NEW YORK – Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly is contesting allegations that he embellished his past as a war correspondent.
An article in Mother Jones magazine calls into question O'Reilly’s accounts of his experiences as a CBS News correspondent covering the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina.
The article, titled “Bill O'Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem,” attempts to paint O'Reilly with the same brush as the NBC News anchor who last week was suspended for six months for misrepresenting his experiences covering the Iraq War and is being investigated for questions that have arisen about other stories.
“It’s purely a political play to divert attention from the Williams situation,” O’Reilly said Thursday, adding that Mother Jones “trumped up something from 33 years ago.” O’Reilly was a CBS News correspondent in 1981-82.
The Mother Jones article focuses on O'Reilly’s use of the word “war zone,” citing his 2001 book, “The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America,” in which he wrote, “I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.”
It also points to his Fox News show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” when on a 2013 broadcast O’Reilly recalled rescuing his photographer “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falkland Islands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete.”
That took place in Buenos Aires during a violent demonstration following the 10-week Falklands War that killed more than 900 people.
O’Reilly said he has never claimed to have been in the Falklands during the war. Linking “war zone” with the Falklands, he said, was “shorthand.”
“Everybody knows you’re not there, because nobody (from the American news media) was there,” O'Reilly said. He called “delusional” the article’s accusation that the violence in Buenos Aires on the day the Argentines surrendered wasn’t part of the Falklands War and wasn’t combat.
After CBS, O'Reilly, 65, worked at ABC News before replacing David Frost as anchor of the syndicated “Inside Edition” in 1989. He joined Fox News Channel at its inception in 1996. As host of “The O'Reilly Factor,” he consistently leads in the cable-news ratings.
On Friday’s “Factor” he was scheduled to address the article in his Talking Points Memo, declaring its authors sought “to take the Brian Williams situation and wrap it around my neck for ideological reasons.”