Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is not used to being on the defensive.
For nearly 10 years, the host of “The O’Reilly Factor” and commander of “the no-spin zone” has plowed through his liberal critics on and off-air. Perhaps his only effective challenger from the left has been now-Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), whom Fox News ended up unsuccessfully suing after the former Saturday Night Live writer wrote a book calling O’Reilly a serial liar.
But in recent weeks, a report by Mother Jones magazine has kicked off a wave of investigations into O’Reilly’s former war tales and reportage, from his time as a correspondent for CBS in the 80s to his gig at “Inside Edition” in the 90s.
Here are the best-known examples of times when there have been doubts about facts in O’Reilly’s stories.
O’Reilly Told Al Franken He Won Two Peabody Awards
One of the earliest cracks in O’Reilly’s record came more than a decade ago when Franken noticed that the Fox host had repeatedly said he’d won the prestigious Peabody Award for “Inside Edition.” Franken dug up transcripts showing that O’Reilly had said it both on the “Factor” and on C-SPAN — where he actually said he’d won two Peabody Awards.
O’Reilly eventually told Franken that it was a Polk Award — which, Franken later discovered, “Inside Edition” won a year after O’Reilly left the program.
Franken confronted O’Reilly at the 2003 at BookExpo in Los Angeles, resulting in the Fox host bellowing “shut up” at the future senator:
O’Reilly Said He Was A Registered Independent
In an interview with NPR’s Mike Pesca, O’Reilly attempted to prove he wasn’t just another Republican partisan.
“I’m a registered Independent politically, and I’m a journalist who looks at life the way it is, not the way I want it to be,” he told Pesca in 2001.
The remark boomeranged back at O’Reilly when NPR subsequently discovered that he had been a registered Republican since 1994. O’Reilly later described it as a “hatchet job” and said he’d never heard of Pesca.
O’Reilly Said He ‘Saw’ People Murdered Because He Saw Photos
The Fox host has said he saw people killed in both El Salvador and Northern Ireland, during his time in the 1980s as a globetrotting reporter for CBS News and Boston television station WCVB, respectively.
After mounting pressure in recent days, O’Reilly and a Fox spokesperson had to later clarify that what the host meant was that he had seen photos of the carnage.
O’Reilly Said He Was Outside As A JFK Figure Committed Suicide
George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, committed suicide in Florida in 1977. O’Reilly has repeatedly said he was outside the door of the house where de Mohrenschildt killed himself when it happened. But a report by Media Matters last week cast serious doubts on his claims, citing contemporaneous accounts, a police report, and interviews with former colleagues.
On Sunday, CNN released tapes of a phone call from 1977 in which O’Reilly can be heard saying he is “coming to Florida” the day he said he had been there.
O’Reilly Said He Was Under Siege In The L.A. Riots
On assignment for “Inside Edition,” O’Reilly covered the Los Angeles riots in 1991. Later in 2006, O’Reilly said that rioters targeted him and his crew, throwing “bricks and stones” at them.
“Concrete was raining down on us,” he said.
Last week, six former colleagues told the Guardian newspaper it never happened. All that happened, according to two of them, was that a local person broke a camera after O’Reilly alienated residents of a devastated neighborhood by pulling up in a limo.
O’Reilly Said He Rescued A Cameraman As Argentineans Were Shot Dead
Mother Jones raised questions last month about O’Reilly’s tales of a protest he covered in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War in the 1980s. In 2013, O’Reilly said that he’d been “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands” when his photographer was hit in the head and started bleeding. The Fox host talked about rescuing the cameraman. But the magazine’s report cast doubts on whether the incident had happened.
O’Reilly dismissed the magazine’s report as the work of “left-wing zealots,” but he took it seriously enough to track down the video shot by his crew for CBS, saying it proved his version of events. But the video left many questions unanswered.
O’Reilly Cites His Work Of Fiction To Prove Real-Life War Tales
In an unexpected move, O’Reilly defended himself last month against the allegations from Mother Jones by citing one of his books — a novel.
In an interview with AdWeek’s TVNewser, O’Reilly brushed off the magazine’s accusations that he embellished his coverage of the Falklands War, saying he recorded it all in his book. He neglected to mention it was a work of fiction.
“I laid this out in a book called, Those Who Trespass,” he said. “That was the first book that I wrote. Soup to nuts, what happened in Buenos Aires during the Falklands war.”