Iraq War vet joins Olbermann in demanding O'Reilly apology over Malmédy comments
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On MSNBC's Countdown, Iraq War veteran Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), joined Olbermann in demanding an apology from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly for falsely accusing American troops of massacring German soldiers at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II. Rieckhoff said in an interview with Olbermann, "I think he needs to issue an apology. We all ask that, all the veterans of our country ask that, and I think it's the responsible thing to do."
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On the June 5 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, Iraq War veteran Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and author of Chasing Ghosts: A Soldier's Fight for America from Baghdad to Washington (NAL Hardcover, May 2006), joined Countdown host Keith Olbermann in demanding an apology from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly for falsely accusing American troops of massacring German soldiers at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II. On the June 1 edition of Countdown, Olbermann reported that O'Reilly made his false accusation on the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly did not subsequently apologize, but on May 31 said the following: "In the heat of the debate with General Clark, my statement wasn't clear enough. ... After Malmédy, some German captors were executed by American troops." After noting O'Reilly's response, Olbermann on his June 1 program 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."
Responding to questions from Olbermann, Rieckhoff stated that O'Reilly should "step up and accept responsibility for his [O'Reilly's] mistake, and stand up in front of the country and say, 'I apologize, I screwed up, and what I said was not in the best interest of our troops of any generation.' " Rieckhoff later commented: "But there's no disputing what happened at Malmédy, and trying to twist it and have some kind of revisionist history is really irresponsible. You know, I think he needs to issue an apology. We all ask that, all the veterans of our country ask that, and I think it's the responsible thing to do." Finally, Rieckhoff stated "Well, I don't know what the right question is, but I know the right demand is an apology. And I think that he owes that to all our troops, and he especially owes that to the World War II generation."
Also on the June 5 edition of Countdown, Olbermann told viewers that, as Media Matters also had noted, Fox News and Nexis corrected transcripts that originally had O'Reilly accusing American troops of committing World War II atrocities at "Normandy" instead of what O'Reilly actually said, which was "Malmédy." Olbermann compared Fox News' transcript alterations to "rewriting yesterday's newspaper," calling it "the electronic version of what George Orwell prophesied in his novel 1984."
From the June 5 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: Our third story in the Countdown, as promised, now a follow-up on the inversion of the story of Malmédy by Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel, who has twice claimed that it was Americans who killed German prisoners there.
OLBERMANN: Fox News had scrubbed clean O'Reilly's remarkable misstatement, his second on the subject in just under eight months. Its transcript of O'Reilly's remarks had him saying, quote: "In Normandy, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces," etc.
That, rewriting yesterday's newspaper, is the electronic version of what George Orwell prophesied in his novel 1984. Well, good and real news here: After we called out O'Reilly and Fox on both his slander of dead American soldiers and their attempt to hide it, on this newscast last Thursday, they changed it back last Friday. It now reads how it should have all along, as O'Reilly said it.
OLBERMANN: Judging by reaction to just the first part of our coverage last week, I'm not the only person enraged by O'Reilly's twisting of the tragedy of Malmédy and in the bigger picture twisting it into some kind of indecipherable defense of what happened, whatever happened at Haditha. So, too, for one, the executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff, himself an Iraq veteran. Thank you for your time, sir.
RIECKHOFF: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I guess that big-picture question; however that he screwed up the details, how is Bill O'Reilly, self-described patriot, defending American troops in Iraq by invoking the World War II massacre of any kind?
RIECKHOFF: He's not. Not at all, and I think what he's doing is really shameful. I think he needs to step up and accept responsibility for his mistake and stand up in front of the country and say, "I apologize, I screwed up, and what I said was not in the best interest of our troops of any generation." This was in direct attack on the legacy and the history, the proud history, of all the World War II veterans in this country, and think it's really shameful to try to twist it into some convoluted argument to dismiss Haditha -- is really twisted. I think he just needs to be up-front about it, say he screwed up, and apologize. That would be the right thing to do. I think we've seen this type of behavior from the president. We all see where that's gotten us, so I think it's about time somebody stepped up and claimed responsibility for their actions and just ask for an apology.
OLBERMANN: To the detail of Malmédy and how first, 60 years ago, Joe McCarthy tried to turn this S.S. bloodbath into an American war crime and now how casually Bill O'Reilly has done nearly the same thing. Is that just a bizarre coincidence, or does it underscore a lot of what you have seen among those who are waving the flag the fastest, and singing the anthem the loudest, relative to how they really feel when it comes right down to it about the troops?
RIECKHOFF: What it underscores is a detachment. He dismissed General Clark, he dismisses history, and I think we all understand how high the stakes are with regard to the allegations at Haditha. We need people to get down to facts, we need people to trust. People like General Clark, who got extensive experience as a four-star general. People who've been on the ground in Iraq who can help us understand this complex issue.
Haditha is going to have global implications around the world, no matter how it turns out. We understand that. We need to let the investigation run its course. And Mr. O'Reilly's role in this is really not helping the case. This is not the Natalee Holloway case. We need to get down to brass tacks here, find out what went on, and let a thorough investigation run its course and keep the American people informed with people from a position of credibility -- like military veterans, like General Clark, not like Bill O'Reilly.
OLBERMANN: Well, as you'll hear O'Reilly say, he's been in combat, meaning he covered a shootout once. Military history is this very useful tool in analyzing war of the present day. You can go almost to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you want and try to figure things out, but it has to be used really carefully, doesn't it? I mean, if you say, "Malmédy, where Americans slaughtered German prisoners or maybe it was after Malmédy, what's the difference?" When you reach for a military parallel to Iraq, you have to be a lot more accurate. You have to be precise, don't you?
RIECKHOFF: I think you do, and I think you have to be careful and you have to be responsible. And I think that's what we all have to do as this Haditha case unfolds. We have to be responsible, we have to be accurate, we have to give people the benefit of the doubt. But there's no disputing what happened at Malmédy, and trying to twist it and have some kind of revisionist history is really irresponsible. You know, I think he needs to issue an apology. We all ask that, all the veterans of our country ask that, and I think it's the responsible thing to do. And if he wants combat experience, I think he should take his butt over to Iraq. I know he hasn't been there yet. Even Al Franken's been there three times at this point. And if he's really concerned about supporting the troops and understanding the complexity of what's going on over there, he should cover it. That'll be plenty "fair and balanced" for all of us.
OLBERMANN: Can't get him past west of Sixth Avenue. I don't think you're going to get him to Iraq. Tell me, though -- this last point is piling on -- but since he brought Malmédy up for the second time last week, and I've heard from relatives of the Americans who were murdered there, actual descendants of victims, and they are hurting from this in a way that I and maybe even you can't, would it be really over the line to throw that infamous question back at Bill O'Reilly: Tell me, sir, why do you hate our troops?
RIECKHOFF: Well, I don't know what the right question is, but I know the right demand is an apology. And I think that he owes that to all our troops, and he especially owes that to the World War II generation. My grandfather served in World War II, and I know how proud of his service he was, and we all know how difficult that time was. And I think he owes them an apology.
It's the responsible thing to do, and if he really supports the troops, he should support the veterans and listen to what they have to say and understand history and be responsible and be accurate. That's the best way to support our troops -- is to be accurate and understanding in the way you represent the coverage of this war and our understanding of it.