Mike Kueber's Blog

February 25, 2015

Bill O’Reilly vis-à-vis Brian Williams

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 7:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

If you depend on FOX News for your news, you might be under the impression that Bill O’Reilly has successfully defended himself against liberal attempts to paint him with the same broad brush that took down Brian Williams. As Bernard McGuirk stated this morning on Imus in the Morning, Williams was guilty of the mortal sin of “stolen valor,” whereas O’Reilly had shown unquestionably that his claims of war-zone reporting had not been embellished.

But fortunately, I don’t get all my news from FOX. I also get news from the NT Times, and the Times this morning included an article on O’Reilly suggesting that the charges of “self-aggrandizing rhetoric” by this “professional provocateur…. have since been substantiated by other journalists in Argentina at the time.”

My inclination is to agree with the Times. O’Reilly often brags about covering “war zones,” including the Falklands war zone in the early 80s. Well, the only Falklands war hostilities occurred on or near the islands, not 1,000 miles away in Buenos Aires. O’Reilly admits that he didn’t report from the Falklands because only one reporter was allowed on the Islands, and that reporter wasn’t him.  But somehow O’Reilly want to defend his “war zone” claim by arguing that the war was reported by all but one reporter from Buenos Aires. The response to that argument is that only one reporter, then, gets to claim war-zone reporting on his resume.

O’Reilly tries to work his way around this obstacle by discussing the dangerous post-war rioting in Buenos Aires. That’s fine if O’Reilly wants to claim riot reporting, but not war reporting. The riots in Buenos Aires were of local Argentinians protesting against their government for losing the war in the Falklands. Domestic riots do not qualify for war zones.

And getting back to McGuirk’s comment about Williams’s “stolen valor,” I fail to see any meaningful distinction between Williams falsely claiming his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and O’Reilly falsely claiming that he reported from a war zone. Both are suggesting front-line activity that never happened.

The Times article also pointed out fairly why O’Reilly’s faux pas will not likely lead to his demise, like Williams’s did:

  • There are other differences between the two controversies. The incident at the center of Mr. O’Reilly’s occurred more than 30 years ago; Mr. Williams’s happened in 2003. And his accusers are journalists, not military veterans as they were in Mr. Williams’s case. But the most meaningful point of distinction — and the reason Mr. O’Reilly’s job is almost certainly safe — is that he is not an anchorman, with all of the cultural weight that title carries.”

I agree. Even O’Reilly’s fans know that he is a braggart with an outsize ego. Consistent with that reputation is his oft-mentioned claim of being a Harvard man who grew up in Levittown. But while reading his Wikipedia bio, I learned that is not really true. Although O’Reilly, grew up in Levittown, he went to college at Marist, and then after a few years of teaching, he earned a Masters at Boston University. And finally, more 20 years later and after becoming a VIP, he obtained a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.

So much for the implication that this poor Irish kid from Levittown was brilliant enough to get into Harvard. As we used to say back in North Dakota, he seems to be a legend in his own mind.

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