Keith Olbermann noted that Bill O'Reilly falsely accused -- for the second time -- U.S. troops of committing the massacre at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II. On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor two days earlier, O'Reilly had attempted to compare the incident at Malmédy to the alleged killings in Haditha, Iraq. O'Reilly stated: "In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down." In fact, 84 American bodies were found at Malmédy murdered by SS troops.
UPDATE: Fox News has corrected its online transcript of the May 30 edition of The O'Reilly Factor to reflect what was actually said. The transcript originally stated that host Bill O'Reilly blamed Americans for committing World War II atrocities at "Normandy" instead of what O'Reilly actually said, which was "Malmédy." During an interview with former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark, O'Reilly inaccurately referred to a massacre at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II as one committed by U.S. troops. In fact, at Malmédy, German SS troops massacred Americans. As Media Matters for America noted, the transcripts at both Fox News and Nexis previously indicated that O'Reilly said "Normandy," when it is clear from the video of the program that O'Reilly said "Malmédy." Thanks to reader J.C. for bringing this to our attention.
Olbermann noted O'Reilly's false accusation that U.S. troops committed World War II atrocities at Malmédy
On the June 1 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann noted that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely accused American troops of committing the massacre at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II. During a discussion with former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark on the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly attempted to compare the incident at Malmédy to the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers in Haditha, Iraq. O'Reilly stated: "In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That's on the record. Been documented." In fact, the result of the massacre was reversed -- 84 American bodies were found at Malmédy, murdered by SS troops. O'Reilly had made the mistake before, during an October 3, 2005, interview with Clark. Olbermann called attention to O'Reilly's falsehoods, saying, "the victims at Malmédy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed."
Both Fox News and Nexis posted transcripts of O'Reilly's May 30 comments that read "Normandy," instead of "Malmédy." However, the video of O'Reilly's remarks, as well as the transcript provided by Factiva.com, confirm that O'Reilly indeed said "Malmédy," not "Normandy." (Olbermann said that the altered transcript had "carried over into" Factiva -- it is unclear whether Factiva has again readjusted its transcript or whether Olbermann was simply incorrect). But even the change did not make O'Reilly's statement accurate. There is in fact evidence of a massacre of British and Canadian soldiers at the hands of SS troops at Normandy; the invasion of Normandy was not an example of a U.S.-initiated massacre.
On the May 31 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly revised his claim in response to a viewer who noted that the Malmédy incident was "the other way around" from what O'Reilly suggested:
O'REILLY: Don Caldwell, Fort Worth, Texas: "Bill, you mentioned that Malmédy as the site of an American massacre during World War II. It was the other way around, the SS shot down U.S. prisoners." In the heat of the debate with General Clark, my statement wasn't clear enough, Mr. Caldwell. After Malmédy, some were executed by American troops.
O'Reilly did not elaborate on the revised claim. After airing O'Reilly's revised claim, Olbermann stated: "Wrong answer. When you are that wrong, when you are defending Nazi war criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans and you get caught doing so twice, you're supposed to say, 'I'm sorry, I was wrong,' and then you're supposed to shut up for a long time."
O'Reilly previously mischaracterized the massacre at Malmédy during the October 3, 2005, interview with Clark, in which Clark called for the release of photos of the prisoner abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib. In an attempt to connect Malmédy with the Abu Ghraib scandal, O'Reilly suggested that Clark "need[s] to look at the Malmédy massacre in World War II and the 82nd Airborne," and asked, "You want those pictures out?" Media Matters for America noted a different discrepancy between what was actually said and to the Fox News transcript of that interview with Clark -- the transcript suggested that Clark had said that he did not want the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, when in fact he had said that he did want them released.
From the June 1 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: Abraham Lincoln did not shoot John Wilkes Booth. Titanic did not sink a North Atlantic iceberg. And Fox News is neither fair nor balanced. These are simple historical facts intelligible to all adults, most children, and some of your more discerning domesticated animals. But not, as the third story on the Countdown proves yet again, not to Bill O.
STEWIE GRIFFIN (character on TV show Family Guy) [video clip]: Countdown presents "Factor Fiction," wherein we catch that bastard Bill O'Reilly lying again. Oh, wait, Bill, hold still. Allow me to soil myself on you. Victory is mine!
OLBERMANN: The guilty pleasure offered by the existence of Bill O'Reilly is simple and understandable. Ninety-nine times out of 100, when we belly up to the Bill O bar of bluster, nearly every time we partake of the movable falafel feast, he serves us nothing but comedy: farce, slapstick, unconscious self-mutilation, the Sideshow Bob of commentators forever stepping on the same rake, forever muttering the same grunted, inarticulate surrender, forever resuming the circle that will take him back to the same rake. The Sisyphus of morons, if you will. But this is the 100th time out of 100. It is not funny at all. Bill O'Reilly has, for the second time in just under eight months, slandered at least 84 dead American servicemen. He has turned them again from victims of the kind of atrocity our country has always fought against into perpetrators of that kind of atrocity. He has made these Americans into war criminals. They are dead and have been dead for 61 years. They cannot defend themselves against O'Reilly. We will have to do it for them.
Last October, Bill O'Reilly railed against a ruling that more photos from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq might be released. His guest on his program was Wesley Clark. Clark is a retired four-star general, was for four years supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe. First in his class at West Point, wounded in Vietnam, earned the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and has streets named for him in Alabama and in Kosovo. Therefore, naturally, O'Reilly knows much more about the military than General Clark does. Clark defended the release of the additional Abu Ghraib prison -- photos, saying we needed to know what happened and to correct it. O'Reilly lectured him and concluded that there had always been atrocities even by Americans in war.
O'REILLY [video clip]: General, you need to look at the Malmédy Massacre in World War II in the 82nd Airborne.
OLBERMANN: It was a remarkable mistake. The Belgian town of Malmédy did lend its name to one of the most appalling battlefield war crimes of the 20th century. But O'Reilly's implication that the Americans committed it was entirely backwards. Americans, most of them members of Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, surrendered to German Panzer troops and were then shot by their captors from the SS. Yet, O'Reilly had implied that the Americans had massacred these Germans in this one stark moment of the Battle of the Bulge. And he used this Alice-through-the-looking-glass view of history to somehow rationalize Abu Ghraib while trying to dress down a four-star American general.
Still, it could have been a mistake; we make them. Even historians do. O'Reilly had not explicitly called the Americans the war criminals of Malmédy. Our troops, too, were accused of crimes against prisoners in the Second World War. It was assumed last year he had simply made a foolish error, and though he got beaten up appropriately in some places, it was all largely dismissed as merely that -- a mistake.
Then came this Tuesday night. Again, O'Reilly's guest was General Wes Clark. This time, the topic was the apparent murder of Iraqi civilians at Haditha. That O'Reilly was dismissive of that event should be no surprise, that he should have described as the real crime of Iraq the events of Abu Ghraib should be no surprise to those who know of his willingness to jettison his most important beliefs of yesterday for the expediencies and the ratings of today. But that he should have brought up Malmédy again -- that was a surprise.
O'REILLY [video clip]: In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed, and they shot them down. You know that. That's on the record. Been documented.
OLBERMANN: Thus was the full depth of Bill O'Reilly's insult to the American dead of World War II made clear. The mistake of last October was not some innocent slip nor misremembered history. This was the way O'Reilly understood it, and thus, this way it had to be. No errors corrected, no apologies offered, no stopping the relentless tide of bull, even briefly enough to check one fact.
The facts of Malmédy are terrifying, as described by Michael Reynolds in his painstakingly detailed article from a 2003 issue of World War II magazine. One week before Christmas 1944, 139 U.S. soldiers, most of them from the 285th Field Artillery, encountered the German Kampfgruppe Peiper, the leading formation of the German 1st SS Panzer Division -- one of only two German units in the entire war which actually carried Adolf Hitler's name. The Americans were overrun. Eleven of the 139 soldiers were killed in the very short battle of Malmédy; two more were killed as they tried to flee. Seven escaped, six became prisoners of war. The other 113 Americans, nearly all of whom had surrendered outright, were ordered to assemble in an open field next to a restaurant, the Cafe Bodarwé. What happened next has been attributed to many things -- a cold-blooded decision by that Panzer unit commander, Colonel Joachim Peiper, that he could not handle the prisoners, or an unjustifiable overreaction to some kind of escape attempt, or simply horrible mass murder.
Within 15 minutes, the SS colonel or someone directly under him had ordered his men to shoot the unarmed American POWs. The bodies at Malmédy were not found until a month later. There were 84 of them, all American soldiers. More than half showed shotgun wounds to their heads. Six had received fatal blows to the head. Nine were found with their arms still raised above their heads. The fact that O'Reilly got these horrible facts completely backwards twice offended even his usually compliant viewers. From his program Wednesday night:
O'REILLY [video clip]: Don Caldwell, Fort Worth, Texas: "Bill, you mentioned that Malmédy as the site of an American massacre during World War II. It was the other way around, the SS shot down U.S. prisoners." In the heat of the debate with General Clark, my statement wasn't clear enough, Mr. Caldwell. After Malmédy, some German captives were executed by American troops.
OLBERMANN: Wrong answer. When you are that wrong, when you are defending Nazi war criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans and you get caught doing so twice, you're supposed to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong," and then you're supposed to shut up for a long time. Instead, Fox washed its transcript of O'Reilly's remarks Tuesday. Its website claims O'Reilly said "in Normandy" when, as you heard, in fact, he said "in Malmédy."
The rewriting of past reporting worthy of George Orwell has now carried over into such online transcription services as Burrelle's and Factiva. Whatever did or did not happen later in supposed or actual retribution, the victims at Malmédy were Americans, gunned down while surrendering by Nazis in 1944 and again Tuesday night and Wednesday night by a false patriot who would rather be loud than right.
"In Malmédy, as you know," Bill O'Reilly said on the air Tuesday night in some indecipherable attempt to defend the events of Haditha, "U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed, and they shot them dead. You know that, that's on the record and documented [sic]." The victims at Malmédy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed. That's on the record and documented, and their memory deserves better than Bill O'Reilly. We all do.