The Spin Zone
February 22, 2015 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Mother Jones reports on Bill O'Reilly's claimed experience in combat zones, reaching conclusions like one of his claims "is at odds with news reports from the time—including the report from his own bureau." O'Reilly responded, and Mother Jones factchecked his monologue. Meanwhile, a veteran CBS News reporter weighed in, backing the work by Mother Jones.
posted by MoonOrb (67 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, when you consider how much of his hour-long show is based on Big Lies, why should this be in anyway surprising?

How can you tell that Bill O'Reilly is lying? The red light on the camera is on.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


This has been brewing for some time. Listening to Papa Bear's recollection really seals the deal.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 10:30 PM on February 22, 2015


Why Bill O'Reilly Will Skate
This lie -- and O'Reilly has lied repeatedly -- is at least as great a breach of journalistic ethics as any untrue utterance from Brian Williams. But O'Reilly will emerge from this without a scratch, while the career of Williams will probably never recover.

Maybe you're thinking, Really? It seems bizarre that O'Reilly would survive unscathed, given how much the mainstream media hates Fox News. But that's a fallacy: The mainstream media doesn't hate Fox News. If anything, the mainstream media treats the Murdoch media with kid gloves.

Part of this is fear: The Murdoch press doesn't take this sort of attack lightly. If the story does have legs, the fight won't be over the facts of the story.

[...]

The mainstream media actually respects bullyboy tactics like this. This kind of thuggish behavior seems to have worked extraordinarily well for Murdoch for decades, especially for Fox News since its inception -- Murdoch is thriving while other media operations are dying, and Fox always dominates the ratings. The rest of the press envies and respects Murdoch & Co. for this. What's regarded as unethical at other journalists' news organizations is "colorful" or "audacious" in Murdoch Land. It's "swagger." It's old-fashioned Front Page bare-knuckle toughness. No one's going to hold these guys to journalistic standards -- they're mas macho.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [46 favorites]


The TelePrompTer quirks still present in O'Reilly's column even after some editor (presumably) sentence-cased the ALL CAPS and dumped it on the Fox News web site make it even harder than it usually is to take that buffoon seriously.
posted by emelenjr at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]




It's not clear to me how you could discredit someone who has so thoroughly rejected basic journalistic ethics. He is operating in another sphere entirely.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:43 PM on February 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


If anything, having massive breaches in journalistic ethics on his resume makes him a bit over qualified for FOX.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:05 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


He's not a journalist or a news anchor, he's a pundit and an entertainer. Kudos to Mother Jones for fighting the good fight, but O'Reilly is toxicity personified and is just a waste of time thinking about at all.
posted by Nevin at 11:09 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised anyone caught this. It's like finding a stalk of hay in a haystack.
posted by bz at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2015 [39 favorites]


Uh, Northern Ireland wasn't a war zone either. Ever. We used to go up there all the time at the height of the troubles. Belfast was completely safe if you weren't in one of a few areas and directly involved. Bill O'Reilly is full of shit.
posted by fshgrl at 11:57 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Surely this…
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Multiple contradictory explanations? Fuck it, he'll explain it live.
posted by jaduncan at 12:35 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Mother Jones' case against O'Reilly is weak and amounts to hair-splitting, honestly. The main value to get from this will be watching O'Reilly repeatedly blow his top. Dude cannot handle any sort of criticism in any sort of measured way (dealing with O'Reilly on a daily basis must involve constantly walking on eggshells). Corn and Schulman are likely enjoying some well earned laughs over how deep they've gotten under O'Reilly's skin.
posted by riruro at 1:05 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey O'Reilly - sayin' it loud don't make it right.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:07 AM on February 23, 2015


I can never keep Inside Edition and Hard Copy straight in my head. Wikipedia tells me that there was a "big three" of syndicated tabloid shows in the 90s. Also, Deborah Norville is the current host of Inside Edition. I kind of vaguely remember the shitstorm over her tenure at The Today Show. Which was eventually relieved by Katie Couric, I think. Who did that awesome interview with Sarah Palin.

Anyway, I guess TV news is garbage, and best ignored.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:14 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not just O'Reilly and Williams. If you think about it, how likely is it that a star reporter will report from an actual war zone? They're generally hard to get to, which means that their employers lose their services while they're in transit; they're dangerous and uncomfortable; and it's not like most of the audience will be able to tell the difference between a decrepit village and an actual war zone.

There's also a weird dynamic with censorship: you would expect that senior reporters would be the ones with the standing and resources to escape it, but that's often not the case. Senior reporters are the ones most likely to be offered privileges (e.g., being "embedded" with an army as a war reporter), but once they accept a privilege they become vulnerable to its withdrawal. Furthermore, news organisations have to keep an eye out for the future: if they are perceived as unfriendly they may lose their access to news. This means that, paradoxically, the largest news organisations are actually the ones most likely to acquiesce to restrictions.

I think this may be what happened with the NYT during the most recent Hamas/Israel war: the NYT Bureau Chief denied reports of Hamas harassment, but instances of harassment were reported by a number of smaller news organisations, the Foreign Press Association, and (amusingly) Hamas itself. So it might be the case that the NYT just wasn't aware of any harassment, even though it has at least one reporter on the board of the FPA in Israel. Or it might be that they're concerned for the safety of their reporters and stringers, or scared of losing access to Gaza. Either way, it's an unfortunate gap in their coverage.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


> ow likely is it that a star reporter will report from an actual war zone?

Kate Adie did it for decades.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:38 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Multiple contradictory explanations? Fuck it, he'll explain it live.

Obligatory dance remix.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:42 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thug enters sphere previously ordered by consensual agreements. Thug breaks things. Those who operate by consensus and agreement are shocked and give way.
Generalize.
posted by homerica at 2:03 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Mother Jones' case against O'Reilly is weak and amounts to hair-splitting, honestly.

The guy said he was in a war zone that he couldn't possibly have been in. He told this story on air, on his own show:
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.
But of course, none of it could have happened at all. Brian Williams was on one helicopter, saw another shot down, and then claimed he was on that other, real helicopter that was shot down. O'Reilly seems to have made up a story from whole cloth and repeatedly used it on his own show during his own interviews, largely to shut up people he disagrees with.
posted by kewb at 2:33 AM on February 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


I can easily see how this misremembering might happen. People who undergo traumatic experiences have a way of reconstructing those experiences again and again in ways that paint them in a better light. The human memory is not a simple write-once read-many storage device. Each act of remembrance is also an act of creative reconstruction. And the bigger the ego, the more likely that the memory will shift and shift and shift to a point where a feeling of helplessness (being a journalist witnessing a riot) is transformed into a personal heroism.

This doesn't excuse it, but it's a very human response, and something everyone does themselves, more or less.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:52 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


To add to tonycpsu's linked article: I agree that other TV networks--and for that matter most journalism entities--respect the bullying tactics of FOX News and Rupert Murdoch. But it's more than that. For a MSNBC or CNN or CBS TV reporter, producer, even at the executive level, FOX News is a potential employer. If one of them goes after Bill O'Reilly and FOX, they can expect FOX to blacklist them. FOX makes money, apparently more than any other network, so they have that power, and of course those Murdoch and Ailes use that power their advantage. (Even Jon Stewart was buddy buddy with O'Reilly--a weird "rivalry" that I never understood. O'Reilly is so beneath Jon Stewart I'm surprised he was ever a guest on The Daily Show.)

O'Reilly will get past this because his fans won't bother to look too deeply into it, but more importantly because only the small fries like Mother Jones will take on FOX in the first place. There's too much self-interest going on in the journalism world.
posted by zardoz at 4:40 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Agreed Drinky Die, the same with Williams. The most recent You Are Not So Smart podcast about misremembering is rather clear that human's can often easily conflate memories not just of their own but of other people. Hey ho, humans are fucking weird.
posted by longbaugh at 4:40 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mother Jones' case against O'Reilly is weak and amounts to hair-splitting, honestly.

Yeah, I loathe O'Reilly as much as anyone, but I kept thinking "weaksauce," especially while reading that nitpicky factcheck. It's not that there's no there there, it's just not clearly egregious enough get any traction. "Did Bill O'Reilly mischaracterize where he reported from as a 'war zone'" just doesn't seem like it's going to stick.

If there are concrete demonstrable lies then Corn et al. need to start hammering them -- right now their case is too diffuse and non-obvious to play.
posted by eugenen at 4:41 AM on February 23, 2015


(I was actually being deeply sarcastic about how willing people were to offer excuses like that for Williams but at least you give both the benefit of the doubt so okay. :P )
posted by Drinky Die at 4:49 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can easily see how this misremembering might happen.

I don't. He "misremembered" being 1,200 miles away from a place. He "misremembered" being in a place that he never went to.

That's not misremembering, that's lying. Something Bill O'Reilly is no stranger to.
posted by zardoz at 4:53 AM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


This has sullied the good name of Billo, and reflected poorly on the esteemed FOX News network. I don't know how they will recover from this liberal conspiracy. They are in my prayers.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:17 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Misremembering" that you were in the Falklands when you were actually in Buenos Freaking Aires would seem to me to be just a smidgen more than "misremembering" or "conflation." YMMV. By 1180 miles or so.
posted by blucevalo at 5:21 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Say what you will, O'Reilly's vivid, first-hand reports of the lurid and "mind blowing" Thai sex trade to Andrea Mackris carried an unimpeachable rng of truth with them.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:27 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't. He "misremembered" being 1,200 miles away from a place. He "misremembered" being in a place that he never went to.

Blow Reilly didn't unambiguously claim that he went to the Falkland Islands. He said:
I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands
So was he in Argentina or was he in the Falklands? Unless he meant to take the Argentine side and claim that the Falkland Islands are in Argentina, the meaning of "in the Falklands" here most likely means "during the Falklands conflict". I think he just worded it badly and Mother Jones are making a mountain out of a molehill.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:36 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, O'Reilly has not just said but written in a book that "I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands". So, no, there's no room for ambiguity in what's being alleged here and if Mother Jones's reporting is correct then it's not weak or a stretch at all (except in the sense that it's not very surprising).
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:42 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


You have to look at this in the context of his full career.

In 1964 he was the fifth Beatle because he was playing a guitar in Dayton when they landed at JFK in New York.
In 1968 he displayed his chops as a Vietnam war correspondent while in an apartment in Honolulu.
In 1981 he made a desperate leap in front of the bullet to protect Reagan from being assassinated while aboard a yacht parked in the Hamptons.
In 2003 he covered the invasion of Iraq by playing Call of Duty on his PC.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:48 AM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Mind you (*adopts tone of pub bore launching into favorite story*) O'Reilly did once accuse me of writing "incredible nonsense" when I said he'd invited Al Qaeda to attack San Francisco, which was precisely what he'd done.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:48 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


So was he in Argentina or was he in the Falklands? Unless he meant to take the Argentine side and claim that the Falkland Islands are in Argentina, the meaning of "in the Falklands" here most likely means "during the Falklands conflict". I think he just worded it badly and Mother Jones are making a mountain out of a molehill.

But if he was in Argentina during the Falklands War, he wasn't in a war zone (I'm assuming he'd not count what the junta was up to as a war).
posted by hoyland at 5:50 AM on February 23, 2015


Unless he meant to take the Argentine side and claim that the Falkland Islands are in Argentina, the meaning of "in the Falklands" here most likely means "during the Falklands conflict".

Only, you know, if you parse sentences almost entirely, but not quite unlike how actual humans talk English.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:50 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


And which of course ignores the second part of that claim, that his photographer was shot.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:51 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It doens't matter at all what the "facts" of his statement was, why are we arguing over it? Bill O could've said he personally ripped out the spine out of a terrorist and saved 1000 Argentinian babies from a suicide bomb and it wouldn't get him disciplined by FOX, much less fired like Williams. FOX deals in alternate reality, Bill O's job isn't journalism, it's creating a Republican Party narrative, distorting any "facts" until they're Republican enough.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:52 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hey O'Reilly - sayin' it loud don't make it right.

Sounds like some kinda euro-commie traitor-talk, right there boy.
posted by aramaic at 6:06 AM on February 23, 2015


I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands,

I agree that this is pretty weak stuff. He could claim that just one word was implied, eg: "I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands war" (as compared to "in the Falklands islands") and be fine, for example. Was he literally in a war zone by my definition? No, but he was in a country at war and that verges just close enough to what was said for most people to let this end up sliding.

I think he's a worthless human and a lying scumbag, but I'll be surprised if this ends up sticking.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


From a link above, The Al Franken Show taped this quote from O'Reilly's program:
B: But I tell you what. I've been in combat. I've seen it. I've been close to it. And if my unit is in danger and I got a captured guy and the guy knows where the enemy is, and I'm looking at him in the eye, the guy better tell me.
[Or else.]
Or else. That's all I'm gonna tell you. He better tell me. If it's life or death, he's going first. Tough.
[Now here's a caller]
B: Roger from Portland Oregon, what say you Roger?
R: Oh hey Bill. First things first. You just said you've been in combat but you've never been in the military, have you?
B: No, I have not. [laughter in background]
R: Why do you say you've been in combat?
B: Why do I say that, Roger? Because I was in the middle of a couple fire fights in South and Central America.
R: But you're a media guy.
B: Yeah, a media guy with a pen, not a gun. And people were shooting at me, Roger.
R: People might think you actually were in the military.
B: Oh, we don't want to mislead anybody. [talking over caller] I made it quite clear in many many circumstances. You know what Roger, you can take your little fair and balanced snit remark and shove it, okay? Your not getting on this air [?] and you Mr Macho Man would never come close to anything I've done, down where I've been. Okay? So talk a walk and... enough said.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:10 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I'm reading a lot of (probably well-justified by precedent) skepticism in this thread that this story will gain enough traction to make any difference. I'm also also reading some unwarranted extrapolation from that premise to the conclusion that we ought not to be talking about this at all. Howzabout those who take no interest in the discussion refrain from chastisizing those who do?
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:24 AM on February 23, 2015


Well on that definition – "a country at war" – all of us who were resident in Britain at the time of the Falklands War were in a war zone! North Yorkshire saw little combat as I recall.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wait. Does this mean Brian Williams is gonna get a show on FoxNews?
posted by dogwalker at 6:33 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Documenting the truth matters. Documenting that Bill O'Reilly lies matters, even if the MoJo story doesn't "get traction" and even of O'Reilly keeps his bloviating job. In some ways this situation is better. O'Reilly's scalp isn't worth collecting anyway, and Fox keeping a known liar on just makes it clearer to anyone who pays attention that the station peddles nonsense.

The journalist I feel worst for is Dan Rather and the story of Bush's military record. He was an actual reporter with a long and storied career and, at worst, he got duped by a source (or at best he had a true story.) His producers hung him out to dry.
posted by Nelson at 6:35 AM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


"If I lie in a combat zone/Box me up and ship me home...."
posted by thelonius at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Propagandists gonna propagandate.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:00 AM on February 23, 2015


MetaFilter: weak, and amounts to hair-splitting, honestly.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:18 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Shut up, shut up, shut up!
posted by srboisvert at 7:19 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Wait. Does this mean Brian Williams is gonna get a show on FoxNews?"

No. But you should expect him to show up on MSNBC.
posted by a3matrix at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


The actual truth doesn't matter here. Fox News and its audience aren't capable of critically examining themselves, so the only way this story will realistically develop for them is into one in which Bill O'Reilly is persecuted by a bunch of left-wing hypocrites. Which is precisely the sort of narrative they love most.
posted by jamincan at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Controversy fuels Billo's perceived image, so, what jamincan posted while I was composing my blurb.
posted by mule98J at 11:10 AM on February 23, 2015


Well, when you consider how much of his hour-long show is based on Big Lies, why should this be in anyway surprising?

I heard a statement of his where he was all "They were pointing an M16 at my head!!!".

What bothers me about this is that *I* thought that the M16 was a weapon exclusively for the American armed forces.

So who was pointing the rifle at the dude?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:12 PM on February 23, 2015


The M16 is used by dozens and dozens of nations, including Argentina.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


The journalist I feel worst for is Dan Rather and the story of Bush's military record. He was an actual reporter with a long and storied career and, at worst, he got duped by a source (or at best he had a true story.) His producers hung him out to dry.

That drives me nuts, too. Because what those phoney documents "proved" is actually true. The story of Bush's past would still be the same with or without them. Incredibly frustrating that a veteran journalist fell for that scam.
posted by zardoz at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


CBS put the footage up on its website. No bullets, bodies, but there is mention of a camera crew being knocked to the ground.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2015


Whatever you do at his house, don't eat the falafel.
posted by JackFlash at 7:06 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Even Jon Stewart was buddy buddy with O'Reilly--a weird "rivalry" that I never understood. O'Reilly is so beneath Jon Stewart I'm surprised he was ever a guest on The Daily Show.)

IMO this is one of the worst things Stewart did, having O'Reilly as a guest and legitimizing (not mocking) him. Two of O'Reilly's favoured methods of silencing guests he doesn't agree with are either to talk over them and not really let them speak, or to literally cut off their mikes. I really hated that Stewart gave any sort of respectability to such juvenile right-wingism
posted by anothermug at 7:51 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


He kind of did the same thing with McCain but then burned him when it became clear McCain's reputation as a a party maverick was a fraud. Still waiting for him to really lay into O'Reilly. At the same time, he kind of has a million times. Kind of respect O'Reilly for still coming on even though "Fuck Fox News" has been the mission statement of the show for years.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2015




"The M16 is used by dozens and dozens of nations, including Argentina."

At the time of the Falklands War I'm pretty sure the Argentines used a licensed FN FAL made locally.
posted by longbaugh at 11:53 PM on February 23, 2015


(To be fair, I doubt O'Reilly would actually know the difference - it's a military longarm = M16 in his mind).
posted by longbaugh at 12:02 AM on February 24, 2015






(Note: above article does not say that Dylan Byers works for Fox News PR.)
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2015


Maybe if he looses his slot on Fox, he can take over/resurrect the Colbert Report.
posted by keds at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


The hits keep on coming:
CNN's Reliable Sources aired a new, clearer version of audio that further disproves Bill O'Reilly's claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

[...]

Adding to the mounting evidence against O'Reilly's tale are tape recordings of a phone conversation between O'Reilly and a congressional investigator who was interviewing de Mohrenschildt before his death. On the tapes, O'Reilly can be heard asking the congressional reporter about the details of the suicide, and adding that he is not yet in Florida -- a claim that is at odds with O'Reilly's statements that he was near the home where de Mohrenschildt killed himself.

[...]

As Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter reported, "clearly this tape shows he was not there."
posted by tonycpsu at 3:50 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why would he even lie about something as trivial as that? "I totally heard the bang man! Dude shot himself!" I mean, so what?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:40 PM on March 1, 2015


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