Bill O’Reilly has been caught in another lie, but he was actually caught two years ago by an old friend of mine, Jeff Morley. When I was a fellow with the Center for Independent Media (later the American Independent News Network), Jeff was our national editorial director and I learned a lot from him. Two years ago, he caught O’Reilly in a whopper of a lie and with the current controversy over his “war zone” reporting in Argentina, the media is now noticing it.
The lie involves O’Reilly’s reporting on the JFK assassination, specifically the suicide of a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed himself with a shotgun after being subpoenaed to testify in front of the Warren Commission. O’Reilly tried to insert himself into the story by falsely claiming that he was at the door of the man’s house when he did it and heard the shotgun blast. In reality, he wasn’t even in the same state when it happened.
In O’Reilly’s account, the dramatic incident happened on March 29, 1977. The Fox News talk show host was then a 28-year-old television reporter in Dallas seeking to make a name for himself by investigating a popular subject that other reporters disdained: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Working in Dallas at a time when Congress re-opened the JFK investigation in the mid-1970s, O’Reilly scored some real scoops, especially about a man named George de Mohrenschildt. A Russian emigre who moved in both European high society and the American underworld, de Mohrenschildt would have made a splendid character in a Graham Greene novel, except he was a real living CIA asset involved in the events that would culminate in JFK’s murder on Dallas on November 22,1963.
O’Reilly spins the story with third person modesty in Killing Kennedy (p. 300), calling himself “the reporter.” He wrote that he
“traced de Mohrenschildt to Palm Beach, Florida and travelled there to confront him. At the time de Mohrenschildt had been called to testify before a congressional committee looking into the events of November 1963. As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast [Emphasis added] that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood.
“By the way, that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.”
It’s a vivid story and well told. It’s also mostly imaginary. In fact, the reporter named Bill O’Reilly was in Dallas, Texas, on that day.
So how does Morley know that O’Reilly was in Dallas at the time? From recordings of phone calls he made to Gaeton Fonzi, a Congressional investigator working on the case. He has the audio at the link above. O’Reilly called Fonzi to find out if it was true that de Mohrenschildt had killed himself (which he obviously would know if he was at the guy’s house when he did it) and he specifically says that he’d been trying to confirm the details from Dallas but was going to go to Florida the next day:
Fonzi tells Bill he cannot confirm de Mohrenschildt is dead. Like a good reporter, Bill says he has been trying to run down the story by telephone from Texas. “I checked every medical examiner from Satellite Beach to Key West,” he says, “and there’s no report on this.” He says he’s going to keep working on the story and he asks Fonzi to call him if he learns anything. He hangs up.
Fonzi makes a flurry of calls to his sources in Florida and confirms the story. Then O’Reilly calls for a third time.
“Gaeton,” the caller says. “Bill O’Reilly.” Fonzi shares some details of the story, and O’Reilly tells him his travel plans. “I’m coming down there tomorrow,” he says. “I’m coming to Florida.”
Fonzi tells him to get in contact when he arrives.
“I’m going to take a night flight if I can,” O’Reilly says, “but I may have to go tomorrow morning.”
O’Reilly’s utterances prove that he was not knocking on George Mohrenschildt’s doorstep as he now melodramatically claims. The truth is more prosaic. O’Reilly got a tip on a hot story, worked his sources to confirm it, and rushed to the scene. In making up this story for Killing Kennedy, he slighted the truth of his own professionalism.
Fox News is clamming up on the story. When asked about it, they referred questions to the publisher of the book, even though O’Reilly told the same story on their network at least once. All of this fits a pattern, as I’ve noted before. O’Reilly lives in a fantasy world where he’s always the hero. He always has to be at the center of attention in every story, so he just lies to insert himself there. He’s the Forrest Gump of journalism.