On Thursday afternoon, left-wing online magazine Mother Jones ran a story headlined, “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem.” Its authors were David Corn, a frequent guest on MSNBC, along with Daniel Schulman.
Corn is well known: during the 2012 presidential election, he broke the Mitt Romney “47 percent” video, which was a turning point in that campaign. When Corn and Shulman published their hit-piece, the left-wing media hive went into full buzz online.
For his part, O’Reilly has called the allegations “garbage” and labeled Corn, the lead author, as a “guttersnipe liar.”
The Fox News host and Mother Jones have had a long-running feud that’s lasted years.
But what is it that O’Reilly has done? What was his similarity to Brian Williams?
As Corn and Shulman note, O’Reilly has said on numerous occasions that he was in a “war zone” in El Salvador in 1981, during that country’s communist insurgency, and in Argentina in 1982, during the Falklands War. And that’s right, O’Reilly was in war zones, both times.
Let’s start with Mother Jones’ claims about O’Reilly in El Salvador: the magazine doesn’t dispute that O’Reilly covered the fighting in the country as a correspondent for CBS News. In fact, the whole of that small nation—about the size of the state of Massachusetts—was a war zone, pure and bloody; the left-leaning Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, was even assassinated while saying mass in the capital city of San Salvador. More than 75,000 people were killed in the fighting, this out of a population of about 6 million. For purposes of comparison, if the USA had lost the same number of people relative to its population, the body count here would be about four million.
O’Reilly, still a CBS News correspondent, shifted to Buenos Aires to cover the Falklands Islands War when it erupted in April 1982. From the capital city, he covered the war fever, but as it happened, he mostly covered the huge street demonstrations in opposition to the Argentine dictatorship that had started the Falklands War—and then lost it. Those demonstrations, by the way, were so intense and violent that the government ultimately agreed to permit free elections. So O’Reilly was an eyewitness to an epic regime-change.
The MoJo article suggests that the war-fighting was in the Falklands, more than 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires, where British armed forces recaptured the archipelago from the Argentine invaders. And yes, that’s true, but the fighting was only 300 miles from the Argentine coastline. Indeed, the whole of the the South Atlantic region was a hot zone: in May 1982, a British submarine torpedo sank the Argentina cruiser Gen. Belgrano. and a few days later, the Argentines used the then-new device known as a cruise missile to sink the HMS Sheffield.
At the time, nobody knew how the fighting would go or when it would stop—and whether or not it would spread to Argentina itself. In all, more than 1,000 British servicemen were killed or wounded, and more than 2,000 Argentinians lost their lives. And the regime-changing riots in Buenos Aires were no picnic, either.
Indeed, in military parlance, “theater of operations” is a very broad term. Moreover, “theater of operations” and “war zone” are often used interchangeably. For example, all American military personnel—no matter what their MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty—who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand between 1961 and 1975 are entitled to wear the Vietnam Service Medal. And that honor applies equally to those who served in supporting naval and air operations. Those who are curious can read more detail here.
Now of course, service in the Vietnam theater—or war zone—does not entitle one to lie about one’s own record. And so, for example, an Army soldier who worked solely at a desk job in Saigon would not be allowed to wear the Combat Infantryman Badge, or any other declaration connoting fighting heroism.
But O’Reilly never made any such claims, nor does Mother Jones say that he did. All O’Reilly said was that he was in a “war zone”—and he certainly was.
Finally, Mother Jones overlooked the real nature of Williams’ crimes against journalistic ethics. The NBC Newsman did travel to Iraq and other war zones; if he had been content to simply say that, he would still be on the air. What did Williams in was the astonishing volume of fibs that he told. As Michael Patrick Leahy and John Nolte of Breitbart News have documented, Williams told lies on dozens of occasions, providing rich detail—all of it apparently false. For example: “I flew into Baghdad, invasion plus three days, on a blackout mission at night with elements of SEAL Team 6.” Well, no he didn’t. That was a lie, among many lies.
After the mostly conservative social media took down NBC News’s Brian Williams—the Peacock Network anchorman has been suspended for six months and might not be coming back—it’s not surprising that the lefty Main Stream Media would try to retaliate against a conservative journalist. But upon examination, MoJo has not presented evidence that O’Reilly did anything wrong.