UPDATED with David Corn’s responses: “In a way, it’s impossible to win a debate with O’Reilly because he is not bound by reality,” David Corn, author of the Mother Jones article about Bill O’Reilly, responded tonight after watching The O’Reilly Factor. During his “Talking Points” segmentthe Fox News Channel star savaged the article, the author and websites that have been covering the kerfuffle.
O’Reilly addressed the article at the top of his show tonight, telling viewers he is the victim of a “smear” campaign by a “low circulation” publication that is “considered by many the bottom rung of journalism in America.”
He’s referring to the Mother Jones article published yesterday, “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,” that drew comparisons between O’Reilly’s description of his work covering wars for CBS News and Williams, who was suspended by NBC News for six months as that division continues to investigate the degree to which Williams misrepresented his experiences covering various breaking news stories for NBC including the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and other situations, including gifts he said, in talk show appearances, he received from members of the military. In the article, Mother Jones questions O’Reilly’s descriptions of some of his experiences as a CBS News correspondent covering the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina
O’Reilly has charged Mother Jones with “trying to take the Brian Williams situation and wrap it around my neck, for ideological reasons,” calling it “purely a political play to divert attention from the Williams situation.”
On his No. 1-rated cable news program tonight, O’Reilly said he spent most of last night digging through his basement and found documents from CBS News from his time in Buenos Aires covering the Falklands War, which he will show to viewers.
“I never said I was on the Falkland Islands, as Corn purports. I said I covered the Falklands War – which I did,” O’Reilly said.
In earlier interviews O’Reilly has said the use of the phrase “war zone” to describe his vantage point during the war, which is among the questioned raised in the article, a “shorthand.”
“Everybody knows you’re not there, because nobody (from the American news media) was there,” O’Reilly told the Associated Press today. He called “delusional” Mother Jones‘ suggestion that violence in Buenos Aires on the day of the surrender 33 years ago was not part of the war combat.
On tonight’s telecast of his program, O’Reilly described how, when Argentina surrendered to end the war, “I was covering the conflict from Argentina and Uruguay for CBS News. After learning of the surrender, angry mobs in Buenos Aires stormed the presidential palace – the Casa Rosada – trying to overthrow the government of General Leopoldo Galtieri. I was there on the street, with my camera crews. The violence was horrific, as Argentine soldiers fired into the crowd who were responding with violent acts of their own. My video of the combat led the CBS Evening News With Dan Rather that evening.” After that, he says, he filed a report on the subject that ran nationwide.
Corn tonight responded that Mother Jones examined various reports from that time, covering the protest in Buenos Aires after the Argentine junta surrendered to the British and, “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.”
Instead, Corn said, “News accounts, including the CBS News report, noted that a crowd numbering in the thousands had gathered to hear the president, but people grew angry after learning Galtieri would not speak, with many denouncing him and his junta as traitors for surrendering to the Brits. Media accounts do not describe the scene as a mob storming the palace, but angry protesters who set fires, broke store windows, and jostled reporters.”
Among the documents O’Reilly told viewers tonight he found in his basement: a CBS internal memo from 33 years ago about his work, sent to the CBS bureau chief in Buenos Aires by the news desk in New York City. It reads:
“Doyle, O’Reilly didn’t have the time last night but would like to say many thanks for the riot piece last night. WCBS-TV and WCAU-TV both took the entire piece, instead of stripping it for pix. They called to say thanks for a fine piece.”
“Thanks again. Your piece made the late feed, a winner last night.”
Corn responded: “No one has suggested O’Reilly did not cover the protest or that the footage he obtained was not valuable for CBS News.”
O’Reilly also read a letter he says he wrote to his CBS News boss Ed Joyce praising his crew’s bravery after they got out of the situation on the streets of Buenos Aires.
On his show tonight, O’Reilly blasted Corn for writing “that I hammered Brian Williams, when everyone knows, I went out of my way on [Jimmy Kimmel Live] and The Factor to be compassionate to the man.”
Corn responded that O’Reilly also “decried the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other “distortions” by left-leaning outlets.”
This morning, the editors in chief at Mother Jones sent an email/letter to Fox News EVP Programming Bill Shine and one of the network’s communications execs, saying it is concerned for the safety of the author after O’Reilly called for him to be “in the kill zone.”
O’Reilly today responded, “It’s simply a slang expression.”