Bill O'Reilly has finally responded to the mounting evidence undermining his claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure linked to President Kennedy's assassination. Last night, O'Reilly directed viewers to a statement from his book publisher that highlighted the account of a former O'Reilly colleague. But even that former colleague -- who has since worked for Fox News and is now a freelance reporter -- is unable to corroborate O'Reilly's tale.
O'Reilly claimed in his books on Kennedy's death and on Fox News that he was outside the residence where George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, killed himself in Florida in 1977. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV.
Over the past weeks, that story has unraveled. Several of O'Reilly's former colleagues and other reporters who covered de Mohrenschildt have disputed the tale. CNN produced audio that included O'Reilly telling a congressional investigator "I'm coming to Florida" only after learning of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. And the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report makes no mention of O'Reilly, strongly refuting the notion that he was at the residence at the time of the suicide.
O'Reilly had declined to directly address these discrepancies, while the publisher of his JFK books, Henry Holt and Co., released a statement standing by their author. Fox News has described O'Reilly as the victim of "an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates" and called responding to such allegations "an exercise in futility." But last night on his Fox News show, O'Reilly finally responded to what he termed "the far-left attacks on my reporting" of the JFK story by directing his viewers to a statement on the controversy that had been posted by his publisher.
The statement comes from O'Reilly's former WFAA colleague Bob Sirkin, who has previously said he was with O'Reilly in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. Sirkin, a freelance reporter who has worked for Fox News, previously described himself as one of the few people at WFAA who got along "very well" with O'Reilly.
But even Sirkin, O'Reilly's defender, is unable to corroborate his claim that he heard the gunshot that killed de Mohrenschildt. He also offers no explanation for the existence of O'Reilly's own recorded remarks that he's not in Florida, and why the police report didn't mention of O'Reilly.
According to Sirkin, he and O'Reilly had "split up" that afternoon and did not "reconnect" until after the death. From the statement (all caps in original):
So following the hotel incident, O'Reilly and I split up, it's now early afternoon. Bill is going to the Manalapan home in which George de Mohrenschildt and his daughter were staying, this is the house where de Mohrenschildt's body was found. I on the other hand, go on to do some additional reporting, phoning in a report for WFAA into their newsroom. Later, after de Mohrenschildt allegedly committed suicide, O'Reilly and I reconnect at the house in Manalapan.
In an interview with Media Matters last month, Sirkin likewise said that he was unable to confirm O'Reilly's account of having heard the gunshot.
Sirkin previously wrote a September 2012 blog comment claiming he visited Florida with O'Reilly prior to de Mohrenschildt's suicide. The entry makes no mention of O'Reilly hearing the gunshot. As Washington Post writer Erik Wemple notes, "There's no mention of Sirkin and O'Reilly splitting up or of O'Reilly heading over to the house where de Mohrenschildt committed his last act." Sirkin emailed Wemple later stating that he didn't include that detail "because of brevity and because I was not with Bill when he claimed to have heard a shot."
Sirkin's statement to O'Reilly's publisher also includes information that undermines his claim that he and O'Reilly were in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's death. Sirkin identifies the freelance cameraman who worked with them in Florida. (Note: while award-winning filmmaker Frank Eberling has previously attested to being Sirkin and O'Reilly's cameraman during their 1977 Florida trip, Sirkin's statement on the publisher's website, which appears to be a transcription of a verbal comment, identifies him as "Frank Everly.") Eberling told Media Matters last month that while he is unsure, he thinks O'Reilly arrived in Florida the day after the suicide.
That account is consistent with tape recordings of a phone conversation between O'Reilly and a congressional investigator on the day of the suicide. In the recordings, O'Reilly can be heard asking the congressional investigator where the suicide took place, if a gun was used, and saying "I'm coming down there tomorrow. I'm coming to Florida ... I'm going to get in there tomorrow."
Doug Fox, another of Sirkin and O'Reilly's former WFAA colleagues, claimed in an interview with Media Matters last month that he spoke to Sirkin "a few months ago" about seeing a story questioning O'Reilly's de Mohrenschildt reporting. According to Fox, Sirkin "called me and he didn't think the assertion was correct that O'Reilly heard the gunshot. Sirkin and I were in agreement that that's not what we recall happening down there. He said, 'It doesn't sound right to me, either.'" Sirkin responded by claiming that he had merely told Fox that he hadn't been present with O'Reilly for the gunshot.
O'Reilly has recently faced widespread criticism for a series of fabrications about his reporting career. On his program last night, he lashed out at his critics, including Media Matters, which he termed "the chief attack vehicle for the left."
UPDATE: Eberling disputed several aspects of Sirkin's story in an interview today with Media Matters' Joe Strupp.
While Sirkin claims that he and O'Reilly were in the area and using Eberling ("Everly" in the transcript) as their freelance cameraman on March 29, the day of de Mohrenschildt's death, Eberling recalls that he was working his regular job at the local ABC affiliate that day and did not meet up with the WFAA reporters until March 30.
"I highly doubt that [O'Reilly] actually was there when [the suicide] happened, I don't think he came into town until the next day," said Eberling.
Sirkin also writes that on March 29, he, O'Reilly, and Eberling were escorted off the property of the Breakers Hotel after trying to ambush de Mohrenschildt while he was being interviewed by investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein in Epstein's hotel room. Eberling recalled a similar story, but puts it on March 30, and said the altercation occurred when O'Reilly attempted to speak with either congressional investigator Gaetan Fonzi or investigative reporter Willem Oltmans.
Asked about O'Reilly's claim of being on the porch when the suicide occurred, Eberling said, "That's something I would have remembered and I don't remember him saying that."
Conservative media have accused Hillary Clinton of hypocrisy, claiming that a U.S. ambassador was forced to resign for using a personal email account at the same time Clinton was engaged in a similar practice during her tenure. In fact, the ambassador in question was fired following an investigation that accused him of a vast array of failures and mismanagement, not just improper use of email.
Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney writes that the news of Hillary Clinton's private email account is significant because it could provide evidence of her aide Huma Abedin's purported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, his latest effort to push the bigoted conspiracy theory for which he has been widely condemned.
Her emails are of particular interest insofar as Ms. Abedin has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the Islamist organization whose self-declared mission is "destroying Western civilization from within."
The indispensable investigative group Judicial Watch has filed suit in federal court for access to these emails. It remains to be seen if they are provided and, if so, what they reveal about these ladies' contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood - and their damage-control concerning revelations about Ms. Abedin's connection to it.
Gaffney's think tank is responsible for the conspiracy theory that Abedin, who is "of mixed Indian and Pakistani heritage," has family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood that call into question her loyalty to the United States.
After then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) cited Gaffney's claims while questioning Abedin's "routine access to the secretary and to policy-making" in a 2012 letter to the State Department, she was widely denounced, including by Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The vast majority of Americans believe Fox News host Bill O'Reilly should resign, be suspended without pay, or apologize if he lied about his experiences as a reporter who supposedly reported from combat zones, a new poll finds.
Over the last week, O'Reilly has been at the center of a media firestorm over the revelation that he has dramatically embellished aspects of his career in journalism. That criticism began with Mother Jones' report that O'Reilly had falsely suggested that he had reported from an active combat zone "in Argentina, in the Falklands" during the 1982 conflict there.
O'Reilly responded by lashing out at Mother Jones and claiming that he never meant to suggest that he was in the Falkland Islands during the war, only that he was in Argentina when a violent protest broke out. Numerous journalists who reported from that protest say that O'Reilly exaggerated how dangerous it was. For its part, Fox News has stood behind O'Reilly.
But the burgeoning scandal is damaging O'Reilly's credibility and requires a response, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted this week.
If O'Reilly "lied about his experience as a war reporter," 31 percent of respondent say he should apologize and explain himself, 21 percent say he should resign, and 18 percent believe he should be suspended for at least a month. Only 10 percent say that his actions wouldn't call for a response.
The poll also found that 37 percent have an unfavorable opinion of O'Reilly compared to 33 percent with a favorable one, and that respondents are split on whether the Fox host is trustworthy or not, 35 to 37.
Fox News is not commenting on reports that Bill O'Reilly lied in his books and on Fox News that he was nearby and "heard" a shotgun blast when a figure linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy committed suicide. The network is instead directing reporters to the host's publisher.
The network's reaction is a dramatic reversal of their aggressive communications strategy following Mother Jones' report that the stories O'Reilly has told about reporting from combat zones "don't withstand scrutiny."
Yesterday, Media Matters reported:
Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally "heard" a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O'Reilly's claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy's death further undermine O'Reilly's story.
According to CNN, "When reached for comment, a Fox News spokesperson referred CNNMoney to Henry Holt and Company, the imprint that published O'Reilly's book on the Kennedy assassination."
In seeking to pass off responsibility for O'Reilly's falsehoods to his publisher, Fox News is trying to hide the fact that he offered the same claim on their airwaves.
Directing reporters to the publisher represents a substantial shift from how Fox News responded to the Mother Jones story, which similarly detailed how O'Reilly had repeatedly made exaggerated claims about his reporting experience in his books and on Fox News. The report showed how O'Reilly had supposedly reported from a "combat zone" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War, and at times suggested he had reported from the Falkland Islands themselves. Numerous journalists who reported on that war subsequently disputed O'Reilly's claims.
Within hours of the story's publication, Fox News made O'Reilly available for a series of scathing interviews with media reporters in which he denied the allegations and attacked David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, as a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage."
While several of the claims O'Reilly has offered in his defense have turned out to be false, some commentators have nonetheless said that O'Reilly's public reaction shows that the Mother Jones story has "backfired" because the network is using the criticism from a progressive publication to bolster O'Reilly's standing with his fans.
Fox News has gone to war with Mother Jones after the liberal magazine published a story raising questions about the credibility of host Bill O'Reilly's past statements about his experience as a war correspondent.
Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported yesterday that "for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny--even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in."
The reporters noted that "Fox News and O'Reilly did not respond to multiple requests for comment." In an interview with Politico, Corn detailed his extensive effort to get the host or network to address the discrepancies in O'Reilly's stories.
Rather than responding to Mother Jones, the network apparently prepared to lash out. Fox "immediately put O'Reilly on the phone with a bunch of reporters to attack this story," CNN's Brian Stelter noted. "So they were on the offensive right away."
And respond he did. In a series of scathing interviews last night, O'Reilly declared that Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, is a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage" who authored "a politically motivated hit piece." He denied the allegations, claiming that "Everything I said about my reportorial career -- EVERYTHING -- is accurate" (this is obviously and demonstrably false).
In one interview with TVNewser, he even appeared to threaten Corn, saying, "When everybody writes the truth, I've talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I'm saying, because it's easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be."
"Rather than calling anyone a liar or a guttersnipe, he had ample opportunity to deal with the facts of this case. He elected not to, and instead engaged in name calling," Corn told Politico. "He chose not to address the issue, he chose to throw mud. And I would say that his right to impugn others ought to be diminished until he answers the basic questions about his statements."
"They purposely ignored Mother Jones and then once the story came out, they went ahead and talked to a number of other outlets," Stelter explained."And they made it very personal. I think what's striking about O'Reilly's response is the anti-Brian Williams. Brian Williams apologized and went silent. O'Reilly started calling your colleague, David Corn, a gutter snipe, a piece of garbage, a liar, a left wing assassin."
But it's no surprise Fox chose to respond with O'Reilly's attacks rather than seeking to shed light on the situation. The network's PR department is famously aggressive, frequently using personal attacks and retaliatory tactics to respond to critical reporters.
The American Thinker - "one of my most favorite and thoughtful blogs," according to Rush Limbaugh - reports that President Obama flashed a "Muslim gang sign" at an event last year by pointing his index finger upwards.
F.W. Burleigh, "author of It's All About Muhammad, a Biography of the World's Most Notorious Prophet," wrote for the conservative website that an "astonishing photo" of Obama during a summit with African leaders shows him "flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates." According to Burleigh, "the one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign" and "With his forefinger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe." He also postulates that Muslim African leaders present at the event were "all smiles" because "They knew what Obama's upright forefinger meant." The post also includes an image in which an "ISIS fighter displays the gang sign."
Conservatives have spent much of Obama's presidency laying out ludicrous theories for how Obama is secretly Muslim.
There are two main flaws with Burleigh's argument. First, video of the event captured from two angles indicates that Obama was actually wagging his finger, not pointing it. (Burleigh criticized the editors of the paper that published the photo for captioning it "finger wagging," claiming that they "did not understand what they were looking at.)
Second -- and it's difficult to believe we need to point this out -- many, many other world leaders have previously been photographed pointing their index fingers upward, suggesting either that Burleigh's argument is nonsense, or that several other recent U.S. and foreign leaders were secret Muslims.
Melissa Harris-Perry's guest pool remained extremely diverse while diversity on Up with Steve Kornacki dropped in 2014, according to a Media Matters review.
Because the MSNBC programs feature significantly different formats than the Sunday morning political talk shows on the four major broadcast networks and CNN (they are two-hour programs that air on both weekend days and are less focused on the news of the week), we did not review the ideology of their guests nor, for the sake of consistency, include them in our initial capsule report. But as the data from their Sunday editions contained in our full report shows, both programs demonstrate that it is possible to produce a show featuring more women and people of color than seen elsewhere.
For the second year in a row, Melissa Harris-Perry was the most diverse program of the seven we reviewed for gender and ethnicity. 55 percent of the program's Sunday guests were people of color and 45 percent were women. Only a quarter of guests were white men. All three measures were virtually unchanged from 2013, showing a clear commitment to a diverse guest pool.
Up's guest pool remained the second most diverse of the seven programs in 2014, but the program slipped from 2013, booking a larger percentage of white men and fewer women and people of color.
Here's the data for gender in 2014 and 2013:
*This chart has been updated for accuracy
And for gender and ethnicity combined:
Right-wing media are using the suspension of NBC's Brian Williams to attack Hillary Clinton, fixating on a story she apologized for telling years ago about landing amid sniper fire in Bosnia when she was first lady.
The media has rightfully focused over the past week on Williams' apparent pattern of falsely claiming that he rode on a military helicopter that was forced to land after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during a reporting trip to Iraq in 2003. Williams apologized during the February 4 broadcast of Nightly News and has since been suspended for six months without pay.
But the right-wing media have sought to use Williams' tall tales for political advantage, pointing to Clinton's Bosnia story to ask, "If Brian Williams can no longer be the face of NBC then can Hillary no longer be the face of the Democratic Party?" In a segment representative of such discussions on Fox News,Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy asked this morning, "Brian Williams has been held to this standard because he told these lies about Iraq. But what about Hillary Clinton?" Invoking Clinton's Bosnia story which "turned out not to be true," the hosts aired a clip of a Fox News contributor declaring Clinton's story to be worse than Williams', while on-screen text asked "Why Isn't Hillary Held Accountable For Lies?" and "Did Mainstream Media Give Clinton A Pass?"
But Clinton acknowledged nearly seven years ago that she had misspoken in describing the events that occurred in Bosnia. And contrary to conservative claims, Clinton was heavily criticized by media outlets at the time, including by NBC News. As Bloomberg News reported in March 2008:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her staff said she misspoke when saying she landed under sniper fire during a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as first lady.
"I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time, and recently," Clinton told reporters in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. "I made a mistake. I have a different memory. That happens. I'm human. For some people that's a revelation."
During a speech last week in Washington, she said, "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
Moreover, in seeking to use Williams' story for partisan benefit, conservatives are ignoring numerous Republican politicians who have embellished their stories of military service to burnish their political careers, dating back to Sen. Joe McCarthy's self-aggrandized war record. As Joe Conason noted in a 2010 piece on how "mythmaking is indeed characteristic of the politicians most revered by the GOP," both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush greatly exaggerated their service:
Take George W. Bush, whose controversial service as a Texas Air National Guard pilot was shrouded in mystery, evidently because he wanted to conceal the basic facts of his privileged admission to the TANG and his strange departure from its ranks. In his 2000 campaign autobiography, ghosted by Karen Hughes, Bush claimed that after completing his training in the F-102 fighter plane, "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years." That simple sentence was entirely untrue, according to records eventually released by the Bush campaign, which showed that he had never flown in uniform again after his suspension from active duty in August 1972 for failing to show up for a mandatory physical examination.
In the same book Bush also suggests that he tried to volunteer for service in Vietnam "to relieve active duty pilots" fighting the war. But, of course, the entire purpose of his privileged (and questionable) enlistment in the TANG was to avoid the Vietnam draft, as he hinted in a 1998 newspaper interview when he said: "I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching [to war] when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service and I was headed into the service." Two years later, under the tutelage of Hughes, that momentary candor evaporated.
Yet Bush's self-serving revisions cannot compare with the fantastic recollections of the late Ronald Reagan, whose veneration by Republicans was never diminished by his bizarre utterances. In November 1983, he told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir during a White House visit that while serving in the U. S. Army film corps, his unit had shot footage of the Nazi concentration camps as they were liberated. He repeated the same tale to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other witnesses. Reagan had indeed served in the Army and worked on morale-boosting movies for the War Department. But he had done so without ever leaving Hollywood for the entire duration of the war.
The race for Rupert Murdoch's endorsement is on as potential presidential candidates line up to seek political support from the owner of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch has long been a major political player whose media companies play a substantial role shaping the debate. Last year he declared that Fox News had "absolutely saved" the Republican Party by giving "voice and hope to people who didn't like all that liberal championing thrown at them on CNN." Prominent politicians on the national and international stage regularly seek out Murdoch's opinion and approval.
The New York Times reported on how potential presidential candidates are engaged in a "delicate and unseen campaign underway for Mr. Murdoch's affections" in a January 27 article. Here are the details about where the would-be presidents stand.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may be the candidate most likely to find support from Murdoch in the 2016 cycle, according to the Times, which provides several anecdotes suggesting that the mogul favors Bush for his position on immigration and that their "ties have deepened over the years."
The paper highlights a Washington, D.C. conference at which Murdoch responded to a boilerplate speech by Jeb Bush on "the economic benefits of overhauling the nation's immigration system" by "swoon[ing] in his seat," "gush[ing] over its content and tone," and declaring that Bush had "said all the right things on the fraught issue." According to the Times, Bush was seated next to Murdoch at the conference at Murdoch's request. The article closes with Murdoch saying of Bush "I like Jeb Bush very much... He's moving very cleverly, very well."
Murdoch reportedly "remains fond" of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but last year "expressed doubts about the New Jersey governor, saying he expected more damaging stories to emerge about Mr. Christie's aides in the aftermath of the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge." They reportedly speak by phone on a near-monthly basis.
Murdoch reportedly "joined a group of wealthy and influential Republican leaders who encouraged Mr. Christie to enter the presidential race" in 2011. He publicly and privately criticized Christie for praising President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy in the waning days of the 2012 race.
Murdoch reportedly "remains intrigued" by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), "extolling his appeal to younger voters and his plans for a flat tax. The two meet often in New York and Washington. But Mr. Murdoch worries that Mr. Paul may face an uphill battle in a general election, said a person who has spoken with Mr. Murdoch."
Murdoch and Fox News chief Roger Ailes reportedly sat down with Paul in November 2013 as part of his effort to "smooth concerns among Republicans and influencers about whether he shares his famous libertarian father's views on issues like national security."
According to the Times, Murdoch has privately described 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney as "vacuous," in large part due to his call during the last election for undocumented immigrants to "self-deport." The Times reports on a private 2012 meeting between the two in which Murdoch demanded Romney recant his "foolhardy" immigration position, with Romney refusing to do so because "he would look like a flip-flopper." "Those close to Mr. Romney said he had all but given up on trying to win over Mr. Murdoch" as he moves toward a third presidential run.