What does it take to cause Bill O’Reilly to call you a “far-left assassin,” “disgusting piece of garbage,” and a “guttersnipe liar”?
Quoting his own words back to him and asking for clarification. Followed up with more colorful language like, “(V)erify what I’m saying, because it’s easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone.”
When asked why the Fox News host did not respond to questions from Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief and slayer of liars David Corn, O’Reilly blasted:
“Because David Corn is a guttersnipe liar,” O’Reilly told the Erik Wemple Blog tonight. “Is that clear enough? For years he’s been trying to get Fox News. I would never speak to the man about anything at any time. He’s a disgusting piece of garbage.”
This doesn’t answer the question. This points fingers at Corn – with no facts, by the way – and dodges the questions. The questions Corn asked were not unfair. They were based on quotes by O’Reilly himself.
Instead of examining the quotes, the media is doing the he said/she said thing that’s ruining our political process. Here’s some of the research done by the team of David Corn and Daniel Schulman at Mother Jones (my bold and my comments in parentheses, in order to demonstrate that it’s not hard to determine if what O’Reilly has claimed is accurate or not):
• In his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, O’Reilly stated, “You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.” (This is not true, and “on the ground” disputes O’Reilly’s claims that he was referring to covering the Falklands War from 1,000 miles away.)
• Conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, in a 2003 book, described how O’Reilly answered a question during a Washington panel discussion about media coverage of the Afghanistan war: “Rather than simply answer the question, O’Reilly began by trying to establish his own bona fides as a war correspondent. ‘I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.'” (Nope. The Falklands are 1,000 miles away from where O’Reilly and the rest of the CBS crew were.)
• In a 2004 column about US soldiers fighting in Iraq, O’Reilly noted, “Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash.” (OK, this one is a stretch but could pass if by “combat situation” he means combat-like, but if Hillary Clinton said this, Fox News would hyperventilate in outrage.)
• In 2008, he took a shot at journalist Bill Moyers, saying, “I missed Moyers in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but I didn’t see him.” (That’s probably because you weren’t there, Bill O’Reilly. Just sayin’.)
And here is where O’Reilly gets detailed and claims to be in the actual Falklands according to a quote gathered by Mother Jones from April 2013, “I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.”
The Mother Jones article has many, many more quotes. Quotes that make Brian Williams’ memories look like a tape recorder. O’Reilly loves to present himself falsely as a war correspondent who’s been in the middle of combat. (This might explain the right wing love of war.)
O’Reilly has repeatedly described a protest in Buenos Aires as “combat” and has used it as proof of his war correspondent bona fides. A protest scene, scary or not, is not the same thing as a war combat zone.
We are, as humans, prone to embellishment and story telling. But if you describe your job as being a “truth teller”, and as a journalist you understand the importance of accuracy (the more accurate we try to be about reality the cleaner our perceptions and conclusions tend to be), you don’t conflate being frightened by tear gas in a protest with being in an actual war combat zone. It’s even more bizarre to do this as someone claiming to respect our troops. (This does bring up an interesting point in that by O’Reilly’s own standards, Occupy protesters can claim to have been in “combat”.)
The media so far is not giving O’Reilly the Brian Williams treatment. The same people who fell repeatedly for James O’Keefe’s edited videos are not biting at a searing expose by the King of Actual Video (Corn is the person who published the Mitt Romney 47% tape).
It isn’t that once right always right, it’s that Corn has a history of being careful and accurate. O’Reilly does not. James O’Keefe did not. Discernment is worth something and should be employed. Not all left leaning journalists are careful and accurate. But Corn is.
Fox News has long benefited from special treatment by the mainstream media due to its long arm of power. They’re in the club. The real club. The big, corporate, global club. This is why when the Obama White House scoffed that Fox News was not news, the media were outraged and circled the wagons around the cable network that had sued for the right to lie and call it news.
This might be why the media is trying hard to pretend they don’t see the increasingly heavy smoke billowing over Bill O’Reilly.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.