Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
On Thursday, Mother Jones published an article by Daniel Schulman and me that documented how Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has mischaracterized his wartime reporting experience. Most notably, he has more than once said that during his short stint as a CBS correspondent in the 1980s, he was in the "war zone" during the Falklands war between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982. He even once told the story of heroically rescuing his cameraman in this "war zone" while being chased by army soldiers. Yet according to O'Reilly's former CBS colleagues in Argentina and other journalists there during the war, no American journalist reached the war zone in the Falkland Islands and other territories iin the southern Atlantic Ocean during this conflict. O'Reilly and his colleagues covered the war from Buenos Aires, which was 1200 miles from the fighting.
Mother Jones sent O'Reilly and Fox News a detailed list of questions at 8:30 am on Thursday. We asked for a response by 3:00 pm. We then called Dana Klinghoffer, a spokeswoman for the network, several times to make sure the questions were received and to determine if O'Reilly and Fox would respond. She never took the call or returned the message. Shortly before 3:00 pm, we sent an email containing the questions to Bill Shine, a top exec at Fox News, saying that if O'Reilly and Fox needed more time, we would try to accommodate them. He, too, never responded. At 5:26 p.m., we posted the article.
Immediately afterward, O'Reilly granted interviews to multiple reporters. He resorted to name-calling, saying I was a "liar," a "left-wing assassin,"and a "despicable guttersnipe." He said that I deserve "to be in the kill zone." (You can read one of my responses here.) It was clear that O'Reilly had no interest in answering the actual questions about his wartime reporting claims.
Here, for the record, are the questions we sent to Fox. (We included links to his past assertions to make it easy for O'Reilly to review what he said.) Will he answer these questions?
In numerous instances—on his television and radio shows and in his book, The No Spin Zone—Bill O'Reilly has said that he was in the "war zone" during the Falklands war when he was a correspondent at CBS News. But it appears no American correspondents were allowed in the Falkland Islands war zone during the conflict. How does Mr. O'Reilly explain his comments?
In a 2004 column, Mr. 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." What combat situation was that?
In a 2003 book, journalist Tucker Carlson reported on how Mr. 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.'" Does Mr. O'Reilly have any comment on this? Can he describe his experiences in each of these locations?
On his television show on April 17, 2013, Mr. O'Reilly said, "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." When and where did this happen?
In his book, The No Spin Zone, Mr. O'Reilly describes covering a protest in Buenos Aires when the military junta surrendered in the Falklands war. He wrote, "A major riot ensued and many were killed." News reports of the protest did not report any fatalities, only several injuries. And the CBS News report on the protest for which O’Reilly gathered video footage also did not refer to any deaths. Did Mr. O'Reilly report this accurately in his book. Does he have any comment on why other reports of this protest do not appear to be consistent with his?
On his radio show on January 13, 2005, Mr. O'Reilly said, "I was in the middle of a couple of firefights in South and Central America." In which countries and when did these firefights occur? Can Mr. O'Reilly describe them?
In The No Spin Zone, Mr. O'Reilly writes about an assignment he had for CBS News in El Salvador in 1982. He says that he reported from a village called Meanguera that was "leveled to the ground and fires were still smoldering. But even though the carnage was obviously recent, we saw no one live or dead. There was absolutely nobody around who could tell us what happened. I quickly did a stand-up amid the rubble and we got the hell out of there." The CBS News report that he filed and narrated and that was broadcast on the CBS Nightly News showed him in Meanguera, but there were people walking about and only two or so structures burned. Did Mr. O'Reilly report his trip to this village accurately in his book? Does he have any comment on why the CBS report does not appear to be consistent with the description in his book?
Did Mr. O'Reilly ever conduct any other reporting trips to El Salvador or Argentina or elsewhere in Central and South America other than the two described in The No Spin Zone (the trip to Argentina at the end of the Falklands war and the trip to El Salvador that included the visit to Meanguera)?
In 2008, Mr. O'Reilly said on his television show that he had been in "in the war zones of [the] Falkland conflict in Argentina, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland." Which war zones was he referring to regarding the Middle East and Northern Ireland? When was he in these war zones? Can he describe his experiences in those locations?
Did Mr. O'Reilly ever report from Montevideo, Uruguay. If so, when and what did he cover? Can he describe his experiences there?
In his book Keep It Pithy, Mr. O’Reilly writes, "I've seen soldiers gun down unarmed civilians in Latin America." Where did this occur?
After NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for erroneously claiming that he was nearly shot down in a helicopter while covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly went on a tear. On his television show, the top-rated cable news anchor declared that the American press isn't "half as responsible as the men who forged the nation." He bemoaned the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other "distortions" by left-leaning outlets. 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 the United Kingdom* 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."
As a politician, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, has championed tort reform—the nationwide effort pushed by conservatives and business interests to restrict malpractice and other wrongful injury and death lawsuits, limiting how much a jury can award a harmed individual for pain and suffering and in punitive damages. When Cruz ran for Senate in 2012, his website declared he had defended a landmark pro-business tort reform law passed in Texas in 2003 that severely constrained the ability of consumers to sue medical professionals and nursing homes and to collect punitive damages in other cases. Cruz also boasted that when he had been a policy adviser on George W. Bush's first presidential campaign he developed Bush's pro-tort reform proposals. During the Senate race, the Texas Civil Justice League, a supporter of tort reform, enthusiastically endorsed Cruz. After becoming a senator, Cruz told the Austin Chamber of Commerce that Texas-style tort reform—which places a cap of $750,000 on punitive damages—ought to be a national law.
Yet, as a lawyer in private practice, Cruz—at least twice, in 2010 and 2011—worked on cases in New Mexico to secure $50 million-plus jury awards in tort cases prompted by corporate malfeasance. These are precisely the kind of jury awards that the tort reform Cruz has promoted would abolish. That is, Cruz the attorney, who sometimes billed clients $695 an hour, made money defending jury awards that Cruz the politician wanted to eliminate—and he did so at the same time he was running for Senate as a pro-tort-reform candidate.
It was not so shocking that House Speaker John Boehner would seek to undermine President Barack Obama and his attempt to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to deliver an address to Congress, in which Netanyahu will presumably dump on Obama's efforts. Nor was it so shocking that Netanyahu, who apparently would rather see another war in the Middle East than a deal that allows Iran to maintain a civilian-oriented and internationally monitored nuclear program, agreed to mount this stunt two weeks before the Israeli elections—a close contest in which the hawkish PM is fighting for his political life. Certainly, Netanyahu realized that this audacious move would strain his already-ragged ties with the Obama administration and tick off the president, who will be in office for the next two years and quite able to inconvenience Netanyahu should he hold on to power. (Even Fox News talking heads acknowledged that Boehner's invitation and Netanyahu's acceptance were low blows.) But what was surprising was how willing Netanyahu was to send a harsh message to American Jews: Drop dead.
For the past six years, one big question has largely defined US politics: Are you for or against Obama? The ongoing narrative in Washington has been a simple one: The president has tried to enact a progressive agenda—health care, gun safety, a minimum-wage hike, climate change action, immigration reform, Wall Street reform, gender pay equity, expanded education programs, diminishing tax cuts for the rich—and Boehner and the Republicans have consistently plotted to thwart him. The GOP has used the filibuster in the Senate to block Obama initiatives and routine presidential appointments. The House Republicans have resorted to extraordinary means—shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage, ginning up controversies (Benghazi!)—to block the president. All this has happened as conservative allies of the Republican Party have challenged Obama's legitimacy as president (the birth certificate) and peddled vicious conspiracy theories (he's a Muslim socialist who will destroy the nation). Throughout the Obama Wars, one demographic group that has steadfastly stood with the president is American Jews.
It's back. Actually, it never left. Benghazi. That is, the GOP's never-ending Benghazi crusade. Last year, after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was tapped by House Speaker John Boehner to lead yet another Benghazi probe, he promised to helm an inquiry that would "transcend politics." But now, eight months into this latest investigation, Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have hit Gowdy with a sharp charge: that he and his Republican investigators have conducted secret meetings with witnesses without informing their Democratic colleagues on the committee. And they say that some of these interviews have yielded information that undercuts anti-Obama Benghazi allegations promoted by conservatives. In other words, the Democrats are suggesting that Gowdy has been mounting a Benghazi cover-up of his own.
In November, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the Benghazi committee, sent Gowdy a private letter noting that though Gowdy had assured him that the committee's work would be conducted in a bipartisan manner, the five Democratic members of the panel and their staffer had been excluded from at least five witness interviews. Moreover, Cummings said these interviews had produced testimony that failed to corroborate key allegations.