Misrepresentations of Reagan

Tags ››› Misrepresentations of Reagan
  • Washington Post Finds More “Factual Problems” With Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan 

    O’Reilly And His Killing Books Have A History Of Historical Inaccuracies

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported “factual problems” with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Reagan, which examined the attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan. Killing Reagan in particular drew intense criticism from Reagan biographers and aides, who said the “garbage, total BS” book “does a disservice to history.” The criticism led to an extended feud with conservative columnist and former Reagan speechwriter George Will after Will called O’Reilly “a hack” who “slander[ed]” Reagan.

    On October 20, Wemple examined a passage in Killing Reagan alleging that during a 1984 photo-op, “Reagan faltered under tough questioning from commonly tough questioner Sam Donaldson” of ABC News, because of injuries related to the assassination attempt. However, Donaldson told Wemple himself that he “wasn’t there” at the photo-op. Wemple “requested video of the press availability from the Ronald Reagan Library” and found that pool reporters who quizzed the president didn’t “get very far” because “the entire Q&A lasted less than a minute.” Contrary to O’Reilly’s characterization, the exchange “doesn’t come off very dramatically,” and O’Reilly’s “confrontation” was “was merely [a journalist] asking a reasonable question and then following up very quickly with a clarification.”

    As this blog noted on Saturday, this passage has factual problems. Donaldson, for one, tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “I wasn’t there.” The 82-year-old retired newsman says he was in Santa Barbara with other members of the press, while a small contingent of rotating pool members went to the ranch to photograph and question Reagan. Charles Bierbauer, a former CNN correspondent who covered Reagan, told us that he, in fact, was the one who’d asked these questions.

    [...]

    Eager to learn a bit more about this episode, the Erik Wemple Blog requested video of the press availability from the Ronald Reagan Library. It’s embedded at the top of this post. Starting at the 1:38 mark, pool reporters begin quizzing the president about various topics. They don’t get very far. “I’m not going to take any questions at a — at a photo opportunity,” says Reagan at one point.

    The entire Q & A took less than a minute. And contrary to the “action-packed” description in “Killing Reagan,” it doesn’t come off very dramatically, either. (Efforts to secure comment from O’Reilly, Dugard and the publisher of “Killing Reagan” have failed). It sounds like a few journalists trying to get a snippet of newsworthy material from the president on a midsummer day. Where O’Reilly sees Donaldson in “full confrontational mode,” the video indicates that Bierbauer — now dean of the College of Information and Communications at the University of South Carolina — was merely asking a reasonable question and then following up very quickly with a clarification.

    O’Reilly and his Killing series of books have both come under repeated scrutiny for misrepresenting or lying about the history he sets out to examine. O’Reilly himself has been widely criticized for lying about his experiences during multiple historical events, including the Falklands War, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, terrorist bombings in Northern Ireland, and the execution of four Americans in El Salvador.

  • George Will Continues His Attacks On Bill O'Reilly And Killing Reagan

    Will: O'Reilly Is An "Opportunistic Interloper" Who Is "Doubling Down On His Wager That The Truth Cannot Catch Up With Him" On Killing Reagan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will is increasing his criticism of his Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly and his newest book Killing Reagan, detailing the major problems with O'Reilly's claims after the Fox host denounced Will as a hack.

    Will first penned his criticism of O'Reilly's book in a November 5 column in The Washington Post, where he wrote that Killing Reagan will "distort the public's understanding of Reagan's presidency" and questioned the sourcing and authenticity of claims made by O'Reilly, concluding that it was "nonsensical history and execrable citizenship."

    O'Reilly responded on his show that night by calling Will's piece "libel" and challenging him to appear on the show and debate the book. On November 6, the pair sparred on The O'Reilly Factor and O'Reilly called Will a hack and accused Will of "actively misleading the American people."

    On November 10, Will followed up his criticism of O'Reilly's book in a column titled, "Bill O'Reilly makes a mess of history." In the column, Will railed against the premise of O'Reilly's book and described O'Reilly as an interloper, writing:

    Were the lungs the seat of wisdom, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly would be wise, but they are not and he is not. So it is not astonishing that he is doubling down on his wager that the truth cannot catch up with him. It has, however, already done so.

    [...]

    O'Reilly "reports" that the trauma of the assassination attempt was somehow causally related to the "fact" that Reagan was frequently so mentally incompetent that senior aides contemplated using the Constitution's 25th Amendment to remove him from office. But neither O'Reilly nor [co-author Martin] Dugard spoke with any of those aides -- not with Ed Meese, Jim Baker, George Shultz or any of the scores of others who could, and would, have demolished O'Reilly's theory. O'Reilly now airily dismisses them because they "have skin in the game." His is an interesting approach to writing history: Never talk to anyone with firsthand knowledge of your subject.

    [...]

    O'Reilly impales himself on a contradiction: He says his book is "laudatory" about Reagan -- and that it is being attacked by Reagan "guardians" and "loyalists." How odd. Liberals, who have long recognized that to discredit conservatism they must devalue Reagan's presidency, surely are delighted with O'Reilly's assistance. The diaspora of Reagan administration alumni, and the conservative movement, now recognize O'Reilly as an opportunistic interloper