Yet for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.
O'Reilly has 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."
Here are instances when O'Reilly touted his time as a war correspondent during the Falklands conflict:
- In his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America, O'Reilly stated, "You know that I am not easily shocked. I've reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands."
- Conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, in a 2003 book, described how O'Reilly answered a question during a Washington panel discussion about media coverage of the Afghanistan war: "Rather than simply answer the question, O'Reilly began by trying to establish his own bona fides as a war correspondent. 'I've covered wars, okay? I've been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I've almost been killed three times, okay.'"
- In a 2004 column about US soldiers fighting in Iraq, O'Reilly noted, "Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash."
- In 2008, he took a shot at journalist Bill Moyers, saying, "I missed Moyers in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. I looked for Bill, but April 2013, while discussing the Boston Marathon bombing, O'Reilly shared a heroic tale of his exploits in the Falklands war:
I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I'm looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.I didn't see him"Yet his own account of his time in Argentina in his 2001 book, The No Spin Zone, contains no references to O'Reilly experiencing or covering any combat during the Falklands war. In the book, which in part chronicles his troubled stint as a CBS News reporter, O'Reilly reports that he arrived in Buenos Aires soon before the Argentine junta surrendered to the British, ending the 10-week war over control of two territories far off the coast of Argentina. There is nothing in this memoir indicating that O'Reilly witnessed the fighting between British and Argentine military forces—or that he got anywhere close to the Falkland Islands, which are 300 miles off Argentina's shore and about 1,200 miles south of Buenos Aires.
"Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands," says Bob Schieffer. "For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals."
American reporters were not on the ground in this distant war zone. "Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war," Susan Zirinsky, a longtime CBS News producer who helped manage the network's coverage of the war from Buenos Aires, tells Mother Jones. She does not remember what O'Reilly did during his time in Argentina. But she notes that the military junta kept US reporters from reaching the islands: "You weren't allowed on by the Argentinians. No CBS person got there."
That's how Bob Schieffer, who was CBS News' lead correspondent covering the Falklands war, recalls it: "Nobody from CBS got to the Falklands. I came close. We'd been trying to get somebody down there. It was impossible." He notes that NBC News reporter Robin Lloyd was the only American network correspondent to reach the islands. "I remember because I got my butt scooped on that," Schieffer says. "He got out there and we were all trying to get there." (Lloyd tells Mother Jones that he managed to convince the Argentine military to let him visit Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, but he spent only a day there—and this was weeks before the British forces arrived and the fighting began.)
Schieffer adds, "For us, you were a thousand miles from where the fighting was. So we had some great meals." [More]