When a guest on The O'Reilly Factor questioned Bill O'Reilly's assertion that a hospital that treated a wounded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was "run by Uday Hussein," O'Reilly replied: "No, that's Stephen Hayes, and he stands behind his reporting, although he did make a mistake. ... He said that Zarqawi's leg was amputated, and it wasn't."
On the September 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly began a segment with the assertion that Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "was treated after being wounded in a Baghdad hospital run by Uday Hussein," son of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. When Lorenzo Vidino of the Investigative Project stated that the Senate Intelligence Committee's recently released report examining pre-Iraq war intelligence claims "doesn't mention the fact the hospital was run by Uday and Qusay, so I'm not sure about that," O'Reilly replied: "No, that's Stephen Hayes, and he stands behind his reporting, although he did make a mistake. ... He said that Zarqawi's leg was amputated, and it wasn't." As Media Matters for America noted, the Intelligence Committee report found that Saddam's regime "did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.
According to a July 21, 2004, article by National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdock, Hayes made the claim that Zarqawi "had his leg amputated ... in Baghdad's Olympic Hospital, an elite facility whose director was the late Uday Hussein" in his book, The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (HarperCollins, 2004). On the June 15, 2004, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Hayes hedged on his book's assertion, stating: "There is some dispute about whether he had his leg amputated or whether he had nasal surgery." As McClatchy -- then known as Knight Ridder -- reported on June 8, claims that Zarqawi "had a leg amputated in Baghdad ... turned out to be inaccurate."
O'Reilly and Hayes made a similar claim on the March 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly told Hayes that "according to my information," Zarqawi "wound up in a Baghdad hospital to treat a very severe leg wound. And the hospital was run by one of the sons of Saddam." When Hayes said, "I think that's correct," O'Reilly asked: "You think, or you know?" Hayes responded: "I think," adding that "there are disputes about what exactly he had treated."
Questions surrounding the journalistic credibility of Hayes -- one of the chief promoters of the idea of a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda -- have been documented by Media Matters; for example, his book The Connection largely relied on the leaking of a discredited Defense Department intelligence memo. Hayes is currently writing an official biography of Vice President Dick Cheney.
From the March 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: The second thing is Zarqawi, the big villain, the big Al Qaeda chieftain -- I don't think he's in Iraq anymore, but he's calling terror shots in Iraq. He was wounded on the battlefield of Afghanistan, according to my information, transited through Iran, and wound up in a Baghdad hospital to treat a very severe leg wound. And the hospital was run by one of the sons of Saddam. Is that correct?
HAYES: Yeah, I think that's correct. Although there's some dispute --
O'REILLY: Now, what you think, or you know?
HAYES: Well, there's --
O'REILLY: You think, or you know?
HAYES: I think. Certainly, there have been credible reports to that effect, although I will say that there are disputes about what exactly he had treated. Was it his leg? Some people believe he had a nasal --
O'REILLY: OK, but I don't even care. It could be a hangnail.
From the September 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor
O'REILLY: Al-Qaeda -- Zarqawi was treated after being wounded in a Baghdad hospital run by Uday Hussein. So what's the truth?
VIDINO: Well, apparently, according to the latest Senate report you were mentioning, there is some truth to the fact that Zarqawi was indeed in Iraq. The problem is that apparently either the Iraq intelligence was not aware of it or, actually, there are some indications that they were aware of the presence of Zarqawi there. They tried to track him down. They even created a special force to track him down, but they were unable to do so, even if they tried.
There are some internal documents that have been uncovered by U.S. forces that show that they tried and that Zarqawi, anyways, left after a few weeks, left Baghdad, and went to the northern part of the country where pretty much the central Iraqi government -- Saddam had no control and no power to have [unintelligible] valuable intelligence.
O'REILLY: All right. So at this point, then, the Senate report isn't wrong in what it says; it just is murky. See, what I don't understand is if you're wounded on the battlefield of Afghanistan after the U.S., you know, removes the Taliban, there's a fight and then you're wounded, how do you -- why do you go to Baghdad? I mean there are a lot of other places closer than Baghdad to get treated. And then, to get into a police state like Iraq with a severe wound, you can't tell me that the Iraqi police didn't know about it. They know everything that goes on, and then to go to a hospital run by Uday Hussein? I mean, it just strains credulity that this would happen.
VIDINO: Well, first of all, the Senate report doesn't mention the fact the hospital was run by Uday and Qusay, so I'm not so sure about that --
O'REILLY: No, that's Stephen Hayes, and he stands behind his reporting, although he did make a mistake.
VIDINO: I'm not questioning that --
O'REILLY: He said that Zarqawi's leg was amputated, and it wasn't. Go ahead.