An Argentine historian has discredited Bill O'Reilly's claim that the riot he covered in 1982 as a CBS News correspondent was a combat situation, where “many were killed.” In fact, according to the historian -- an expert on the Falklands war -- “there were no people killed at the protests.”
As Mother Jones and many of his CBS News colleagues have casted doubt on his claims, O'Reilly has continued to defend his accounts of covering the Falklands War as a reporter for CBS News, which repeatedly created the impression he was in a combat zone.
In his book The No Spin Zone, O'Reilly claimed the 1982 Buenos Aires protest he covered was “a major riot” where “many were killed.” In a September 27, 2008, interview on CNN's The Kalb Report, O'Reilly described the protest, saying, “the Argentine troops shoot the people down in the street. They shoot them down. It's not like rubber bullets or gas, people are dying ... it's unbelievable, I mean, people just falling, like bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.” And on the March 25, 2008, edition of his show The Radio Factor, he said:
O'REILLY: When I got shot at I was covering the Falklands war and I was based in Argentina in Buenos Aires [...] And when the Argentines surrendered to the British there was a huge riot in Buenos Aires. I was in the middle of that riot when Argentine soldiers came out of the barracks and got into the streets and actually shot people dead in the street, because people were rioting. And it wasn't like warning shots or rubber bullets or teargas. They were shooting people dead.
But an Argentine historian told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple that “there were no people killed at the protests”:
Seeking to explain the discrepancy, O'Reilly yesterday told the Erik Wemple Blog through a spokeswoman, “Fatalities were reported locally, the military government refused to provide any information on injuries, arrests etc. I saw folks hit the ground and stay there but no one could get info from the [Leopoldo] Galtieri crew.”
As the Erik Wemple Blog pokes around in the archives of Argentine newspapers, we reached out to a historian for perspective. Federico G. Lorenz, an author who has written extensively on the Falklands/Malvinas war, tells the Erik Wemple Blog via correo electrónico:
“As far as I know, there were no people killed at the protests after the news of the Argentine surrendering arrived to [Buenos Aires]. There were incidents at May Square...and people slightly injured due to gasses and anti riot munition, but not dead people. Press from June 15, 1982, reports about 5 buses burnt 'many detainees and injured people'. One of the photographs shows precisely a wounded lying surrounded by people.”
UPDATE: On the February 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly repeated his claim that there were fatalities at the Buenos Aires protest he covered:
O'REILLY: It was extremely violent from the street where I was. And we couldn't get casualty numbers because, as you know, it was a military dictatorship and they don't give that to you. But I saw people hit the ground hard, I saw them hauled off, put into ambulances and police vehicles. And the local reportage was that there were fatalities. We have not been able to say how many. All right? But I believe there were. And in The New York Times article, ... [Meislin], he did a pretty good job. You know, everybody was trying to get the numbers, but the numbers were impossible to get. But there is no doubt that this was an extremely violent and volatile situation where reporters were in danger, or am I wrong?