The Nation and The Huffington Post have recently looked at odd, questionable reporting done by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly when he was in El Salvador for CBS News.
“Before Bill O’Reilly was, well, Bill O’Reilly, he worked for a time as a foreign correspondent for CBS Evening News, anchored by Dan Rather. O’Reilly talks about that period of his career in two of his books, and in both mentions that in early 1982 he reported from northeastern El Salvador, just after the infamous El Mozote Massacre. ‘When the CBS News bureau chief asked for volunteers to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán Territory, a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua, I willingly went.'”
O’Reilly willingly went to the area, but did he cover the wrong story – on purpose?
The Huffington Post:
“In O’Reilly’s book, A Bold Fresh Piece Of Humanity, an autobiography published in 2008, O’Reilly writes that the CBS bureau chief sent him to El Salvador ‘to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán territory,’ which O’Reilly incorrectly describes as “a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua.” (It borders Honduras.)”
“The CBS bureau chief was almost certainly referring to the slaying of hundreds of civilians suspected of sympathizing with leftist guerrillas, including children and at least one pregnant woman, by the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran military in El Mozote and its surrounding villages in December 1981.”
Between 733 and 900 villagers were killed, according to The Nation. El Mozote was a hard-to-reach hamlet. The Nation claims it was on December 11, 1981.
“The story of the massacre was broken on the front page of The New York Times by the journalist Raymond Bonner and in The Washington Post by Alma Guillermoprieto; both stories were published on January 27, 1982, and accompanied by photographs taken by Susan Meiselas,” according to The Nation.
“Bonner and Meiselas got to El Mozote, after hearing about the massacre, by walking for days in from Honduras,” according to The Nation. “Guillermoprieto wrote about seeing ‘countless bits of bones—skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column’ poking ‘out of the rubble.'”
This led to heavy pushback from the Ronald Reagan administration. The Reagan administration was supporting the Salvadorian government despite the massacre.
“O’Reilly doesn’t mention the massacre at El Mozote. Rather, he focuses on another supposed killing committed by leftist insurgents in nearby Meanguera (Meanguera, a municipal town center, is nine kilometers away from the hamlet of El Mozote). It is extremely unlikely that O’Reilly would not have known about the El Mozote massacre. Not only was it reported on in all the major papers, the Reagan administration’s denials had themselves become a story (The Wall Street Journal ran its attack on Bonner on February 10),” according to The Nation.
“So it is very possible that Meanguera was attacked by the rebels. But it certainly wasn’t ‘wiped out.’ In other words, going to Meanguera in early 1982 would be as if Seymour Hersh, when he first learned of the My Lai massacre, decided to investigate events the next town over,” according to The Nation.
So, the question is: did O’Reilly avoid writing about the slaughter of civilians by the U.S.-backed Atlacatl Battallion of the Salvadorian military?