As I noted earlier, it’s highly unlikely that Fox host Bill O’Reilly will pay any professional price for his repeated lies and exaggerations. Most people concerned about values such as accuracy and truth wrote off O’Reilly on those counts long ago, for understandable reasons.
But just for the record, any doubt about his lack of veracity is now pretty much settled.
In two books and multiple TV appearances, O’Reilly has claimed to have been on the front porch of a Florida home when George de Mohrenschildt, a peripheral figure in the investigation of the JFK assassination, committed suicide with a shotgun just before appearing before a congressional investigative committee.
As O’Reilly wrote in his book “Killing Kennedy”:
But as with O’Reilly’s claims of reporting from combat situations and a war zone in the Falklands, none of it happened. Media Matters has assembled overwhelming evidence in multiple forms that O’Reilly was a thousand miles away at the moment that Mohrenschildt committed suicide. In short, the Fox personality made the whole thing up to place himself at the center of the story, to make it all about him — a shocking revelation, I’m sure.
Yes, conservative defenders of O’Reilly and Fox will point and howl at Media Matters as the source of the report. The evidence, however, stands on its own. Those who worked with O’Reilly at the Dallas TV station say the incident never happened, making the unassailable point that if an WFAA reporter had been on the scene of the suicide as it happened, and had overheard that shotgun blast, the station would have trumpeted that fact to the skies in its reporting. O’Reilly being O’Reilly, he would have insisted upon it.
Instead, silence. Because it never happened. **
In addition, police accounts of the suicide mention interviews with two maids in the house, noting that neither heard the fatal shot. The police reports make no mention of a reporter on the porch who did overhear the shot.
Because he wasn’t there.
Two other independent sources report that they heard firsthand at the time, from O’Reilly himself, that he had been in Dallas at the time of the suicide and learned about the tragedy in a phone call from Mohrenschildt’s attorney, not by hearing the shot, as he has since claimed.
Again, O’Reilly’s career will almost certainly survive this, as it has survived prior escapades. So why is it important?
It’s important because his continued presence at Fox offers confirmation that the “news” network honors no standards of professional journalistic conduct. It is not a news-gathering operation, it is an outrage factory, and O’Reilly is very good at inspiring and instigating outrage. When NBC suspended Brian Williams for six months, it did so because it valued its reputation more than it valued the viewers that Williams might bring.
Fox? They simply do not care.
** In yet another well-documented example, O’Reilly has claimed repeatedly to have witnessed the shooting of nuns in El Salvador in 1980. That is impossible, because by O’Reilly’s own account he did not travel to El Salvador until 1981.