Bill O’Reilly disputed claims made in a Mother Jones magazine article that said the Fox News Channel host had falsely characterized his career as a war correspondent.
The story, called “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,” said O’Reilly had repeatedly described himself, in books and on-air commentary, as having been in “war zones” during the 1982 Falklands war, even though no American journalist was on the island during the conflict between the British and the Argentines. “He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could,” the story said.
It went on to assert that O’Reilly’s account of the violent protests he described seeing on the streets of Buenos Aires after the Argentines surrender as being “at odds with news reports from the time.”
O’Reilly told The Times on Thursday that the Mother Jones story was “a bunch of garbage” and denied he ever said he set foot on the Falkland Islands during the war.
“Everything I’ve said about my career is 100% accurate,” he said. “I never said I was on the Falkland Islands – nobody was. I said I covered the Falklands war, which we all did from Argentina and Uruguay, and I was in both places. There was a combat situation when the Argentines surrendered and thousands of people stormed the president’s palace. The dictator [Leopoldo] Galtieri was trying to kill him. Argentine troops fired into the crowd. I was right in the middle of it.”
O’Reilly said his video of the uprising led the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” that night and he filed a report for the network later that evening that was praised in an internal memo.
Neither O’Reilly nor Fox News commented in the Mother Jones piece co-written by David Corn, a commentator for cable news channel MSNBC.
When asked why he did not respond to the charges during the reporting of the magazine story, O’Reilly said: “I’m not going to speak to a guttersnipe like that, and if he wants to put lies out like that I’ll counter and disclaim. I want people to know what a liar he is.”
Corn told FoxNews.com that O’Reilly “covered a protest” after the war was over. But if O’Reilly had made his case to him, “I would have gladly put it in the story,” Corn added. “Instead of responding to the substance, he’s out there calling names.”
The Mother Jones piece said O’Reilly has “excoriated” suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams over his false statements about being in a Chinook helicopter that was hit and forced down by enemy fire during the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Although the controversy has been discussed on “The O’Reilly Factor” with guests who were highly critical of Williams, O’Reilly has made a number of statements in the anchor’s defense and repeatedly said the press coverage and social media response to the situation were overly harsh.