Media Matters for America is proud to present Killing Truth, senior fellow Eric Boehlert's eBook chronicling the many fabrications Bill O'Reilly has told about his life and reporting background.
Over the past six weeks, the Fox News host has been consumed by a media firestorm as reporters and advocates revealed that a variety of stories O'Reilly has told about his journalistic exploits during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, were inflated or false. Those tall tales include:
- O'Reilly claimed he reported from a war zone in the Falklands; the closest he got to that conflict was Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, a thousand miles away.
- O'Reilly claimed he witnessed civilians get killed during a protest in Buenos Aires; other reporters and a historian say no such deaths occurred.
- O'Reilly claimed he was on the doorstep of a figure connected to President Kennedy's assassination when that man committed suicide; this is debunked by significant evidence, including O'Reilly's own taped statement from the time.
- O'Reilly claimed he saw nuns get shot in the head in El Salvador; he later acknowledged he had only seen photos of the deceased.
- O'Reilly has told two different stories about his El Salvador reporting trip; in one he says he witnessed a firefight, but in the other he makes no mention of the dramatic events.
- O'Reilly claimed to have seen terror attacks in Northern Ireland; he later admitted he had only seen photos of those events.
- O'Reilly claimed to have been attacked by protestors while reporting for Inside Edition during the 1992 Los Angeles riots; this was subsequently disputed by six of his former colleagues.
Killing Truth makes the case that O'Reilly has stretched the truth again and again in order to build his reputation as a hardened reporter who doesn't just talk about violent conflicts but has risked his own life to witness them.
The eBook, available here, is timed to coincide with the release of O'Reilly's newest book, Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Real West, the companion to a forthcoming Fox News miniseries on the Old West. The series reportedly promises to “separate the legend from the lie.”
Here's an excerpt from Killing Truth:
As the face of Fox News, the most powerful cable news channel in the country, as well as a best-selling author, the controversy brought into focus O'Reilly's unique brand of pathology. He appears to be a man focused on reinventing a version of himself that's more compelling than the real thing. O'Reilly has insisted that while he might be a "champion bloviator" who sits behind a desk for a living, he earned that right to pontificate because he put in all the hard work as a fearless reporter who rushed into danger in the name of breaking news. “I bloviate about stuff I've seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven't,” he once bragged.
Partisan misinformation is one thing. It's the Fox News hallmark after all, and O'Reilly has trafficked in that, enthusiastically, for decades. But there's something even more troubling about a broadcaster who not only makes up facts in pursuit of winning a political debate, but who makes up facts about his own life in order to portray himself as tougher, more accomplished, and more credible than he really is.
For a man who once bragged that he was the second most powerful man in America (behind only the President of the United States), O'Reilly seems desperately concerned with puffing up his resume by reimagining his past. Recall that O'Reilly wasn't always just a partisan player regurgitating Republican talking points for a living. He had a taste of the network news life, with stints at both CBS News and ABC News back in the 1980s. (He once had dreams of replacing Peter Jennings as ABC's nightly news anchor.) But they didn't work out. He was never more than a minor player at both networks, and to this day he seems unable to contain the lingering resentment.
Does that explain O'Reilly's need to rewrite his reporting past? It's possible. The lies of O'Reilly also seem closely connected with the persona of class resentment he's fed off for decades. With a professional chip on his shoulder about the inside elites who have tried to keep him down, and who are now supposedly offended by his professional success, the need to improve O'Reilly's past becomes paramount to that narrative.