While Brian Williams hides in a six-month box of shame after being outed for greatly embellishing his own journalist-caught-in-combat Iraq story, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly did what he's most well-known for: puffed out his chest and grandstanded. The anchor of The O'Reilly Factor publicly theorized that he believed that NBC's Williams made-up being fired upon—while in a helicopter—so that he could sound "cool" and "fascinating." But now its O'Reilly's own past war stories that are coming under fire.
Liberal magazine Mother Jones did some digging into O'Reilly's past memoir claims of having been a witness to combat, early in his journalist career (at CBS), in The Falklands in 1982. O'Reilly calls the Mother Jones piece a "hit piece" and called its publisher a "despicable guttersnipe." O'Reilly says that he never claimed to be on the Falkland Islands, but that he was covering the Falklands War from Buenos Aires, Argentina, some 1,900 kilometers away (it is irrefutable that his memoir does indeed say, "I've reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falkland Islands.") It's in Buenos Aires where O'Reilly says that a violent riot broke out, a gun was pulled on him, a cameraman was injured, and where he saw numerous dead bodies.
But seven of his former CBS colleagues, say that the story published in his memoir, The No Spin Zone, and that he repeats to his viewership, is unbelievable. (The block quotes below are from O'Reilly. The responses are from ex-CBS staffers who've spoken to CNN.)
A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head.
"There were certainly no dead people," Jim Forrest, who was a sound engineer for CBS in Buenos Aires at the time in question, told CNN. "Had there been dead people, they would have sent more camera crews."
One of the cameramen, however, got trampled, and all of us got banged up in the panic. Many, including me, were teargassed.
"Nobody remembers this happening," Manny Alvarez, a cameraman, said. "If somebody got hurt, we all would have known." Alvarez asked, "People being mowed down? Where was that? That would have been great footage. That would have turned into the story."
This was major violence up close and personal, and it was an important international story.
Eric Engberg, a fellow CBS correspondent who was also stationed in Buenos Aires wrote on Facebook, "It was not a war zone or even close. It was an 'expense account zone." And in regards to the riot that O'Rielly writes of, Enberg writes, "The riot around the presidential palace was actually short-lived. It consisted mostly of chanting, fist-shaking and throwing coins at the uniformed soldiers who were assembled outside the palace. I did not see any police attacks against demonstrators."
In an extremely detailed post, Enberg goes on to say that O'Reilly went to great lengths to record stand-up material with himself to make it appear dangerous, and that he was extremely upset when his footage wasn't used. Enberg references an argument that O'Reilly had with a producer about his piece being cut in favor of his superior's. "This confrontation led the next day to O'Reilly being ordered out of Argentina by the CBS bosses," Enberg writes, "[Our superiors] told [the home office that] O'Reilly was a "disruptive force" who threatened his bureau's morale and cohesion."
Now who's been trying to spin tales to make themselves sound cooler and more fascinating, O'Reilly? Tomorrow O'Reilly's show will continue, so we'll see how he spins this.