Swedes were left scratching their heads for the second time in less than a week as their country continues to enjoy an unlikely turn at the national spotlight. The latest culprit? A man interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Thursday identified as a “Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor” who turns out to be completely unknown to pretty much anybody in the country’s security or defense circles.
The supposed expert, Nils Bildt, was part of a segment on the O’Reilly Factor in which two guests debated claims about whether recent immigration had made Sweden more dangerous. This, of course, came mere days after President Donald Trump was inspired by a Fox News segment to make a reference to “what’s happening last night in Sweden” during a Feb. 18 Florida rally. One of the guests was a Swedish journalist who countered the portrayal of Sweden as a dangerous country. Bildt, however, disagreed and criticized Swedes for failing to recognize the downside to accepting immigrants.
After his appearance on Fox News, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that Bildt left Sweden in 1994 and no one has heard about him. “He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Swedish Defense University leadership professor Robert Egnell told the Associated Press. Even his last name, which is well known in Swedish politics because of former prime minister Carl Bildt, appears to be a mystery. The supposed expert’s father, Sven Tolling, is “well known in Swedish equestrian circles,” but he changes his name to Bildt nine years after emigrating from Sweden. Carl Bildt even suggested the so-called expert was “trying to use the name to gain favors.”
Dagens Nyheter also reported Bildt had been convicted of a violent offense in Virginia and was given a one-year prison sentence in 2014. Bildt denied he had spent any time in prison.
Nils Bildt, who is a founding partner of a consulting company that has offices in Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo, insists Fox News was the one that chose how to label him on the show and he only identifies himself as an independent analyst. The executive producer of the Fox News show said several people recommended Bildt. “Our booker made numerous inquiries and spoke to people who recommended Nils Bildt and after pre-interviewing him and reviewing his bio, we agreed that he would make a good guest for the topic that evening,” David Tabacoff said in a statement.
O’Reilly will apparently address the issue on his show on Monday. Echoing what happened after Trump’s comments on Sweden, many took to Twitter to mock Fox News for its choice of “expert.”
Update, Feb. 28, 2017, at 10:30 a.m.: Bill O’Reilly acknowledged on Monday night the criticism that came from “left-wing people” was “valid,” adding that the show should have chosen a “more relevant” guest to participate in the segment. Still, the Fox News host insisted that details aside, the information was accurate. This is how O’Reilly explained it:
Now, we looked into the situation and the criticism is valid. It’s valid. Mr. Bildt does consulting work on terrorism, that’s true—but we should have clarified that he had no direct role with the Swedish government. To be fair, the information we gave you in the segment was accurate but in hindsight a more relevant guest should have been used on the anti-immigrant side. You should also know that before the segment was booked we asked the Swedish Ambassador to appear, he declined. That invitation stands.