O'Reilly defended old lies exposed by Jack Mathews and MMFA, told new ones

On July 6, eight days after FOX News Channel host and radio host Bill O'Reilly dismissed Media Matters for America's proof of his propensity for false statements as “a bunch of baloney,” O'Reilly wrote a letter to the New York Daily News in response to a June 28 column by the paper's movie critic Jack Mathews, in which Mathews contended that O'Reilly is an “ideological thug who play[s] loose with the facts.”

After he derided Media Matters for America as a “far-left bomb-thrower website” and accused Mathews of having “misled Daily News readers,” O'Reilly defended his lies -- previously documented by Media Matters for America on April 28, May 6, and June 3 -- though in one case he quietly substituted a more modest claim in place of his original assertion.

From O'Reilly's July 6 letter to the New York Daily News:

First, Mathews writes that an “O'Reilly Factor” -led boycott of France did no economic damage to that country. According to U.S. government figures, in the months following the boycott call, France did $138 million less business with the U.S.A. than it did the previous year.

While O'Reilly appears to be defending his April 27 claim that "[T]hey've lost billions of dollars in France according to 'The Paris Business Review,'" he is actually replacing it with a much weaker claim. Media Matters for America and Mathews questioned the existence of 'The Paris Business Review'; O'Reilly did not answer that charge. Instead, he cited unnamed “U.S. government figures” in support of a much more modest dollar amount of $138 million -- a far cry from the original “billions.”

That figure is also incorrect. Although O'Reilly does not specify what “U.S. government figures” he is citing and which particular “months following the boycott call” he is referring to, it hardly matters. The U.S. Census Bureau's foreign trade statistics belie O'Reilly's new claim as thoroughly as they did his original one. O'Reilly called for his boycott sometime following March 17, 2003. While it is true that imports from France declined slightly in March 2003 and April 2003 -- $288 million, or about 6 percent -- compared with the same two months in 2002, it is meaningless to draw conclusions from only two months of data. An even larger two-month year-on-year decline occurred, for example, in January 2002 and February 2002, when imports declined by $401 million, or 8 percent, compared with the same two months in 2001. But O'Reilly was not calling for a boycott at that time.

Data for a longer time span makes it clear that O'Reilly's call for a boycott had no measurable effect. Though imports for March 2003 and April 2003 declined by $288 million, imports for May 2003 and June 2003 were large enough to erase that year-on-year deficit. From March 2003 through June 2003 -- the first four months after O'Reilly's call for a boycott -- total U.S. imports from France outpaced the same four months in 2002 by $55 million; by the end of 2003, U.S. imports for March through December totaled $24.6 billion compared with $23.8 billion for the same months in 2002. Moreover, O'Reilly considers his boycott is ongoing -- he began selling “Boycott France” bumper stickers on his website on June 9 and reported on June 24 that they were “flying out of here.” But imports from France during the first four months of 2004 (April is the most recent month for which data is available) have increased by $553 million over the same four months in 2003 and by $367 million over 2002.

O'Reilly's July 6 New York Daily News letter continued:

Second, Mathews says I “misstated” Al Gore's television project as “liberal stuff” ; I guess TIME magazine “misstated” as well.

O'Reilly claimed that, on May 4, Gore “announced that he is starting up a new cable channel exclusively devoted to liberal stuff.” As Media Matters for America noted then, contrary to O'Reilly's assertion, Gore explicitly denied that the channel would advance a liberal point of view. Also, TIME did not quote Gore saying anything about liberal programming. Rather, in a 400-word sketch of media mogul Rupert Murdoch in TIME's April 26 “Builders & Titans” special issue -- published before Gore and his partners had announced their acquisition of cable channel Newsworld International from Vivendi Universal SA -- freelance author and journalist John Heilemann wrote that he wondered “if Al Gore's liberal cable channel will ever get off the ground.” Heilemann evidently believed Gore was planning a liberal channel, though Gore had not announced such plans. In fact, on November 26, 2003, TIME media and TV critic James Poniewozik reported: “With deep-pocketed backers, Gore has looked into buying cable channel Newsworld International. Despite initial reports, Gore's camp says he and his backers intend to make the channel not a liberal mouthpiece but a 'hip' news channel for young viewers -- CNN meets MTV.”

O'Reilly also wrote in his July 6 letter:

Third, Mathews parrots that I misquoted George Soros' statement about his dying father. Transcripts prove I quoted accurately from a 1995 New Yorker article.

This is simply a lie. In our original item on June 3, Media Matters for America quoted directly from the transcript to demonstrate how O'Reilly had doctored the 1995 Soros quotation.