NBC’s Brian Williams is already in the doghouse for making sure the truth didn’t get in the way of a good war story—and then telling that really great, really not true story over, and over, and over. Brian Williams apologized, and NBC suspended him, promising a full investigation. There are a number of emotional reactions one could have in response to the Williams fall from grace. The one Bill O’Reilly has selected to feel (for his viewers) is: righteous indignation! This isn’t Bill’s first rodeo.
And, fair enough, as a journalist it doesn’t seem fair when someone who is probably handsomer, smarter, and professionally more successful than you cuts corners while he laps you and then embellishes unnecessarily to make all of those attributes gleam just a little bit brighter. (We’re still talking about O’Reilly here, we’re absolutely, definitely not talking about how I feel about it.) But, yes, O’Reilly. Righteous indignation. O’Reilly’s ticked, he says, because he’s been there. Here’s part of where the Fox News talk show host says he’s been via Mother Jones:
O’Reilly has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between England and Argentina. He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it, “I’ve been there. That’s really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I’ve seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven’t.”
Recounting his heroic time during the Falklands dustup of the go-go 1980s, much like Williams’ Iraq story, was a point of pride for O’Reilly. It’s not exactly Helmand, but it was a big enough conflict that now England and Argentina have a reason to dislike each other during the World Cup. But, given the circumstances, just to double check, it definitely happened, right? O’Reilly covered the Falklands war, right?
Right? Mother Jones certainly doesn’t think O’Reilly’s lived up to his own no-spin standards. The magazine reported it out, talking to colleagues of O’Reilly’s at CBS News at the time, parsing public statement and interviews, actually reading the anchor’s memoir, and coming to the conclusion: “[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.”
Bill O’Reilly spoke to POLITICO about the Mother Jones story. “It’s a hit piece,” O’Reilly said. “Everything I said about what I reported in South and Central America is true. Everything.”