According to Wikipedia, Leonard Pitts, Jr. is an American commentator, journalist and novelist. He is a nationally-syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Pitts wrote a column recently on the Bill O’Reilly controversy (and cover-up) about his exaggerations.
“Last month, when NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ career imploded as he was caught in a high-profile, self-aggrandizing lie, I suggested in this space that there would be much less angst or fallout if someone from Fox News were caught lying.”
Since then, Mother Jones ran a story questioning Bill O’Reilly’s claim to have been in the combat zone in the Falkland Islands while covering that war for CBS. Other news organizations have reported other questionable assertions by O’Reilly, including the claim that O’Reilly was outside of the home of an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald when the associate shot himself.
O’Reilly dismissed Mother Jones as the “bottom rung of journalism in America,” and called the reporter David Corn a “liar,” an “irresponsible guttersnipe,” a “far-left zealot” and “dumb.”
Other instances of questionable claims include O’Reilly saying that he witnessed the execution of a group of American nuns in El Salvador that happened in 1980, even though O’Reilly apparently did not reach El Salvador until 1981, and he “saw photos” of the incident.
In his book, “Keep it Pithy,” O’Reilly states that he saw “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.” Fox News itself denied that comment, according to the Chicago Tribune.
O’Reilly has claimed he was “attacked by protesters” while covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots for “Inside Edition,” but former colleagues say he is exaggerating an incident where an angry man took a piece of rubble to a camera.
“For one falsehood, Williams received a six-month suspension without pay. For a handful of apparent falsehoods, O’Reilly has received unstinting support from his bosses at Fox,” says Pitts.
Pitts claims that Fox “is not a real news-gathering organization but, rather, the propaganda arm of a right wing that grows ever more cult-like and detached from reality as time goes by,” and proof is that “O’Reilly is not fighting for his professional life.”
“(P)undits are entitled to their opinions. But that does not release them from the obligation to be factual,” writes Pitts.
It is telling that Fox recently responded to sharp questions about all this from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow by sending her a statement noting that O’Reilly’s ratings are up despite the controversy.
“To act as if ratings answer, or even address, questions of credibility is to express contempt for the very notion of credibility. It suggests Fox’s full-body embrace of the old saying, often attributed to Barnum, about the birthrate of suckers,” he writes.
Pitts calls Fox “an alternate reality wherein birthers make sensible arguments,” and “death panels are real…,” and it tells viewers “what they want to hear.”
“Yes, he is apparently a serial fabulist. And yes, that would disqualify you from most newsrooms,” writes Pitts.
A segment by ESPN host Keith Olbermann last year sheds some more light on Bill O’Reilly’s questionable claims about himself (starting at about the 2:35 mark in the video).
On November 19th, 2014, Olbermann named the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly as his daily “Worst Person In The World.” It wasn’t actually because of their political differences. Instead, it was about O’Reilly’s past claims about his athletic skills that were presented as fact.
On November 17th, O’Reilly had given a radio interview talking about his days as a varsity football player at Marist College.
“We were undefeated our senior year,” O’Reilly told ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard. “That was a pretty good deal.”
But Olbermann had de-bunked that claim as far back as 2005, and showed that Marist did not have a varsity team until 1978 – seven years after O’Reilly graduated.
Le Batard pointed out Olbermann’s claims. “It was varsity football in the sense of that we played Georgetown, Catholic U., Fordham, Manhattan, Iona,” O’Reilly said in his defense. “So, you know, look. You know what it is, guys, you know what it is.”
O’Reilly made some claims about baseball that Olbermann also corrected.
According to Media Matters, Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed in his books and on Fox News that while he was reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977, he was directly outside the home at the moment that George de Mohrenschildt — an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald — shot himself in Florida. The police report filed at the time makes no mention of him.
Media Matters also reported that several former colleagues and journalists at the time have disputed O’Reilly’s story.
Adding to the mounting evidence against O’Reilly’s tale are tape recordings of a phone conversation between O’Reilly and a congressional reporter who was interviewing de Mohrenschildt before his death, states Media Matters.
The recording was recently released by CNN on Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter.
“On the tapes, O’Reilly can be heard asking the congressional reporter about the details of the suicide, and adding that he is not yet in Florida — a claim that is at odds with O’Reilly’s statements that he was near the home where de Mohrenschildt killed himself.” Secular Talk takes a look at it.