injured during that assignment. From CNN:

Did O'Reilly's photographer get "run down" and bloodied?

CNN has interviewed seven people who were there for CBS, and none of them recall anyone from the network being injured.

"If somebody got hurt, we all would have known," Alvarez said.

In a Friday interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, O'Reilly said the photographer's last name was Moreno. Roberto Moreno was there for CBS. He now lives in Venezuela, and he declined to comment to CNN.

But Mia Fabius, who was the office manager for the CBS Miami bureau at the time, has stayed in touch with Moreno for decades, and she said Moreno has never spoken about any injury in Argentina.

Further, Fabius said no injury report was ever filed. [CNN, 2/22/15]

New York Times: CBS Correspondent, Senior Manager Agree "Nobody Reported A Cameraman Being Shot Or Injured." The New York Times reported that former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg and a "senior member of the CBS News management team" both disputed O'Reilly's account of rescuing an injured cameraman:

Mr. Engberg, the former CBS News correspondent, also strongly disputed Mr. O'Reilly's claim that he had rescued an injured cameraman while being chased by the Argentine army. "Nobody reported a cameraman being shot or injured," he said. His account was supported by a senior member of the CBS News management team, with close knowledge of the events that night, who said that nobody was reported injured, and no request for medical attention was made to CBS News's local medical team. [The New York Times2/23/15]

NYT: CBS Correspondent Charles Gomez Reports "No Cameraman Was Injured." The New York Times reported of CBS News correspondent Charles Gomez's recollection of Argentina: "No cameraman was injured, he said, to the best of his recollection." [The New York Times2/23/15]

Posted In
Ethics, International Conflicts
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Person
Bill O'Reilly
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor
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