Bill O'Reilly's “Combat Situation” Reporting, In His Own Words

O'Reilly On The Falklands War: “I've Seen Combat Up Close And Personal”

Bill O'Reilly claims he never said he was in the Falkland Islands while reporting on the Falklands War from Buenos Aires. But over the years, O'Reilly has repeatedly created the impression he was in a combat zone.

O'Reilly Denies Ever Saying He Was In The Falkland Islands During The Falkland War

Mother Jones: Bill O'Reilly “Said He Was In A 'War Zone' That Apparently No American Correspondent Reached.”  On February 19, Mother Jones' David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported that Fox host Bill O'Reilly “has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experience combat and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina,”  despite the fact that  “American reporters were not on the ground in this distant war zone,” during the Falklands war. [Mother Jones2/19/15]

O'Reilly Responded To Mother Jones With Denial: No Way “Anyone On Earth Could Say I Said I Was On The Falkland Islands.”  In an interview with Fox News' Howard Kurtz, O'Reilly denounced Mother Jones' report saying “Nobody was on the Falklands and I never said I was on the island, ever.”  [FoxNews.com, 2/20/15]

O'Reilly: “I Did Not Say I Was In The Falkland Islands.”  In a February 19 interview with Politico's Dylan Byers, O'Reilly responded to Mother Jones' report calling it “a piece of garbage,” and claimed “I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was. I was in Buenos Aires ... In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.” [Politico2/19/15]

O'Reilly Repeatedly Embellished His Reporting Career To Create The Impression He Reported From A Combat Zone In The Falklands War

O'Reilly: “I Was In A Combat Situation In Argentina ... You Veterans Out There ... You Know Exactly What I'm Talking About Here.”  On the August 9, 2004 edition of his radio show, Westwood One's The Radio Factor, O'Reilly claimed that, “I was in a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War” and went on to liken his experience to that of veterans saying, “you veterans out there listening right now, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. Adrenaline surges, your senses become very attune, much sharper than they are ordinarily, and you are locked in, focused in, on your survival and achieving the means of staying alive” :

KEVIN (CALLER):  Hey, yeah, I have to say real quick, I've been -- I've listened to interviews from the guy that was saved and from some of the other Swift Boat, the guys in these new groups that have come on talking about it. 

And if you listen to interviews with the guy, he's not smearing the guy who got the, you know, who fell in the water, but he gave a rational, cognizant explanation what happened that day, and these boats are always in pairs and packs --

O'REILLY:  Right.

KEVIN:  -- so they're always trying to say well, no -- well, you weren't on Kerry's you -- you -- his Swift boat.  You didn't have to be.  You were 20 feet away on another one.

O'REILLY:  All right, let me challenge that, Kevin, from --

KEVIN:  Uh-huh.

O'REILLY:  -- from personal experience.

KEVIN:  Sure.

O'REILLY:  I -- I was in a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War, OK?

KEVIN:  Mm-hmm.

O'REILLY:  And I can tell you when the Kool-Aid hits the fan, OK, nobody is locking in on anybody else.  Nobody.

KEVIN:  And you're right.

O'REILLY:  OK, ad --

KEVIN:  I know (inaudible; overlapping dialogue)

O'REILLY:  -- adrenaline -- adrenaline surges and you veterans out there listening right now, you know exactly what I'm talking about here.  Adrenaline surges, your senses become very attune, much sharper than they are ordinarily, and you are locked in, focused in, on your survival and achieving the means of staying alive.

You're not watching what happens in the boat next to year.  You're not watching any of that.  OK?  You are -- you are zeroed in on your situation.

And that's why I am believing the guys that are sitting next to this Kerry, because the guys away from him, yeah, maybe somebody looked over, and yeah, but what probably happened was after the fact people talked.  And that's what always happens.  And then perceptions are shaped. But they're always ab -- they're never primary source perceptions.

Now, again, I don't have anything against these Swift Boats guys.  They -- I'm sure they believe what they're saying.  But I'm going to go with the guy in the water.  I got to go with him. [Westwood One, The Radio Factor, 8/9/04, transcript via Escriptionist.com/Media Matters internal archives]

O'Reilly: “I Respect Myself For” Going Into Combat. On the August 25, 2004 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly described going into combat as checking “the box,” saying “you got to respect” people who “check the box” by going into combat. O'Reilly said of himself, “Now, I, your humble correspondent, did check the box.  Not in Vietnam, but in El Salvador, in Falklands War, and in Northern Ireland.  I checked that box.  And I respect myself for checking the box” :

O'REILLY:  You know, sometimes you have to boil it down to just that.  He checked the box.  Will you go into combat?  He checked the box.  You got to -- you got to respect that. I don't care who it is.

Even if it were one of the smear merchants, even if it were Michael Moore. If Michael Moore had checked the box -- yes, I will go into combat -- I would respect that. But, of course, Michael Moore did not check the box.

Now, I, your humble correspondent, did check the box. Not in Vietnam, but in El Salvador, in Falklands War, and in Northern Ireland.  I checked that box.  And I respect myself for checking the box. [Westwood One, The Radio Factor, 8/25/04, transcript via Escriptionist.com/Media Matters internal archives]

O'Reilly Suggests He Was “In A War Zone” In “Argentina During The Falklands War.”  On the November 17, 2004 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly used his experience to speak as an authority on “combat situation[s].” O'Reilly argued that “When you're in a combat situation you're wired, which means that you're not in a normal state. Your adrenaline is flowing, your senses are acute.”  He went on to say in his experience “in a combat situation,” he “had to make a split decision in Argentina during the Falklands War,” and “had to make a split decision on what to do when a guy had an M-16 pointed at my head from 10 yards away.”

O'REILLY: And let me just tell you how this went down 'cause I've been in a combat situation.  When you're in a combat situation you're wired, which means that you're not in a normal state. Your adrenaline is flowing, your senses are acute--you are, and this is everybody.  If you've ever been in a life/death situation, and I've been in one 3 or 4 times, where I almost got killed. So, your whole body and your whole disposition changes.  Because your senses are so heightened.  This guy's the point man.  He walks into a small room in a mosque where there are a buncha people on the ground.  Okay?  He doesn't know who those people are or what state they're in.  The day before, one of his guys in his squad gets killed because he tries to remove a body that's bobby-trapped. 

So, the guy's in there, he's the point guy.  He walks in the room and he sees sudden movement from this guy on the ground and he yells out to warn his other guys.  And, then he shoots the guy--because he's not going to wait to see if the guy's got a grenade--which he absolutely could have.  Or, a pistol or whatever the guy--a bomb.  He's not going to wait, nobody would wait.  You don't wait.

This guy is in a war zone.  He's illegal, he's in a mosque--shouldn't have been there in the first place.  He's trying to kill you.  Bang, he's dead.  That's what happened.  So, you're not--it's not like you're walking down the street in a rational state of mind and you're making decisions based upon data.  It doesn't happen in a war zone.  I had to make a split decision in Argentina during the Falklands War.  I had to make a split decision on what to do when a guy had an M-16 pointed at my head from 10 yards away.

And, I had a second to make my decision.  Do I run away, do I fall to the ground or do I talk to the guy? [Westwood One, The Radio Factor, 11/17/04, transcript via Escriptionist.com/Media Matters internal archives]

O'Reilly: My Experience Reporting “Got A Little Hairy In The Falklands.”  On the January 30, 2006 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly emphasized the “danger” he experienced reporting in the Falklands:

O'REILLY: But again, look, I mean all of us who are reporters -- and I was a reporter for 24 years, even, you know -- and I was in El Salvador, and in the Falkland War in Argentina, and in Northern Ireland, and in the Middle East.  And I did some pretty risky things. I was single and nobody cared, but you know -- a couple of girlfriends would have been - 'oh, no more free dinners from Bill.' 

But I did. I put myself, you know, in positions that perhaps I should not have, but I got good stories.  And that's what people do.  That's what journalists do. But I volunteered.  Nobody sent me.  Nobody forced me.  I went it.  And that's what these guys did.  And these guys were in much more danger than I was ever in, although it got a little hairy in the Falklands, that's for sure. [Westwood One, The Radio Factor1/30/06]

O'Reilly: “I Almost Got My Head Blown Off” In Argentina. On the April 2, 2007 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly described his experience reporting in Argentina saying, “I was down in Argentina. I almost got my head blown off down there when the Argentines surrendered. So I know it well. The 25th anniversary.” [Westwood One, The Radio Factor, 4/2/07]

O'Reilly: “I've Seen The Combat Up Close And Personal. I Didn't Have A Gun, I Had A Pen.”  On the August 12, 2008 edition of his radio show, O'Reilly asserted that he has authority to comment on “Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan” because “I've seen the combat up close and personal” in the Falklands War:

O'REILLY: I hear all the time, OK, O'Reilly, you never were in the military so you can't comment on Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan. And I mean, that's insane. And then, of course, my comeback is gee, I missed you in El Salvador. Maybe you were there in Morizan when I was there but I didn't see you. And then in the Falklands War, I just didn't see you in Buenos Aires or Montevideo. I was there, but I didn't see you. So then I can knock that down, because I've seen the combat up close and personal. I didn't have a gun, I had a pen. Now, I'm not bragging about that. But I'm setting the record straight that experience is what tells the tale in journalism and it tells the tale in politics as well.  That there is a record and I didn't serve in the military, but if I want to challenge a war hero on anything I'm going to darn well challenge him, as long as it's policy. [Westwood One, The Radio Factor8/12/08]

O'Reilly: “I Covered The Falklands War ... You're Out In The Middle Of Nowhere, Believe Me.”  On the November 20, 2012 edition of his Fox News program, O'Reilly responded to a viewer email saying,  “Well, since I covered the Falklands War, Father, I've got a little soft spot. You're out in the middle of nowhere, believe me.”  [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/20/12, via Nexis]

Mother Jones Reported O'Reilly Saying “I Missed Moyers In The War Zones Of Falklands.”  On the March 19, 2008 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly used his experience to criticize Bill Moyers, saying, “I missed Moyers in the war zones of Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but I didn't see him.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor3/19/08

Mother Jones Reported O'Reilly Saying I Was “In A War Zone, In Argentina, In The Falklands.”  On the April 17, 2013 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed he was “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands,”  and described saving his photographer's life:

O'REILLY: Because I was in a situation, one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I'm looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor4/17/13