Bill O'Reilly offers CBS News video to back his Buenos Aires riot story

Bill O'Reilly goes to the videotape to defend his 1982 reporting on Buenos Aires riot

Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly went to the videotape in an attempt to quell recent charges that he has misrepresented his reporting on the aftermath of the 1982 war in the Falkland Islands.

At Fox News request, CBS News released its archived reports on the rioting by Argentines that occurred around the presidential palace in Buenos Aires after Argentina's military junta surrendered to the British in June 1982.

O’Reilly was among the CBS News correspondents in the Argentine capitol, where all American journalists were based to cover the war. The veracity of O’Reilly’s recollections of his war reporting and the intensity of the protests he described in Buenos Aires have recently come under attack by Mother Jones magazine and a former CBS News colleague.

O’Reilly showed CBS video, some of which he said was shot by his camera operator, on his Fox News program Monday night. Clips showed police making arrests and shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds of Argentines who chanted and threw coins in anger at the government and one injured victim is seen on the ground.

One CBS News report, voiced by another correspondent, said there were “at least some serious injuries” but the number of protesters hurt was "unknown because of a virtual news blackout in Buenos Aires."

O’Reilly also received some backup from Don Browne, a retired executive  for NBC News who oversaw the network’s coverage of Latin America in the 1980s, including the Buenos Aires protests.

“As the war went badly, there were demonstrations every day,” Browne said during a call into “The O’Reilly Factor.”  “There were tanks on the street. It was a country at war. At first, it was casual. And it became more and more serious.  And, as the military were losing badly, the populace began to turn on the military leadership.”

Since last Thursday, O’Reilly has been fending off charges raised by Mother Jones magazine that he falsely described himself as being in a “war zone” and “a combat situation” when recounting his Falklands experience. O’Reilly has explained that he used the term to describe his time covering the riots and never put himself on the Falkland Islands where the brief conflict took place.

But the Mother Jones story also cast doubt on O’Reilly’s descriptions of the riots. He said that a number of the protesters were killed by police. No other U.S. news accounts reported deaths at that time.

Retired CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg and others assigned by the network to cover the story in Buenos Aires weighed in over the weekend, also claiming that O’Reilly overstated the level of violence around the presidential palace.

Engberg said he had seen more violent protests in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam War. “It wasn’t a combat situation by any sense of the situation that I know,” Engberg said. “There were no people killed.”

Engberg echoed the charges put forth by Mother Jones, that O’Reilly trumped up his experience to burnish his credentials as a war correspondent.

Engberg’s remarks, made on his Facebook page and on CNN, have led to other unflattering blog posts recalling O’Reilly’s brief tenure at CBS News.

O’Reilly fought back against Engberg on Sunday’s edition of the Fox News program “MediaBuzz,” suggesting his fellow correspondent may have stayed back at the Buenos Aires hotel when the riots occurred, calling him “Room Service Eric.” (Engberg denied this).

O’Reilly refused to talk to Mother Jones when it was reporting the story. He has described David Corn, a co-author of the piece, as a liar and a “left-wing zealot.”

The controversy hasn’t had an impact on O’Reilly’s status at Fox News. He’s had the unwavering support of Fox News CEO and chairman Roger Ailes since the Mother Jones story broke, according to a spokesperson for the channel.

It hasn’t hurt O’Reilly’s ratings either. On Friday, his audience of 2.7 million viewers was the highest in all of cable news by a wide margin.

However, O’Reilly's tone was less combative when discussing the issue on his program Monday. He expressed a desire for the story to go away after presenting the video and hearing from Browne.

“I want this to stop now,” he said. “I hope we can stop it. I really do.”

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