Here’s some news: the Mainstream Media isn’t fond of Bill O’Reilly. Okay, that was a joke—MSM hatred of O’Reilly is well known. Neither is it news that O’Reilly doesn’t much like the MSM—and the recent Mother Jones hit piece, “Bill O’Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,” only deepens the mutual antipathy.
So it’s no surprise that there were some fireworks this morning on Howard Kurtz’s “Media Buzz” show on Fox News (the show re-runs today at 5 pm ET).
Kurtz led the show with an interview of O’Reilly, who was speaking by telephone. Not surprisingly, O’Reilly was hot; his anger was palpable—the accusations that he exaggerated his role in covering the 1982 Falklands War in South America obviously bother him greatly. Still, O’Reilly had carefully prepared for his conversation with Kurtz: He read from a contemporaneous New York Times piece which detailed just how much violence and mayhem there was on the mean streets of Buenos Aires. As the Times reported it, O’Reilly—like all reporters working the story back then—really was in the middle of a hot zone.
Meanwhile, a former CBS News colleague of O’Reilly’s, Eric Engberg, who also was there in Buenos Aires, has opened up another front against the embattled Fox News man; in a Facebook post, Engberg added to the Mother Jones critique. Yet Engberg undercut his own credibility when he began by calling Bill O’Reilly a “bloviator.” Moreover, Engberg misspelled the word, writing “bloviater.” So not only is Engberg’s fairness belied, but so is his precision.
For his part, O’Reilly responded to Engberg’s attacks, too: he recalled that his nickname in those days was “Room Service Eric,” as in, he rarely left his hotel room to get out on the street and cover the ongoing drama. Indeed, O’Reilly further piled on, deriding Engberg as a “plagiarist” who took credit for some of O’Reilly’s work.
It’s probably impossible to uncover the full truth about events that happened more than 30 years ago. Yet fair-minded observers sense the grinding of ideological axes in the Corn/Engberg attacks, and in the ongoing MSM feeding frenzy. Joe Concha, writing in Mediaite, allowed that the attacks on O’Reilly seem “politically motivated.” And David Zurawik, chief TV critic for The Baltimore Sun, said to Kurtz on Fox this morning that the attacks seem to be “ideological,” yet another extension of “the culture wars.” Bingo.
Few analysts think that the Mother Jones attack will have any long-term impact on O’Reilly’s #1-rated show. The aggressive claims of Corn notwithstanding, the difference between O’Reilly and Brian Williams is night and day: Williams made up news for more than a decade, putting himself in places and situations where he simply wasn’t. And he did so repeatedly, as recently as January 30. By contrast, the worst that can be said about O’Reilly is that he engaged in a little loose talk as he recalled actual incidents of 30-plus years ago.
Still, the Mother Jones story does seem to have “legs.” O’Reilly’s steamed-up presentation on TV this morning, alone, will attract attention. Moreover, O’Reilly challenged Engberg to come on The O’Reilly Factor Monday night; indeed, he seemed to extend the same invitation to anyone else who might wish to challenge his truthfulness. It seems likely that someone will take up that challenge. If so, audiences will tune in—perhaps just to see if O’Reilly strangles the guest. Meanwhile, anyone who worked anywhere near Buenos Aires in 1982 is guaranteed an open mic to give his or her recollections of the events back then.
So pull up a chair: even if you’re in O’Reilly’s corner, this promises to be a long and nasty fight.