Perhaps Fox News host Bill O'Reilly feels even more sympathy for NBC's Brian Williams now that O'Reilly, too, has been accused of overplaying his battleground experience.
On Thursday, Mother Jones posted an article questioning the accuracy of O’Reilly’s past claims that he "reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands" and "survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War."
"For years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny -- even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in," David Corn and Daniel Schulman wrote.
They noted that O'Reilly's 2001 book, The No Spin Zone, makes no mention of the host witnessing combat in the Falklands. O'Reilly arrived in Buenos Aires just before the 1982 conflict ended, and as Mother Jones pointed out, that city is 1,200 miles from the Falkland Islands.
In addition, the Mother Jones article quoted a number of journalists who said U.S. reporters were unable to reach the islands during the conflict:
American reporters were not on the ground in this distant war zone. "Nobody got to the war zone during the Falklands war," Susan Zirinsky, a longtime CBS News producer who helped manage the network's coverage of the war from Buenos Aires, tells Mother Jones. She does not remember what O'Reilly did during his time in Argentina. But she notes that the military junta kept U.S. reporters from reaching the islands: "You weren't allowed on by the Argentinians. No CBS person got there."
O'Reilly has responded to the accusation in an interview with Politico's Dylan Byers, calling the Mother Jones report a "hit piece" and "a piece of garbage." O'Reilly said he never claimed to be on the Falkland Islands during the war.
"I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was. I was in Buenos Aires. ... In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered," O'Reilly told Politico.
The point of contention seems to be whether the riots that O'Reilly witnessed in Buenos Aires after Argentina's forces in the Falklands surrendered to Britain constituted a "combat situation" and an "active war zone."
News reports from the time depict rioters breaking windows, throwing stones and sticks, and police responding by throwing tear gas, firing on demonstrators with rubber bullets, and clubbing them. But Corn and Schulman noted that "media accounts did not report, as O'Reilly claims, that there were fatalities."
UPDATE (9:18 AM): Corn pressed O'Reilly further in an interview with Politico:
"He said he was in the war zone during the Falkland Island conflicts -- the conflict was in the Falkland Islands, it was not in Buenos Aires," Corn said. "He covered a protest after the war was over in Buenos Aires. I don't think that's a reasonable definiton of a combat situation. If you look up 'combat situation' in the dictionary, it's not 'an ugly protest'."
Corn also said he reached out to several Fox News executives asking for comment, and even offered to delay publishing the story if they needed more time to respond, but did not receive any response from the network.