UPDATED with David Corn’s response: Mother Jones writer David Corn has responded to Bill O’Reilly’s comments to Deadline on the magazine’s piece about O’Reilly’s claims about working as a war correspondent during the Falklands war:
A discerning reader of Deadline can easily see that Bill O’Reilly is hiding behind name-calling, rather than dealing with the substance of the matter. Mother Jones sent him a long list of detailed questions about his comments regarding his experience as a war reporter. (We even included links.) He and Fox News declined to respond. Instead, O’Reilly hurls invective, seemingly to distract. The basic issue is this: On repeated instances, O’Reilly said he was in the “war zone” during the Falklands conflict of 1982. Yet, according to his own colleagues at the time and other U.S. reporters working in Buenos Aires then, no American correspondent ever made it to the war zone, which was 1,200 miles away and far out at sea. Mother Jones simply compared O’Reilly’s assertions with the facts and identified a contradiction. He chooses to ignore that and to resort to insults. That doesn’t change the facts. Deadline readers can read our report and decide. Also, no one at MSNBC was aware of this piece or had anything to do with it. No one there was informed about its posting before it went up.
PREVIOUSLY: “It’s a total hit piece,” Bill O’Reilly told Deadline about a report in Mother Jones about O’Reilly’s claims he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war, saying in a post that some of O’Reilly’s stories “don’t withstand scrutiny — even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.”
The piece’s author, David Corn, is a “despicable human being who’s been going after us for years,” O’Reilly added.
“O’Reilly has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between England and Argentina,” Mother Jones says in its report. “He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it: “I’ve been there. That’s really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I’ve seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven’t.”
In its report, Mother Jones cites Susan Zirinsky, a longtime CBS News producer who helped manage the network’s coverage of the war from Buenos Aires, who is quoted saying of American reporters, “Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war.” She is cited as telling Mother Jones she does not remember what O’Reilly did during his time in Argentina. “But she notes that the military junta kept U.S. reporters from reaching the islands: ‘You weren’t allowed on by the Argentinians. No CBS person got there,'” Mother Jones reported.
The publication also interviewed Bob Schieffer, who was CBS News’ lead correspondent covering the Falklands war. “Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands,” he said. “I came close. We’d been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible.” He did note that NBC News reporter Robin Lloyd was the only American network correspondent to reach the islands. “I remember because I got my butt scooped on that,” Schieffer is quoted as saying. “He got out there and we were all trying to get there. For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals.”
In O’Reilly’s response to Deadline, the Fox News Channel star said of his work back then for CBS News: “Every single thing I ever said about my career is true. It’s verifiable. The field reports, they went on; the video is there. I was praised for the reporting. This is a bunch of garbage.”
O’Reilly said he would not discuss the Mother Jones post on his show tonight because it already had taped but, “I’m probably going to have to mention it tomorrow. The bigger picture is this political outfit Mother Jones,” O’Reilly said. “David Corn works for MSNBC,” he said of the writer, who is a contributor for that cable news network.
“We’re killing them in the ratings,” O’Reilly added. “We’re taking millions of dollars away from them; any damage they can do to me damages the Fox News Channel. Damage the tentpole, damage the main guy — everybody knows this.”
O’Reilly famously defended Brian Williams when he appeared recently on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, declaring the Internet a “cesspool.”
“We’re living in an era now where on the internet you can say anything you want to say … and people pick it up and tweet about it or whatever. I’m lucky because I can fight back, but most people can’t.”
O’Reilly said he has not spoken to Williams recently, explaining: “I”m not a good friend of his. I’ve known him over the years, but I thought what they did to him was way more than what he did in his embellishments, and I don’t like the whole culture of destroying people. And that’s what Corn is trying to do to me.”
NBC News put Williams on six-month suspension as it continues to investigate reports he greatly exaggerated some of his reporting claims, including flying in a helicopter in the early days of the Iraq War that was hit by an RPG and watching a body float by his hotel in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“[Corn] is going to fail, because he’s lying, and I can prove it,” O’Reilly told Deadline. “But that does not mean he’s not going to try … and some will believe him.”