On Thursday evening, The Guardian published a report claiming six people who worked with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly during the 1992 Los Angeles riots have disputed his past remarks that he was attacked by protesters and concrete rained down on him. At the same time, Media Matters reported that more people have come forward to refute O’Reilly’s claims that he was on the front porch of George de Mohrenschildt’s house when the Russian emigre killed himself with a shotgun blast in 1977. Meanwhile, The O’Reilly Factor host has also tried to explain away his apparent exaggerations over his reporting in El Salvador by parsing the meaning of the word ‘see.’
The Guardian interviewed a number of O’Reilly’s former colleagues from his time with the tabloid program Inside Edition regarding claims he’s made about his personal coverage of the LA riots. In 2006, O’Reilly told a website that rioters were “throwing bricks and stones at us” and “concrete was raining down on us.” Earlier this week, in a conversation with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Fox host told Hewitt that his group was attacked by protesters and bricks were thrown at them.
However, O’Reilly’s former Inside Edition colleagues who were with him at the scene say that nothing of the sort ever happened when they went to cover the riots. Instead, they think O’Reilly may be wildly overstating an encounter with a homeowner who tossed a chunk of concrete at a camera when O’Reilly’s team was setting up on a street near the man’s home. Per those present or who had access to footage at the time, nobody was hit by bricks, concrete wasn’t rained down on anyone and protesters did not attack O’Reilly or any other reporters.
Regarding the specific incident former colleagues believed O’Reilly is referring to, The Guardian wrote the following:
Several members of the team suggested that O’Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble.
Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O’Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O’Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: “Don’t you know who I am?”
O’Reilly has also come under fire over allegations that he completely made up a story in his best-selling book Killing Kennedy. In the book, he claimed he was present with de Mohrenschildt killed himself in Palm Beach, Florida, even though O’Reilly was a reporter in Texas at the time. Earlier this week, Media Matters interviewed two reporters who worked with O’Reilly at the time and have said there was no way O’Reilly could have been there that day. On Thursday, the media watchdog site published a report in which they interviewed three more former colleagues who disputed O’Reilly’s story.
One of the men Media Matters interviewed, Hugh Aynesworth, a former Newsweek bureau chief, vehemently denied that O’Reilly was anywhere near the scene at the time of de Mohrenschildt’s suicide.
Hugh Aynesworth, a former bureau chief for Newsweek and the Washington Times, strongly refuted O’Reilly’s JFK claim. The Dallas Observer reported on February 26 that the de Mohrenschildt suicide scoop came from the Dallas newspaper “where Aynesworth was working. It was his story, he says. He did go to Palm Beach, and he says now there was nobody around the news scene that day named Bill O’Reilly.” Aynesworth, a “JFK assassination expert,” says he was on the scene “within hours” of the suicide, adding, “I didn’t see him [O’Reilly] there. I was at the police department or that house for hours, and he just was not there.”
Another allegation that popped up this week surrounds O’Reilly’s assertions that he had seen nuns gunned down in El Salvador during his days as a CBS correspondent. However, O’Reilly didn’t make it to El Salvador until 1981. The incident when three nuns and an American worker were raped and killed by the Salvadoran national guard happened in 1980. O’Reilly has since tried to explain the discrepancy by saying he saw pictures of the shot nuns when he arrived in El Salvador and that he never meant he physically saw them being shot. Of course, that is beyond silly on it face, especially because he said on at least one occasion that he’s “seen guys gun down nuns in El Salvador.”
What started with an article in Mother Jones last week regarding O’Reilly’s embellishments on his Falklands War reporting has now snowballed into numerous accusations of exaggerations and lies over a period of years. In response, O’Reilly and Fox News have basically used the ‘vast left-wing conspiracy’ excuse to blanket O’Reilly from accusations, which will likely work with his rabidly far-right base of viewers and keep O’Reilly safely on the air. However, the one thing O’Reilly has always craved, beyond fame and notoriety, is credibility and acceptance from the news journalism crowd he supposedly despises for their partisan agendas. That acceptance and credibility isn’t coming anytime soon, my friend.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).