O'Reilly on anti-Kerry Swift Boat Vets: “I've never seen them on ... cable news”

FOX News Channel host and radio host Bill O'Reilly claimed that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (a recently formed group dedicated to attacking Senator John Kerry's record during and after his service in Vietnam) has not been “featured in a national way.” Yet in recent months, four cable news networks, two broadcast networks, and numerous national print outlets have reported extensively on the group and its leader, John O'Neill. Arguing that the anti-Kerry group is “off the radar,” O'Reilly declared, “I've never seen them on any of the cable news networks -- that speaks for itself.”

Media Matters for America has documented (on May 4, May 5, June 2, and July 29) the group's record of vicious and dishonest attacks on Kerry in print and cable news.

Following a diatribe against “the character assassins, which have been hired by the Democratic party, George Soros, MoveOn.org” -- in which he criticized such groups for unfairly attacking President George W. Bush and accused them of being “tied in with the hierarchy of the DNC [Democratic National Committee]” -- O'Reilly dismissed a caller who asked why O'Reilly was not equally critical of anti-Kerry groups like Swift Boat Veterans.

From the August 2 broadcast of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: I just think that you need to kind of bring a little bit more information on the table about when you were mentioning the 527s [e.g. MoveOn.org] and how that gives the Democrats a little more of an advantage to play dirty pool or whatever. I mean, you can look at groups like, you know, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and trace that back to its source and you find the same kind of connections that on the other side.

O'REILLY: I don't even know -- number one, I don't even know what that is. Number two, who's funding Swift Boats Veterans for Truth, do you know?

CALLER: Yes, I do. Actually that -- it's a whole association that is headed up by an attorney [John O'Neill] whose firm has very close ties to Bush. And in fact, he [O'Neill] never even served with Kerry.

But I am not debating whether what they say is true or not, I'm just saying that -- in -- to be fair, you really need to mention there are a lot of groups on the other side--

O'REILLY: But you see, I never heard of that group.

CALLER: --that have very deep pockets--

O'REILLY: I don't know who that group is.

CALLER: Well, it's a very [inaudible]--

O'REILLY: That's how off the radar they are.

CALLER: It's not off the radar. There's been a lot of press about them. In fact, they just came out with a book.

O'REILLY: Well, wai -- wai -- wai - wait -- wait. Let me ask you, where -- where has -- where have you seen this group featured in a national way? Where?

CALLER: They were just mentioned in the newspaper last week, because one of the people who supposedly served with Kerry ... that it was found that he did not, wrote a book about these Swift Boat Veterans that supposedly--


O'REILLY: All right, let's see if we can find out whether this group is. But -- but the fact that I don't know about them, [caller's name], that I never heard of them. That they were never pitched to The Factor in any way, shape, or form. I've never seen them on any of the cable news networks -- that speaks for itself.

There are loon groups all over the place. And if there's a Demo -- a Republican contributor funneling money into the loon groups, yeah, I'm not going to say that doesn't happen. But their impact is nothing.

But these groups that I mentioned are huge. Huge. And big money is -- is changing hands. And that's the difference.

O'Reilly's news “radar” apparently doesn't extend much beyond his own show. A Media Matters for America search reveals that O'Neill and his group have appeared on, been quoted by, or covered by CNN, MSNBC, FOX News Channel, or CNBC at least 22 times since April. O'Neill was even a guest on Hannity & Colmes -- the nightly primetime show that directly follows The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel-- on May 24 and May 28. FOX's flagship political news program, Special Report with Brit Hume, also covered O'Neill in stories on those days. Other cable news shows that covered O'Neill and his group include: CNN's Inside Politics and Wolf Blitzer Reports; MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and Scarborough Country; and FOX's The Big Story with John Gibson.

On the networks, O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans have been covered or quoted on CBS Evening News, ABC's Nightline, and ABC's Good Morning America.

As for the print media, The New York Times cited O'Neill in a July 30 article about a bogus controversy surrounding home-video footage of Kerry in Vietnam that was played at the convention. On May 4, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (subscription required) by O'Neill blasting Kerry. Since May, O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans have been covered in numerous other print publications, including U.S. News & World Report, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, and The Dallas Morning News.