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Jamie Frevele Headshot

Lying Liars and How to Catch Them Rewriting History

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There is a disturbing lack of trust in the media, the very creation of our ancestors at the birth of our country that was designed to keep our leaders in check and our fellow citizens informed. The press was honored in the Constitution's Bill of Rights, in the very first amendment. To anyone who considers him or herself a part of the media, that honor is tremendous and sacred: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." But there has been a growing trend of mistrust in the media, and the loudest proclamation of the reasons for this is because the media is too liberal. I disagree, and I offer another reason, and not because I am a liberal or an aspiring member of the media. I think people mistrust the media for the good old fashioned reason that some members of the profession ARE LIARS. My reason for being here today is to call your attention to a proven big fat liar.

His name is Bill O'Reilly. He is not a journalist, but a pundit, a talking head. And that's pretty much all he is. While he certainly does not devote the bulk of his time to politics and basically delivers heated editorials every night, the problem is not his opinion, questionable as it may be, but his unabashed LYING.

The lie in which he has recently been caught concerns the WWII incident of Malmedy. Eighty-four US soldiers were massacred, executed by German SS soldiers. To go into details would take away from the very blatant lie that O'Reilly told his viewers May 30 (and last October), which was the very opposite of what I just said. First, let me add some context to make it seem even more preposterous. O'Reilly was talking to General Wesley Clark about the murders by US soldiers in Haditha. O'Reilly's take on Haditha was that such atrocities happen all the time, for example in Malmedy, when he claimed that US soldiers executed SS soldiers. Not just that it happened, but that he knew it happened, Gen. Clark knew it happened, and that it's been documented. I didn't want to link to the Fox News transcript since it's been cleaned up TWICE and that's, well, dishonest, but it was decided (correctly) that you should see this for yourself. If defiling the memory of murdered US soldiers wasn't bad enough, this wasn't the first time O'Reilly claimed this as truth. He talked about it back in October 2005 as well. In response to viewer emails pointing out his mistake, O'Reilly apologized. Oh, wait. No, he didn't. He didn't take back what he said about US soldiers who were shot in the back of the head by Germans being the actual murderers themselves.

This is a very dire example of why it is so difficult for the media to gain the public's trust. What is even sadder is that if you asked the average American which news source they do trust, they are likely to answer "Fox News."

Is there hope? Are the hysterical, ranting voices of Fox News drowning out the facts, the spin and counter-spin and loosey-goosey "factoids" too numerous to combat? Or are we destined to submit our hungry minds to the churned-out agenda-manipulated McNews, with people like Bill O'Reilly as our greasy burger flipper?

No, we're not. Not as long as we have a free Fourth Estate willing to take the time to take on the lies - and take them apart. Right now, where Bill O'Reilly is concerned, that guy is Keith Olbermann. Last week, during the same time slot on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann exposed O'Reilly's misstating of the American historical and military record. He didn't just read us a headline or let it crawl across our screens on a ticker. Olbermann devoted an entire segment to the lie, presenting damning evidence of O'Reilly's negligence. He had the clips from the show, he had the (originally) altered Fox News transcript, he had the truth about Malmedy and he had a long, Edward R. Murrow-esque speech about the travesty of the lie. And in his most recent follow-up to the story, Olbermann was able to draw parallels to O'Reilly and (ironically enough) Sen. Joe McCarthy, who, 60 years ago, tried to write Malmedy off as a Jewish conspiracy against Germans, also claiming that the victims in this tragedy were the Nazis, not the Americans. It could be said that Olbermann is never shy about taking a cheap shot at O'Reilly, but this is a different animal altogether. Olbermann went after the lie, then when the lie was sustained, he went after the liar. As a regular "Countdown" viewer, I believe it's fair to say that anyone who said what O'Reilly said, no matter what company pays them, would have gotten the Olbermann treatment. Keith Olbermann made the media proud last week. He makes mistakes too, and he probably focuses too much attention on Bill O'Reilly. But Olbermann's priority and his mission as a newscaster is the solution for why the public mistrusts the media: TRUTH.