A report by liberal watchdog Media Matters For America on Tuesday cast doubts about Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s stories of being at the scene of the suicide of a key figure in the investigation into the JFK assassination.
Media Matters cited a police report and audio tapes and spoke to several of O’Reilly’s former colleagues at a local television station. All of the pieces, the organization said, “undermine O’Reilly’s story.”
The report came less than a week after Mother Jones magazine scrutinized O’Reilly’s tales from his time covering the Falklands War in the 1980s.
The questions from Media Matters center around the death of George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1977, de Mohrenschildt committed suicide in Florida after being asked to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
At the time, O’Reilly was a reporter for local Dallas’ station WFAA and was tasked with covering the investigation.
In his book and during several Fox News appearances, O’Reilly said that he personally stood outside de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home and heard the shotgun blast that killed him, according to Media Matters.
“In March of 1977 a young reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian,” he wrote in his 2012 book, “Killing Kennedy.”
“That reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly,” the passage concluded, according to Media Matters.
O’Reilly repeated the story in the kids version of his book, “Kennedy’s Last Days,” and in an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” which he later re-aired on his own program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Media Matters reported.
In interviews with Media Matters, former colleagues of O’Reilly’s at WFAA said that he was in Texas when the suicide took place in Florida. They also said that O’Reilly never mentioned having heard gunshots outside of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s house.
Media Matters also pointed to a passage from the book “The Last Investigation” by investigate journalist Gaeton Fonzi, saying that O’Reilly claimed to have heard about the suicide from a phone call.
About 6:30 that evening I received a call from Bill O’Reilly, a friend who was then a television reporter in Dallas. “Funny thing happened,” he said. “We just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located de Mohrenschildt in South Florida. Now de Mohrenschildt attorney, a guy named Pat Russell, he calls and says de Mohrenschild committed suicide this afternoon. Is that true?”
An article by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morely questioning O’Reilly’s story first appeared on the site JFKfacts.org on Jan. 30, 2013.
Morley said he obtained tapes of a phone conversation with Fonzi in which O’Reilly could be heard saying he was reporting the story over the phone from Texas, and that he planned to travel to Florida at a later time.