O'Reilly ambushed by his health care lie -- Now what about that Fox News “zero tolerance” policy?

By now you've likely heard the story. Appearing at a recent town hall meeting, Sen. Tom Coburn responded to a woman who had suggested that under President Obama's health care reform she could be put in jail for not having health insurance, the Okalhoma Republican saying, “the intention is not to put any one in jail. That makes for good TV news on FOX but that isn't the intention.”

For a while Fox News was largely silent on Coburn's criticism - we'd expected at least some sort of snarky response.

Then came Bill O'Reilly... and the lies.

On April 13, during an interview with Coburn, O'Reilly repeatedly insisted that “nobody” on Fox News advanced the “jail” assertion. He even laughably said, “we researched” and "[n]obody" on Fox “ever said you are going to jail if you don't buy health insurance.” But as Media Matters went on to demonstrate in meticulous detail, Fox has relentlessly pushed the “jail” falsehood sometimes even on O'Reilly's own show.

Later in the week after being confronted with the truth, O'Reilly dug in deeper claiming nobody at Fox had pushed the jail-time falsehood about the “final bill.” Talk about spin... there was no jail-time provision in the final bill or the previous House and Senate versions.

Now that we've established that Bill O'Reilly is so easily ambushed by the truth, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this past November when FishbowlDC posted an internal Fox News memo acknowledging “a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months” and pledging to “quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having [sic] to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again.” The memo added that "[m]istakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action" and “jobs are on the line here.”

The memo in question was written by Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente. Of course, Fox has made many, many -- truly many -- “mistakes” since November and still seems to be operating with a sense of impunity but the O'Reilly situation stands out for a few reasons.

First, O'Reilly essentially accused a U.S. Senator of making things up when in fact it was O'Reilly himself that was wrong. Second, O'Reilly has been directly contradicted by one of his colleagues, Neil Cavuto. And third, rather than correcting the public record with an apology to Coburn and moving on, O'Reilly has dug in even deeper with more lies on the subject.

I realize Clemente's memo was likely intended to speak more to production staff but aren't the lies spouted by Fox News hosts just as damaging as misleading on-air graphics and video?

What I wouldn't give to ask Clemente about his plans for dealing with O'Reilly's “mistakes?” After all, O'Reilly certainly qualifies as a “member of the show team” and his “mistakes” did “end up on air” so it only makes sense that he would face “immediate disciplinary action” perhaps placing his job “on the line” as well.

We can dream, can't we?