Just weeks after NBC News’s Brian Williams was suspended, the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly’s coverage of the Falklands War 33 years ago is getting worse and worse for the Fox News anchor.
After other reporters who covered the conflict disputed his claims that he reported from a war zone, CBS News released archived video of a broadcast about the protest he did cover, and it doesn’t seem to support O’Reilly’s continuing claims that Buenos Aires was part of the Falklands War combat zone. Mother Jones, the website that originally reported the story, took notice.
O’Reilly’s memory of the protest in the Argentine capital has been called into question, as he previously said that “many’’ civilians were killed, and his cameraman was injured in a demonstration that called for disbandment of the Argentine military Junta after they surrendered to Great Britain. The anchor has repeatedly claimed to have been “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands,’’ and that he dragged his injured cameraman to safety as police shot and killed demonstrators, at times allegedly aiming their weapons at reporters.
The 1982 CBS broadcast footage, however, says only that many were injured and television news crews were “jostled.’’ O’Reilly has stuck to his story, calling Mother Jones editor David Corn a “despicable guttersnipe,’’ and saying “real journalists know this story was BS from the jump.’’
However, The New York Times’s Richard Meislin, who also covered the conflict, disagreed with O’Reilly and wrote on Facebook Monday that “it would be hard to confuse [the demonstration] with being in a war zone.’’ Meislin also wrote that O’Reilly incorrectly quoted one of his Times stories, leaving out the fact that police rounds were shot over the heads of protestors, not directly at them.
Other reporters who have covered the conflict have also said their coverage was not carried out in a “combat’’ or war zone. Instead, former CBS journalist Eric Engberg recently called it “an expense account zone.’’
“We—meaning the American networks—were all in the same, modern hotel,’’ Engberg wrote in a separate Facebook post. “We never saw any troops, casualties, or weapons.’’
In addition, another Times reporter said yesterday that O’Reilly threatened to “come after’’ her if she dare write that he misled viewers, adding “you can take it as a threat.’’ The Times story includes that O’Reilly says he never claimed to have been on the actual Falkland Islands, and that former NBC Latin America correspondent Don Browne called the Buenos Aires protest “a very intense situation where people got hurt.’’ Browne called into the O’Reilly Factor broadcast Monday to make those comments, but did not call the Argentine capital a war or combat zone.
Buenos Aires is over 1,000 miles away from the Falkland Islands, where much of the conflict’s violence unfolded. According to the original Mother Jones story, no journalists were permitted to go there to cover the 10-week conflict.
The ongoing spat comes just weeks after NBC News announced the six-month suspension of anchor Brian Williams for falsely reporting he was inside a military helicopter that was shot down in 2003 during the Iraq War. The O’Reilly story was originally reported in a Mother Jones article, “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,’’ last week.
On top of the Falklands controversy, Fox News is likely facing legal action from Paris’s city council in response to the network’s erroneous reporting about Muslim “no-go zones,’’ neighborhoods they falsely said were governed by Sharia law rather than police. Fox News halted their reporting on the topic and apologized on air for the claims, which were made in the wake of a terrorist attack on the office of political cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo.
O’Reilly has remained on air and apparently undisciplined for the controversy. NBC News’s Brian Williams remains suspended for at least six months.