Fox News' Media Criticism Show Whitewashes Network's Bill O'Reilly Controversy
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz failed to substantively discuss new allegations that Fox's Bill O'Reilly fabricated several details of his reporting career while offering no criticism of the embattled host.
Since the last edition of Fox's weekly media criticism program, MediaBuzz on February 22, O'Reilly has faced cascading allegations that he lied about hearing the suicide of a figure connected to John F. Kennedy's assassination, that he had falsely claimed to have witnessed the execution of nuns in El Salvador, and that he greatly exaggerated a story about being "attacked by protesters" during the L.A. riots.
But during the March 1 edition of MediaBuzz, host Kurtz failed to specifically mention any of these new allegations against O'Reilly and instead vaguely referenced "questions raised by Mother Jones and others about whether he has embellished some of his reporting," describing the allegations as a "flap." The only analysis offered by Kurtz was to read from a portion of an official Fox News statement, saying, "Fox News said in a statement that Bill O'Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him" before adding that "a couple media sites have noted his ratings have actually gone up in this past week, even when not talking about this controversy." He later agreed that not everybody has as large of a platform to defend themselves as O'Reilly does, but offered no criticism of his Fox News colleague:
Kurtz' guest, media reporter Marisa Guthrie of The Hollywood Reporter, defended O'Reilly's handling of the mounting controversy, arguing that O'Reilly is "legitimately rebutting" his critics' allegations on his Fox News show. Guthrie argued that O'Reilly should not be held to a similar standard as suspended NBC reporter Brian Williams. During the controversy surrounding false claims made by Williams about his experiences in Iraq, Kurtz previously wrote, prior to William's suspension, that "NBC has to show that it has taken some action that reflects the seriousness of the situation and not just letting its star player call fouls on himself."
The whitewash of new allegations against O'Reilly follows a February 22 appearance on MediaBuzz where O'Reilly was given a platform to attack his critics after Mother Jones reported that O'Reilly falsely claimed to have been in a "combat situation" while reporting on the 1982 Falklands War.
A full transcript of Fox News' March 1 MediaBuzz segment on O'Reilly:
KURTZ: Let me ask you about the Bill O'Reilly controversy. We spent a lot of time on this last week when O'Reilly called in for a couple segments. Questions raised by Mother Jones and others about whether he has embellished some of his reporting. What's your take on how the flap, the furor, has played out in the week since then?
GUTHRIE: Well, I think, you know, there has been a real temptation obviously to compare this to the Brian Williams situation. There is, I think, a much different threshold for a news anchor and an opinion host. And where there is some question about the facts in -- or the interpretation of the facts in Bill O'Reilly's case, you know, Brian Williams and the network have come out and said, you know, he was wrong, what he did was wrong. They suspended him for six months without pay and launched an investigation. So I think, you know, there is a different bar there and Bill has furiously debated his critics, invited them all on his show. And I think, you know, he's doing what he does best. He's doing battle. He's being -- he's lobbing grenades and being the rhetorical pugilist and so his audience loves to see that.
KURTZ: OK. Well, Fox News said in a statement that Bill O'Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This nothing more, says Fox, than an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters and that responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. But at the same time a couple media sites have noted his ratings have actually gone up in this past week, even when not talking about this controversy, up 22 percent in total viewers and 45 percent in that 25 to 54 demo[graphic]. What do you make of that?
GUTHRIE: Well, I mean look, you know, Bill is at his best when he has an enemy to battle against, to fight. And I think that he's, you know, legitimately rebutting these accusations and his audience, I think they are is on his side and they want to see him do that. And it's actually really good TV and, you know, look, if he feels that he's been maligned, he's got an enormous megaphone, a big platform where he can go on --
GUTHRIE: -- and legitimately rebut all those charges. So, you know, I think --
KURTZ: He's made that point. Not everybody has access to that kind of platform.