VoteVets, a leading progressive veterans advocacy group, is calling on Fox News to take Bill O'Reilly off the air following revelations from Mother Jones that the Fox News host may have repeatedly misrepresented his experiences reporting on the 1982 Falklands War.
"NBC acted completely appropriately in taking Brian Williams off the air and looking into claims he's made over the years. Fox News has to do the same thing," Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org, a 400,000-member organization that advocates for vets and military families, said in a statement. “The issue, for me, isn't that Fox has been caught off guard, and didn't realize O'Reilly was telling possibly false tales. That I can accept. It's what do they do about it now? That will tell us a lot about how seriously they take their news organization.”
So far, the response from O'Reilly and Fox does not suggest that they take the apparent infraction seriously. Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz published a piece featuring O'Reilly saying Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn is “a liar, a smear merchant, and will do anything he can to injure me and the network. Everybody knows that. Everything I've reported about my journalistic career is true.”
On Thursday, Mother Jones reported that O'Reilly “repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between England and Argentina. He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it, 'I've been there. That's really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I've seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven't.'”
The magazine went on to note that American journalists were not allowed near combat in that conflict, even citing a CBS News producer who worked on the coverage. The findings follow O'Reilly's criticism of NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was recently suspended for misleading viewers about his own combat experience.
“Men and women have fought, died, been wounded, and scarred by war. There are many journalists who actually were in the crossfire, who died, trying to bring the story to the American people,” Soltz added. “What Bill O'Reilly has done is steal their valor, and it is wrong.”
Soltz, a combat veteran of the Iraq War, said O'Reilly's misleading efforts are also an insult to veteran war correspondents.
“It makes it seem like anyone can head on over to a war zone,” he said via email. “But honestly it is more insulting to the war reporters who never bragged about their war experience, but just kept their head down and did their job. Some of them died doing that job. In my mind, those reporters were heroes.”