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.