Bill O’Reilly’s 1982 Falklands War stories called into question

Fox News anchor denies allegations that he lied

In this Oct. 28, 2013 file photo, political commentator Bill O'Reilly attends the National Geographic Channel's "Killing Kennedy" world premiere screening reception at The Newseum, in Washington. (Paul Morigi/Invision/AP, File)

Was the “No Spin Zone” forged in a war zone?

Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed on air that he saw combat while covering the 1982 Falklands War.

Now this story is coming under question, just as NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ story about being aboard a helicopter that sustained enemy fire in Iraq had earlier this month.

“I was in a situation one time in a war in Argentina in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete, and the army was chasing us,” O’Reilly said on air April 17, 2013.

During the broadcast, O’Reilly recounted how he saved his colleague’s life by carrying him to safety, while dutifully reporting for CBS News.

“I had to make a decision, and I dragged him off," he said. "You know, but at the same time I’m looking around, trying to do my job. But I figured I had to get this guy out of there, because that was more important.”

But David Corn, Washington bureau chief at Mother Jones, published a report on Thursday saying that O’Reilly was nowhere near the fighting between the United Kingdom and Argentina.

O’Reilly’s former colleagues at CBS News apparently told the left-leaning magazine that no American correspondents reached the war zone.

In fact, they say, O’Reilly and the U.S. Press Corps were 1,200 miles away, in Buenos Aires.

“Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands. I came close. We’d been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible,” said Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ lead Falklands War correspondent at the time. “For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals.”

Another longtime CBS journalist, Susan Zirinsky, who managed CBS’ war coverage from Buenos Aires, does not remember what O’Reilly did in Argentina but said the military junta prevented American journalists from reaching the islands.

O’Reilly invoked his time as a war correspondent several times over the years to show that he understands “life-and-death decisions” and is “not easily shocked.”

In 2008, responding to an attack from journalist Bill Moyers, O’Reilly said, “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,” O’Reilly said.

Shortly after the allegations appeared on the Mother Jones website, O’Reilly called Corn’s article “a piece of garbage.”

“It’s a hit piece,” O’Reilly said in a phone interview with Politico’s On Media blog. “Everything I said about what I reported in South and Central America is true. Everything.”

O’Reilly says he never claimed to have stepped foot on the Falkland Islands while covering the war.

“I was not on the Falkland Islands, and I never said I was. I was in Buenos Aires,” he explained. “In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.”

The Fox News host called Corn a “liar” and “despicable guttersnipe.”

In response, Corn told On Media that O’Reilly was hiding behind name-calling and refusing to account for valid inconsistencies between his war stories and reality. “He said he was in the war zone during the Falkland Island conflicts — the conflict was in the Falkland Islands, it was not in Buenos Aires,” Corn said to the Politico blog. “He covered a protest after the war was over in Buenos Aires. I don’t think that’s a reasonable definition of a combat situation. If you look up ‘combat situation’ in the dictionary, it’s not ‘an ugly protest.’’’

Corn also said he gave Fox News and O’Reilly more than nine hours to address the allegations before making them public.

According to Fox News, the issue is a matter of semantics regarding O’Reilly’s shorthand use of “the Falklands” and “war zone” — not his journalistic integrity.

O’Reilly told TV Newser that he thinks the media will put Corn under the microscope after journalists verify his side of the story.

“When everybody writes the truth, I’ve talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I’m saying, because it’s easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be,” he told the news site.

The co-editors of Mother Jones, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery, took issue with O’Reilly’s response, especially his choice of the words “kill zone.”

“We welcome criticism, but calling for our reporter ‘to be in the kill zone’ crosses a line,” they wrote in an email to Fox News. “Like everyone in media today, we are concerned about the safety of our staff. We’d have hoped that statements with this kind of violent tone would not come from a fellow media professional.”

Bauerlein and Jeffery say that O’Reilly should renounce his “kill zone” remark and apologize on his show Friday night. If not, they asked that he issue a statement apologizing for the statement.