The case of the Bill O’Reilly war mythology is continuing, and even heating up, as O’Reilly embarks on a take-no-prisoners mission to exonerate himself and crush his enemies. [Read this if you need to catch up] Unfortunately for him, he is shooting blanks that make a loud noise but fail to inflict any injury on those he is targeting.
On CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday morning, host Brian Stelter reported that he has statements from six other reporters who covered the Falklands war for CBS and not a single one corroborated O’Reilly’s self-aggrandizing accounts. To the contrary, they repudiated O’Reilly’s ludicrous embellishments entirely.
Stelter interviewed Eric Engberg who was a CBS News correspondent stationed in Argentina at the same time as O’Reilly. Engberg flatly denied O’Reilly’s claims that there was gunfire and people dying all around him in Buenos Aires, which is 1,200 miles from the actual war zone in the Falklands. Engberg also said that O’Reilly lied when he claimed that he was the only CBS correspondent courageous enough to leave the hotel during the demonstrations that followed the Argentine surrender to the UK. According to Engberg and others, there were as many as five reporters with camera crews in the field.
So O’Reilly phoned home (aka Fox News) to defend himself on Howard Kurtz’s MediaBuzz. He immediately set off on a mouth-foaming rant castigating his critics with childish insults and accusations of political and personal motives to destroy him. In his tantrum he called Engberg a coward and even browbeat his colleagues (Kurtz and media critic David Zurawik) interrupting them frequently to belligerently press his case, for which he provided no factual basis other than that his critics were left-wing meanies and thumbsuckers who just don’t like him. This exchange is typical of the tone O’Reilly set during the interview with his Fox associate and defender as represented in this exchange:
Kurtz: [David] Corn has been a Washington reporter for a long time and some people respect his work.
O’Reilly: Who? Name one. [Kurtz giggles] You can’t. He is a hatchet man. You know he is. He’s an aparatchnik (sic) from the far left and all of this is driven … Stelter from CNN … you don’t get more far left than this guy.
No one will be surprised that O’Reilly resorted to name-calling and politically inspired McCarthyism to attempt to demean and dismiss anyone who says something about him that is less than worshipful. But his allegations about Engberg and Stelter are outright delusional and blatantly self-serving. What’s more, his hostility toward Kurtz, who has taken his side during this sordid affair, shows just how desperate he is. For his part, Kurtz was obviously cowed by O’Reilly’s assault. His furtive giggling and acquiescence to O’Reilly’s assertion that, because he wasn’t prepared with a list of Corn’s admirers there must not be any, was almost painful to watch. As was O’Reilly’s blustery defense of himself and conviction that he would do everything the same if he had it to do over:
Kurtz: Seems to me, in my analysis of this, that the Mother Jones piece ultimately, if you boil it down, comes down to this semantic question. You have said you covered a “combat situation” in Argentina during the Falklands war. You’ve said “war zones of Falkland conflict” in Argentina. Looking back do you wish you had worded it differently?
O’Reilly: No! When you have soldiers, military police, firing into the crowd as the New York Times reported, and you have people injured and hurt and you’re in the middle of that, that’s a definition, alright? This is splitting hairs, trying anything they can to bring down me because of the Brian Williams situation.
Yep, as always, it’s all about him. Never mind the facts. And his “definition” of a war zone makes no sense. Policing a demonstration is completely different from combat, even if the demonstration turns deadly. And there is no corroboration of that from his CBS colleagues. O’Reilly cannot produce a single person to validate his story. He is utterly alone in his pompously boastful memories. That makes judging his veracity pretty easy. The one piece of written evidence he cited was a story in the New York Times that described the protests in Buenos Aires. However, the author of that article points out that O’Reilly deceptively edited the portion of his story that he read on the air.
As an example of O’Reilly’s hilariously twisted recollection, he told Kurtz that Engberg’s dispute was due to the fact that “he wasn’t there.” And O’Reilly knows this because when he left the hotel Engberg was still there. And when he returned in the evening Engberg was also there. Obviously, therefore, Engberg never left the hotel. In O’Reilly’s shrunken brain Engberg could not possibly have left after O’Reilly, spent the day reporting in the field, and returned before him.
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In the end, this latest episode in O’Reilly’s media campaign to exonerate himself fell flat. He offered no proof of any of the controversial remarks he has made and they have all been refuted by others on the scene. He launched a shock and awe attack on his critics who have no ax to grind. All he did was cement the impression of him as a bully and a blowhard who demands that the world love him as much as he does. This isn’t going to go away any time soon, and O’Reilly can’t pay off his accusers as he did with Andrea Mackris, the O’Reilly Factor producer he sexually harassed. You can read more about that in this 2004 Washington Post article written by – – Howard Kurtz.
UPDATE (2/24/2015): Obviously O’Reilly thinks this a potentially damaging issue. For the second consecutive day O’Reilly spent much of his program defending himself. He played segments of the original video provided by CBS from Buenos Aires in 1982. Nothing he aired corroborated his account of people dying or his reputed acts of heroism. And his latest defense never addressed his false claims to have been in an “active war zone.” But one thing the video did do is prove that O’Reilly lied when he said that he was the only CBS correspondent courageous enough to leave the hotel to report the demonstrations. The video shows three other reporters doing remotes: Eric Engberg, Charles Gomez, and Bob Schieffer.
In other news, O’Reilly had an exchange with a reporter from the New York Times that ended with him threatening her saying that if he was unhappy with the story “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat.” And that’s a perfect illustration of how O’Reilly, and Fox News generally, deal with criticism.