Bill O’Reilly last night expressed anger over the story that Mother Jones reporters David Corn and Daniel Schulman published on the Fox News anchor’s recollections of exploits in covering the Falklands War in 1982 for CBS News. “David Corn is a guttersnipe liar,” O’Reilly told the Erik Wemple Blog in an extremely rare interview. “Is that clear enough? For years he’s been trying to get Fox News. I would never speak to the man about anything at any time. He’s a disgusting piece of garbage.”
All that is perfectly O’Reillyesque stuff — firmly stated, no room for interpretation, no spin.
The voluble host showed even greater edge in an interview with TVNewser, which includes this flourish: “When everybody writes the truth, I’ve talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I’m saying, because it’s easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be.” The Mother Jones story asserted that O’Reilly had claimed on various occasions to have reported “from active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands,” when in fact no U.S. correspondents had ever gotten on the ground in the Falklands.
Mother Jones co-editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery don’t appreciate O’Reilly’s rhetoric. In an e-mail today to Fox News executives, the editors write that the “kill zone” remark “crosses a line. Like everyone in media today, we are concerned about the safety of our staff. We’d have hoped that statements with this kind of violent tone would not come from a fellow media professional.” O’Reilly’s remarks to various media outlets following publication of the piece, argue the co-editors, surely managed to malign Corn by calling him a “liar” and other names but “did not address the substance of the article.” We’d amend that evaluation: The remarks included both name-calling and a response to the merits O’Reilly claimed that he was in Argentina covering the Falklands War and never claimed to have actually set foot on the islands themselves; he said he encountered combat in protests following the country’s surrender to the British.
Mother Jones seeks an apology for the “kill zone” comment: “Mr [sic] ‘Reilly has indicated that he plans to address the Mother Jones story on his show tonight. He should use that occasion to renounce his ‘kill zone’ remark and apologize. If he does not, he should issue a separate statement renouncing the remark and apologizing,” reads the letter.
Disclosure: The wife of the Erik Wemple Blog is a staff writer at Mother Jones.
Body of the Mother Jones letter:
We are writing with alarm about Bill O’Reilly’s response to our report investigating his characterizations of his reporting in “war zones.” We welcome criticism, but calling for our reporter “to be in the kill zone” crosses a line. Like everyone in media today, we are concerned about the safety of our staff. We’d have hoped that statements with this kind of violent tone would not come from a fellow media professional.
For a full day before publishing the story, starting at 8:30 a.m., Mother Jones sought comment or clarification from Fox News. This included sending emails with a detailed list of questions. After multiple calls and emails to you both went unanswered, we published the story at 5:26 p.m.
After the article was posted, Mr. O’Reilly spoke to multiple reporters for other outlets. He did not address the substance of the article. Instead, he called David Corn “a liar,” “a guttersnipe,” “a disgusting piece of garbage,” and “a left-wing assassin.” He suggested that Corn deserved to be “in the kill zone.”
Mr [sic] ‘Reilly has indicated that he plans to address the Mother Jones story on his show tonight. He should use that occasion to renounce his “kill zone” remark and apologize. If he does not, he should issue a separate statement renouncing the remark and apologizing.
We would appreciate a response. And of course, we remain very interested in any comments responding to the article itself.
Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery