Another person has joined the long list of journalists calling bunk on Bill O'Reilly's claim that he personally “heard” the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The O'Reilly Factor host claimed on Fox News and in his books that he was outside the residence of Lee Harvey Oswald friend George de Mohrenschildt when he killed himself in Florida in 1977. The claim is one of several recently exposed tall tales the top-rated Fox News host has told about his reporting career.
Edward Jay Epstein, an investigative reporter and author who taught at MIT and UCLA, wrote a March 9 Newsweek piece calling O'Reilly's JFK claim “impossible,” adding: “How do I know? I was the actual -- and only -- reporter interviewing de Mohrenschildt on the last day of his life in 1977.” He added that he spoke with investigators and de Mohrenschildt's family members, and “From what I learned about the case, O'Reilly's story does not fit the facts.”
Hugh Aynesworth, a former bureau chief for Newsweek and the Washington Times who covered the de Mohrenschildt story, previously said “I didn't see him [O'Reilly] there. I was at the police department or that house for hours, and he just was not there.” Media Matters has documented that O'Reilly's television colleagues at the time have also cast doubt that he heard the gunshot. And audio obtained by CNN and former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley indicates O'Reilly wasn't there, as he told a congressional investigator he's “coming to Florida” in the wake of de Mohrenschildt's suicide.
Fox News and O'Reilly have declined to directly address O'Reilly's JFK discrepancies. Epstein wrote: “Neither Fox News nor Bill O'Reilly responded to Newsweek's requests for comment.”
Epstein pointed to a police report noting that “no one inside or outside the house heard the shot (which was fired in the second-floor hallway outside Nancy Tilton's bedroom).”
Indeed, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report about de Mohrenschildt's suicide strongly refutes the notion that O'Reilly could have been at the residence at the time of the suicide. Here are three key points from the document, which was posted online by Marquette University Professor John McAdams:
1) The Police Report Makes No Mention Of O'Reilly. Nowhere in the report is Bill O'Reilly's alleged presence mentioned. If O'Reilly had been on the scene of the suicide when it happened, this would be a puzzling omission. As Epstein notes in his piece, “It would stretch credibility to believe that a reporter as earnest as O'Reilly would flee the crime scene without reporting what he had witnessed to anyone for 35 years.”
2) The Police Report Explicitly Mentions Several People Who Didn't Hear Gunshots But Were Near The Scene. O'Reilly claims he was at the door of the residence and heard the gunshot. But the report states that people around and inside the house didn't hear the gunshot: “The shot went unheard by [maid] Mrs. Viisola, who was working in the kitchen below, as well as by [cook] Miss Romanic, who was sunning herself in the back yard; and by the gardener, Coley Wimbley, who also was at the rear of the house in the garden.”
3) The Police Report States The Residence's Maid, Cook, And Gardener Didn't See Any Strangers In Or Around The Residence. If Bill O'Reilly was at the house, no one saw him.
The report states of the house maid: “Mrs. Viisola did not see or hear anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. She did not see any strangers in or around the residence and did not have reason to suspect that someone had entered the house without her knowing it.”
The report states of the cook: “Miss Romanic did not observe any strangers in the area during this time, and she did not have reason to believe that there was any suspicious or unusual activity in the house.”
The report states of the house's live-in maintenance man: “He was asked if he had seen any strangers around the house prior to the incident, and he replied that he had been working all around the exterior of the residence on that day, and he did not see anyone approach the house.”