Bill Maher: Bill O’Reilly Controversy Coverage Botched By Mainstream Media

Bill O’Reilly is a “blatant bald-ass liar” and the mainstream media has let him off the hook, HBO late-night star Bill Maher charged on his show last night. After several statements O’Reilly has made that have been contradicted by phone records, video, etc. — as well as a couple things he has said or written that the network or the primetime host himself have clarified — Maher said, like he meant it to sting, “Why isn’t the mainstream media going after him with the same ferocity –  the supposed liberal media — as they did Brian Williams?”

Panelist David Axelrod, a political adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama, offered an answer: “I suspect it’s because they know it’s not a real news organization and Bill O’Reilly isn’t a real journalist.”

Axelrod – who went on O’Reilly’s show just last week, among other stops, to plug his new book, Believer: My Forty Years In Politics – was preaching to the choir. Even FNC always has maintained Bill is no journalist — it’s why he’s never been allowed to anchor the network’s election-night coverage, for instance (though the ratings probably would go up if they did).

“Bill O’Reilly being full of shit about something isn’t a news story – it just isn’t,” chimed in Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi, who also was on the Real Time With Bill Maher panel Friday night. He and Axelrod were echoing points made by Comedy Central’s late-night star Jon Stewart last month when the story broke – but by way of defending his pal O’Reilly. “I don’t know if you watch his program. Misrepresenting ‘The Zone’ he is in is kind of his hook,” Stewart insisted. “ ‘You’re in the No Spin Zone’ are the words he utters before throwing to some jackass that disproves global warming by walking around Boston pointing at snow. On a network whose slogan is a textbook case of trolling. No one’s watching him for the actual truth.”

Maher was having none of it, and he thinks the press should be doing a better job of holding O’Reilly accountable for things he’s said of his time as a journalist, while working for other outfits than FNC.

“He said ‘I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head’ in El Salvador –by which, it has since been explained, he saw photos of the incident after the press noted between when he has said he arrived in that area and when the murders occurred,” Maher told viewers last night.

bill-maher-1“No, you saw pictures of that!” Maher snapped at O’Reilly – who wasn’t there.

He reads more from O’Reilly: “I’ve seen Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast.”

“No again! — You saw pictures of it. It’s not the same thing,” Maher continued to drill down.

“I’ve seen pictures of the Hindenburg — I don’t say I saw the Hindenburg go down,” Maher blasted, in re these, and more, claims O’Reilly has made about his time as a reporter that are now being disputed. While saying, “I understand why Fox News backs him, because they’re not really a news service,” Maher speculated that if a “liberal” news organization had a show host who’d said he was in a war zone when he was not – a reference to O’Reilly’s claim about his time covering the Falklands War from Buenos Aires for CBS News in 1982 – Fox News would be charging, ” ‘This is an insult to troops who are really in a war zone.'”

“Any journalist knows the difference between being in a war zone and not being in a war zone,” Taibbi giggled.

One source snipped of last night’s program, “Bill Maher will do anything to get a headline now that he’s getting beat by John Oliver in ratings — and buzz.”

O’Reilly’s primetime ratings have gone up as questions about his reporting claims have surfaced. His network, meanwhile, has claimed its biggest star is the victim of “an orchestrated campaign by far left advocatesand that,(r)esponding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. … Fox News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.”

Bill O'ReillyThat said, the network and O’Reilly have walked back from some of his claims about having “seen” historic events, saying he saw photographs of those events. For instance, O’Reilly recently said that when he stated, “I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head,” he was referring to having seen photographs of the nuns who were executed in El Salvador in 1980 and not claiming he actually saw the murdered nuns. “While in El Salvador, reporters were shown horrendous images of violence that were never broadcast, including depictions of nuns who were murdered,” O’Reilly said the afternoon a report came out questioning his account of his reporting in El Salvador.

“The mention of the nuns on my program came the day of the Newtown massacre (December 14, 2012),” O’Reilly continued. “The segment was about evil and how hard it is for folks to comprehend it. I used the murdered nuns as an example of that evil. That’s what I am referring to when I say, ‘I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head.’ No one could possibly take that segment as reporting on El Salvador.”

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