Big shots at Fox News have a tendency to exaggerate the purity of their reporting as they reminisce about the olden days. Back in 2012, Fox News chief Roger Ailes gave a talk at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and boasted, “[In] 15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong. You can’t say that about CNN, CBS or the New York Times.”
After critics showed a flood of evidence to the contrary in the Fox News archives, Ailes was forced to revise his recollection a bit. According to an Ailes biography by Zev Chafets, Ailes was referring to major stories, like Dan Rather’s “scoop” for CBS News about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty and other such major-media moments.
In an interview with Sally Quinn, Bill O’Reilly issued a similar statement of factual near-perfection: “In 18 years, I haven’t had to retract or apologize to anybody other than one time we took something off a Web site that was incomplete.”
We’ve heard this before from O’Reilly. Back in 2010, he apologized to USDA official Shirley Sherrod for famously misportraying her remarks about racism. “I owe Ms. Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework, for not putting her remarks into the proper context,” O’Reilly said on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Later, in an interview with Jay Leno, O’Reilly noted the singularity of the Sherrod situation: “[T]he first time in 13 years we’ve had to retract a story, and the problem was that it was all my fault. I couldn’t blame anybody.” When Leno asked whether it was the first time he’d apologized, O’Reilly responded, “Yeah, except for just being me.”
At the time, Media Matters pointed to three additional instances in which O’Reilly had apologized for errors or gaffes .
And since that July 2010 interview with Leno, O’Reilly has voiced his regrets on a few occasions:
*Last August, he apologized for incorrectly stating that Republicans and conservatives hadn’t gotten invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
*In March 2013, he apologized for claiming that Alan Colmes was “lying” about President Obama’s budgetary policies.
*In 2012, he issued a demi-apology to American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson after he screwed up in his prediction of the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Is that an embarrassing record of meae culpae? Nah — for all his bravado, O’Reilly appears careful not to step over the line too much.
Yet it does reflect quite a talent glorifying the past. And that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s pored over the O’Reilly oeuvre. Whether it’s in his interview with Quinn or in his autobiography or on his show, the Fox News host delights in building up years that have long since passed. Perhaps he doesn’t remember but one of his apologies.