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Fox News host Bill O’Reilly faces new accusations about lying

Fox News will support O'Reilly, even if he can't tell the truth.


Dell Cameron

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 25, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 10:56 am CDT

Bill O’Reilly is having another bad week. While earlier reports showed the Fox News host has a knack for exaggeration, a new round of accusations paint him as more of the boldfaced kind of liar.

Apparently, Fox News won’t be investigating, or even responding to new charges that the face of its network lied about his past—even if there is video showing O’Reilly contradicting himself on multiple occasions.

“Bill O’Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him,” a Fox News spokesperson said. “Responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. Fox News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.”

In the first of two fresh allegations, former colleagues have accused O’Reilly lying about his whereabouts in 1977 during the apparent suicide of George de Mohrenschilt, a friend of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. In his 2012 book Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly claims he was in Florida “about to knock on the door” of Mohrenschilt’s daughter’s house when inside “he blew his brains out with a shotgun.”

O’Reilly has repeated the story on Fox News, included it in a later adaptation of Killing Kennedy for younger readers, and repeated it for the audiobook version.

In 1977, O’Reilly was working as a television reporter at Dallas station WFAA. According to Tracy Rowlett, who worked alongside O’Reilly at the time, he was not in Florida during Mohrenschilt’s death, he was in Dallas.

“Bill O’Reilly’s a phony,” Rowlett told Media Matters on Tuesday. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Byron Harris, another WFAA colleague of O’Reilly’s at the time, concurred with Rowlett. “He stole that article out of the newspaper,” Harris said. “I guarantee Channel 8 didn’t send him to Florida to do that story because it was a newspaper story, it was broken by the Dallas Morning News.”

There’s no mention of O’Reilly being at Mohrenschilt’s house in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office death investigation, which can be read online. Neither is he mentioned in the Associated Press report, which says two maids didn’t hear the gunshot, despite being inside the house when it happened.

The second allegation raised against O’Reilly this week doesn’t involve the testimony of former colleagues, relying instead on his own contradicting accounts. Over the past decade, he’s claimed on multiple occasions that he witnessed the execution of nuns while reporting in 1981 on the civil war in El Salvador.

“I’ve seen guys gun down nuns in El Salvador,” he told listeners on a Sept. 17, 2005, edition of The Radio Factor. On Dec. 14, 2012, he told Fox News viewers: “I was in El Salvador and I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head.”

The claims are impossible, Media Matters explains, because the incident to which O’Reilly refers occurred before he entered the country in 1981. The widely reported rape and murder of three American nuns at the hands of Salvadoran soldiers took place in December 1980. After the death of Silvia Arriola in January 1981, “no priests or nuns were killed in El Salvador for more than eight years,” according to Dr. Anne Lisa Peterson, a professor of religion at the University of Florida.

O’Reilly’s account is further contradicted by his words. During an interview in September 2009, he said he arrived in El Salvador after the nuns were killed and that he learned about it from a Jesuit priest. “I was talking to the guy because these nuns had been slaughtered in El Salvador, and I was down there right after that—they shot like a dozen, killed a dozen nuns,” he said.

The trouble began for O’Reilly with a Mother Jones article last Thursday which pointed out several inconsistencies in his reporting over the years. On multiple occasions, for example, he’s stated that during the 1982 Falklands war he was reporting from “an active war zone.” That claim turned out to be patently false. 

O’Reilly clarified last week that when he said he was “in the Falklands,” he actually meant he was in Buenos Aires. And what he described as an “active war zone,” was in reality a violent street protest. The protest he covered, which started after the war was over, took place more than 1,900 miles away from where the actual military conflict occurred.

While being questioned about the accusations last week, O’Reilly reportedly threatened New York Times reporter Emily Steel. There would be repercussions, he said, if her coverage wasn’t to his liking. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” he told Steel. “You can take it as a threat.”

As for David Corn, the principal reporter behind the original Mother Jones article, he deserves to be “in the kill zone,” O’Reilly said. 

Screenshot via Fox News

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*First Published: Feb 25, 2015, 11:16 pm CST