A fabulous smackdown of O’Reilly

Brian Williams got smacked around hard for his confabulation of events, in which he placed himself in a helicopter that was shot at by insurgents (he wasn’t — it was a different helicopter in a group he was flying with). But he at least acknowledged that he was wrong.

Now Bill O’Reilly has been caught in a similar exaggeration. Do you think he backed down? Oh hell no..

In a way, it’s impossible to win a debate with O’Reilly because he is not bound by reality. In response to the article, he told Fox News’ media reporter, Howard Kurtz, "Nobody was on the Falklands and I never said I was on the island, ever." Yet our article included video of O’Reilly saying in 2013, "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." Note the words "war zone" and "in the Falklands."

Part of our article examined his depiction of a protest in Buenos Aires after the Argentine junta surrendered to the British. O’Reilly covered that event, and in a 2001 book, he wrote, "A major riot ensued and many were killed." He has called it a "combat situation." In a 2009 interview, he recalled how soldiers "were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the streets" with "real bullets." Yet no media reports of the event that we found referred to such dramatic violence or any fatalities. Not even the CBS News report on the protest that O’Reilly contributed to mentioned soldiers shooting and killing civilians. Erik Wemple, a media critic at the Washington Post, has examined this part of our article in detail. He, too, found that there were no news reports matching O’Reilly’s description—and that this was not "combat." He concluded that this "appears to be a  a Brian Williams-level embellishment." (Wemple is married to a Mother Jones reporter. You can watch this Washington Post video and decide if his assessment is fair.)

So he wasn’t in the Falklands — he was in Buenos Aires, 1200 miles away. He wasn’t in a war zone, he was witness to a riot…which has no corroborating evidence of violence or fatalities.

These kinds of errors of memory happen all the time, as I said before, and I would just shrug it off and see nothing significant in it, except that O’Reilly used the Williams episode to decry the corruption of left wing media, and now he’s not acknowledging his own errors, he’s howling back.

O’Reilly responded to the story by launching a slew of personal invective. He did not respond to the details of the story. Instead, he called me a “liar,” a “left-wing assassin,” and a “despicable guttersnipe.” He said that I deserve “to be in the kill zone.” (You can read one of my responses here.) And in his show-opening “Talking Points memo” monologue on Friday evening, he continued the name-calling.

No sympathy here. That just blew it.

Williams was suspended from his job for six months because of those confabulations. We’ll see how Fox News deals with greater dishonesty, but I think I can safely predict that they’ll do nothing.


  1. says

    I was in Buenos Aires a few years ago, and the apartment we rented for the month had a really small TV, a thin mattress, and a bathroom drain that tended to overflow. I also saw a half dozen protests and a Gay Pride parade; one of the protests even featured a small tire fire. It was just exactly like combat. So I’m cutting O’Reilly some slack, just the amount he’s entitled to.

    Now hand me that falafel; I’m taking a shower.

  2. says

    @ PZ

    We’ll see how Fox News deals with greater dishonesty, but I think I can safely predict that they’ll do nothing.

    NBC pretends to be a news outlet. Fox has no such pretentions.

  3. says

    And how the fuck does this shithead have any kind of audience? He’s really annoying to listen to and he’s a two-bit bully.

    I’m glad there are transcripts; I can’t listen to him for 10 seconds…makes me want to punch something.

  4. says

    The irony is that O’Reilly engaged in the exact same type of embellishments Williams did, for the same reason — i.e. to boost his credibility as an authority on the subject or war and conflict. The only difference is that people have come to expect it from Bill “Peabody” O’Reilly, and they didn’t from Williams.

  5. David Marjanović says

    And how the fuck does this shithead have any kind of audience? He’s really annoying to listen to and he’s a two-bit bully.

    His fellow bullies love listening to him.

  6. robro says

    We can only hope that the outcry over his “kill zone” comment will force him to “retire” from Fox (i.e. they have to cut him off) and he disappears into the fog created by those other bloviating former Fox poopdits whose names I thankfully can’t remember at the moment.

  7. chrisv says

    Why is it that when liberals get caught doing bad they are fired or they resign, but right wingos and widestancers get re-elected or promoted? Does it say something about the company they keep?

  8. Georgia Sam says

    It has been clear for a long time that O’Reilly is a professional flaming asshole. This just reconfirns it for about the 10,000th time. I doubt that Faux News will take any action against him.

  9. says

    I was in Buenos Aires a few years ago

    I was in Buena Vista, VA a few years ago, which alphabetically is quite similar to Buenos Aires, and I saw cops beating people (on TV very recently).

    So I understand just how Bill O’Reilly and you feel.

  10. grumpyoldfart says

    The ratings will go up and Bill will get a ‘thank-you’ bonus in his pay packet next week.

  11. chigau (違う) says

    anthrosciguy #4

    Now hand me that falafel; I’m taking a shower.

    uuuuh, loofa?
    Otherwise, linky?

  12. Saad says

    chigau, #15

    uuuuh, loofa?
    Otherwise, linky?

    Coincidentally, the word loofa is involved in it too.

    There are excerpts of the lawsuit out there.

    Enjoy. Scroll down for the falafel business.

  13. says

    Hey chigau, the dumb fuck confused the words loofa and falafel, the former a bath scrubber, the latter good food. Helped him look as stupid as he is and gave him tempy tantrums at work when reminded that back-scrubbing with falafel fails. Seriously, the word “falafel” is not to be spoken in the bullyboy’s hearing.

  14. microraptor says

    We can only hope that the outcry over his “kill zone” comment will force him to “retire” from Fox (i.e. they have to cut him off) and he disappears into the fog created by those other bloviating former Fox poopdits whose names I thankfully can’t remember at the moment.

    Unfortunately, it’s been made abundantly clear that there’s only one thing that will ever cause FAUX Outrage to fire one of their employees, and that’s pissing off their advertisers.

  15. microraptor says

    So O’Really is free to spin all he wants as long as he doesn’t say something that offends the people who by commercial slots on his show.

  16. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @Kamaka #6:

    And how the fuck does this shithead have any kind of audience? He’s really annoying to listen to and he’s a two-bit bully.

    That’s exactly it; he’s a bully who rarely backs down when it comes to his opinions, so he’s more televised blogger than journalist, though I’m hesitant to even use that term with people like Williams. They’re really just well-coiffed TV stars and executive branch stenographers, certainly not experts in any subject (including themselves, apparently) or even skeptical investigative reporters.

    Though to O’Reilly’s limited credit, he has actually apologized for some things, like back in 2004 over the issue of Iraq having WMDs when the U.S. invaded. Of course, as Jon Stewart brought up on his show a couple weeks ago, the much bigger issue is why the hell didn’t anyone in the media, much less the Bush II administration, get in trouble or lose their job over helping lead us into a catastrophic war-of-choice? A war that killed more Americans than 9/11 and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians at a minimum, turn millions into refugees, and has resulted in the region destabilizing into a hellhole where radical groups are currently battling for the title of craziest extremist.

  17. microraptor says

    Because that would require admitting that it was a bad idea. Those responsible are still busy trying to spin it as a just and righteous action of getting rid of the dictator we propped up after he became an embarrassment.

  18. zenlike says

    If you want a truly astonishing example of right-wingers denying reality, just go look at the comments section over in the OP: yes, there are really people out there who deny this ever happened, then when someone helpfully links to a youtube video in which the big O actually says these things, they are still denying this. And these people vote same as you and me. Scares the crap out of me.

  19. Michael Kimmitt says

    We all have our blind spots and the people we’re happy to throw under the bus. O’Reilly and his slavering mob are an extreme example, of course, but it’s not like anyone was operating under the delusion that O’Reilly was a decent human being.

    In a just world, Williams’ apology would have been enough, he would have stopped pretending to be a reporter and started just having good hair and an excellent voice, and the world would have gone on. But we had to pretend that TV news is reliable on any network — or that human memory is perfect. Williams gets ritually eaten alive by the people he sold his image to, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him.

    Anyways, now we have this entertaining tool with which to point out, yet again, that conservatives value privilege over reality, which would make us super awesome for not agreeing with them. Or, rather, not being QUITE so obvious. So we bask in our superiority and fauxtrage. At least it’s a relatively harmless hobby.

  20. lorn says

    In all fairness, if Williams is forced out O’Reilly should suffer the same fate. He who lives by the sword …

  21. Dog Almighty says

    Ugh. Don’t you just hate it when facts come and mess up your distorted view on reality, Bill?

  22. scienceavenger says

    Mother Jones … which has low circulation … considered by many the bottom rung of journalism in America.

    This is standard childish O’Reilly bullshit. He’s obsessed with ratings, and acts like superior numbers makes him righter than you are*. He’s the equivalent of the dumbass captain of the high school football team who’s retort to everything is “yeah, whatever nerd, you’ll never be popular”. And “considered by many” = “some people say”. What people Bill? The one’s who sadly think you have something to offer the world’s knowledge?

    Here’s a memo Billy Boy – those with the evidence on their side don’t have to resort to such juvenile well-poisoning. And those with a thinking audience don’t have to read to them.

    = = = =

    *Makes you wonder how he interpreted the National Enquirers longtime #1 national sales position.

  23. says

    I had a long “discussion” on Facebook with an acquaintance who keeps putting up things about Williams and demanding tht he be fired, including something yesterday.

    He would never admit that the O’Reilly stuff is anything like what Williams did. Never Ever. Very scary really.

  24. kevinalexander says

    He’s like an angry asshole version of Ronald Reagan. As he gets older I expect he’ll start telling us that he was in Benghazi where he dodged bullets from an AK wielded by Hillary herself.

  25. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re @32:
    My coffee deprived brain suddenly “got it”, why Williams fib is so much more scandalous than ORLY’s.
    Williams, people TRUST, to give them the facts, the cold hard facts. ORLY is expected to just rant and rave against any sort of phantasms. And he’s on FauxNoise, after all, not the respectable peacock network.

  26. says

    Yes, but as soon as O’Reilly opines on something close to the heart of the right wing, it will be taken as gospel. He, they say, tells truth to leftists.

  27. Michael Kimmitt says

    “Williams, people TRUST, to give them the facts, the cold hard facts.” And, more importantly, since he doesn’t, it’s all the more vital to maintain the facade.

  28. Grewgills says

    @twas brillig #34
    More importantly* Williams was a news man, O’Reilly is an entertainer that does opinion rather than journalism. He is part of their opinion programming, not their news programming. So, yes people trusted Williams to give them facts, O’Reilly and Fox can finesse** that.

    * and what I think Fox will hang their hat on when it comes to not punishing O’Reilly
    ** ie blowhard through it, till their viewers forget

  29. brinderwalt says

    otrame @36

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of the pen comment. I’m not sure why anyone wonders what Fox News will do. This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has been caught lying about his experiences in war zones, and we already know how Fox News deals with it.

  30. felidae says

    For some video enjoyment watch Bill react as Al Franken winds him up about his nonexistent Peabody Award–just watch the smoke come out of Bill’s ears as Al verbally works him over and the pressure builds until the explosion happens As a laginappe, Molly Ivins puts in an appearance

  31. robro says

    More O’Reilly take down, this time from former CBS colleagues who were there with him when things didn’t happen: here.

    Let’s not forget that O’Reilly burped a fair amount of gas over the Williams affair. Neither of them are credible. But, as far as the mindless middle Americans watching either of them, the difference between news and entertainment is meaningless. The genius of TeeVee is that the divide between fact and fiction disappears…much like in so-called Biblical times.

  32. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    Hey, I was living in Buenos Aires at the outbreak of the Falklands War! Does that make me a war hero?

  33. says

    Bill O’Reilly is in a deep hole, and still digging.

    As PZ predicted, Fox News is backing O’Reilly up. But as noted up-thread by robro (#41), former colleagues are disputing O’Reilly’s claims.

    In addition to this, on Sunday, O’Reilly himself demonstrated exactly how he comes up with misleading reports:

    […] As O’Reilly read from the Times story, when he reached the line about a cop “firing five shots,” he omitted the rest of the sentence: “over the heads of the fleeing demonstrators.” He jumped straight to the next sentence, hoodwinking the audience, for with this selective quotation, he had conveyed the impression that at least one cop had been firing on the protesters. He had adulterated his supposed proof. […]

    O’Reilly had previously reported, and repeated, that cops fired into the crowd and murdered people. Not true. When he tried to use the Times to back up his story, he cherry-picked, and misquoted.

    The Times reporter, Richard Meislin, called Bill O’Reilly out for this misleading crap:

    Bill O’Reilly cut out an important phrase when he read excerpts of my report from The Times on air Sunday to back up his claim that Buenos Aires was a “war zone” the night after Argentina surrendered to Britain in the Falklands war…

    When he read it on Howard Kurtz’s Media Buzz show, O’Reilly left out that the shots were “over the heads of fleeing demonstrators.” As far as I know, no demonstrators were shot or killed by police in Buenos Aires that night.

    What I saw on the streets that night was a demonstration—passionate, chaotic and memorable—but it would be hard to confuse it with being in a war zone.


  34. says

    More people willing to call Bill O’Reilly’s lies lies: Link.

    […] Eric Engberg was in Argentina in 1982 covering the same protest […] O’Reilly has liked to say things like “I was out there pretty much by myself because the other CBS News correspondents were hiding in the hotel.” But Engberg, along with several other people who were there at the time, says that’s just not true:

    “What he just said is a fabrication. A lie. There were five CBS News correspondents, including him, assigned to that bureau. … Nobody stayed in their hotel room because they were afraid.” O’Reilly’s implication has been that he was sent in specially because no one else would do it, but the reality seems to be that it was an all-hands-on-deck situation, and he was toward the bottom of the pecking order.

    […] as Engberg describes it, “I saw more violence in anti-war demonstrations in DC than I saw in Argentina that night.”

    O’Reilly’s story hinges on fatalities—none were reported in American media at the time. His story requires him to have had bravery in the face of a reasonable fear for his own life, but other reporters who were there at the time say there was no need to fear. His story requires shots fired, but he cuts off the part of the sentence where it was “five shots over the heads of fleeing demonstrators.” O’Reilly isn’t just misrepresenting his own role in a set of events, in other words. He’s misrepresenting the basic facts of what happened to paint his very presence there as special and brave, layering one set of lies on top of another.

  35. StonedRanger says

    So Bill O lies again, and gets away with it again. I fail to see why anyone is surprised by this? Its not like he doesn’t have a history of being a dishonest republican toady mouthpiece.

  36. ChasCPeterson says

    Here is the new catchphrase, appropriate for this and so many other situations:

    Monkeys. Whadayagonnado?

  37. says

    Bill is not done. He is still digging. Now he is threatening a reporter at the New York Times:

    During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”

    NY Times link.

  38. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    After all the lies Billdo has told in his career, wouldn’t it be deliciously ironic if he were brought down due to such a trivial, insignificant one?

    Not much chance. After all, lying is what Faux News does, but we can dream.

  39. David Marjanović says

    After all the lies Billdo has told in his career, wouldn’t it be deliciously ironic if he were brought down due to such a trivial, insignificant one?

    As they say, Al Capone was caught for cheating on his taxes…

  40. Rob says

    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)
    Hey, I was living in Buenos Aires at the outbreak of the Falklands War! Does that make me a war hero?

    Sorry no Marcus. Argentina is just that kind of place. While I was there I witnessed a large dockworkers protest, an armed bank robbery, a forest fire started by squatters in retaliation for the landowner refusing to pay them money and only escaped from a taxi taking me who-knows-where because a local recognised me and cut the taxi off. That and being stopped at armed military checkpoints more times than I can recall is apparently just life in what is otherwise a really neat country.

    Oh yeah, back on thread. Bill is a nasty nasty piece of dreck who wouldn’t recognise the truth if it was a dead fish hitting him in the nose.