O'Reilly deceptively claimed he “never said anything like” biological-weapon comment

On the October 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly read a viewer's email expressing concern that O'Reilly had compared illegal immigrants to “biological weapons.” O'Reilly denied the charge, claiming, “I never said anything like that,” and further condemned “dishonest media and smear merchants,” chastising them for “doing tremendous damage to this country.” This denial, however, is deceptive: While O'Reilly did not say those specific words, he agreed with a caller to his radio show who did make that comparison, and he expanded on the caller's statement.

On April 15, a caller to O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, claimed that each undocumented immigrant crossing the border "is a biological weapon." O“Reilly agreed, further stating, ”I think you could probably make an absolutely airtight case that more than 3,000 Americans have been either killed or injured, based upon the 11 million illegals who are here."

In an October 15 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Macarena Hernandez wrote critically of the anti-immigration rhetoric heard on such shows as O'Reilly's. Hernandez specifically mentioned the April 15 exchange between O'Reilly and the caller.

O'Reilly fiercely responded to Hernandez's accusations during the October 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, calling her column “a matter of deceit.” But as Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly selectively quoted from Hernandez's article, omitting her reference to his caller's “biological weapon” claim, with which O'Reilly agreed. Although O'Reilly has continued to blast The Dallas Morning News and Hernandez in recent days, his response to this email on the October 20 edition of his television show marks the first time that he has mentioned the “biological weapon” accusation. Then, confronting this charge for the first time, O'Reilly claimed he “never said anything like that.” He characterized the viewer's concern as the product of “dishonest media and smear merchants.”

From the October 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Cheryl Anderson, Dallas, “Bill, my fiancé is Hispanic. And what you said is of great concern to me. Do you really believe my fiancé is a 'biological weapon'?” Now, Cheryl's letter points out the seriousness of a foolish column in a major newspaper. I never said anything like that. But because an irresponsible Dallas Morning News writer printed all kinds of falsehoods, Cheryl thinks I did. Again, we've got to start holding dishonest media and smear merchants responsible. They are doing tremendous damage to this country.