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Report: Bill O'Reilly repeatedly told first-hand combat stories that never happened

Bill O'Reilly on set in 2011
Bill O'Reilly on set in 2011
Slaven Vlasic/Getty
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.
  1. report by Mother Jones finds that Fox anchor Bill O'Reilly appears to have told false stories about his time reporting in a war zone.
  2. The report, by Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman, examines O'Reilly's repeated claims to have seen combat while working as a CBS correspondent in Argentina during the 1982 Falklands war.
  3. Corn and Schulman find that O'Reilly's on-air claims are not supported by his own memoirs or the recollection of other CBS employees at the time. He was, they conclude, "claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in."
  4. O'Reilly told Politico that the Mother Jones piece is "a piece of garbage," and called Corn "a despicable guttersnipe" out to get him. "I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was," O'Reilly told Politico. "I was in Buenos Aires ... In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered."

The accusation against O'Reilly

O'Reilly has claimed that he saw combat around the Falklands war. In a 2013 Fox News segment, for example, he said, "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."

Corn and Schulman document a number of similar claims from O'Reilly — and then argue that these claims appear likely to be false.

Here's the core of their piece:

[O'Reilly's] own account of his time in Argentina in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone, contains no references to O'Reilly experiencing or covering any combat during the Falklands war. In the book, which in part chronicles his troubled stint as a CBS News reporter, O'Reilly reports that he arrived in Buenos Aires soon before the Argentine junta surrendered to the British, ending the 10-week war over control of two territories far off the coast of Argentina. There is nothing in this memoir indicating that O'Reilly witnessed the fighting between British and Argentine military forces — or that he got anywhere close to the Falkland Islands, which are 300 miles off Argentina's shore and about 1,200 miles south of Buenos Aires.

"Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands," Bob Schieffer, the chief CBS correspondent covering the war at the time, told Mother Jones. Susan Zirinsky, a CBS producer who worked on Falklands coverage, said the same thing: "Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war."

O'Reilly's defense

O'Reilly says that he never claimed to have been in the Falklands. Rather, he says, his anecdotes about being in a war zone refer to his time in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, during the war.

"Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash," he wrote in one 2004 column, for example.

Corn and Schulman say that even his narrative about Buenos Aires is false. "The CBS Evening News that night aired about a minute of video of the protest, apparently including some of the footage that O'Reilly and his camera team had obtained. It showed angry Argentines yelling and denouncing the junta that had lost the war," they write.

"The CBS report said nothing about people being killed. It does not match O'Reilly's dramatic characterization of the event in his book; the video on the broadcast did not depict 'major violence up close and personal,'" as O'Reilly at one point claimed.

NBC News' Brian Williams recently resigned from the Medal of Honor foundation over falsifying his own stories of seeing combat in Iraq.

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