TRANSCRIPT: Bill DEFENDS his war reporting with Howie Kurtz
By: BOR StaffFebruary 22, 2015
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Bill O’Reilly on Media Buzz

Host: Howard Kurtz

Guests: Bill O’Reilly (on phone),  David Zurawik (in studio)

February 21, 2015


KURTZ: Bill O’Reilly hit back hard against the Mother Jones piece challenging his war reporting. MSNBC contributor David Corn writing in the liberal magazine that the Fox News host had suggested he was in the Falkland Islands covering the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina.


KURTZ: O’Reilly says he’s always made clear that as a CBS correspondent he covered a violent protest in Argentina in the war’s aftermath.


KURTZ: David Corn responded to the Huffington Post:


KURTZ: And joining me now by phone is the aforementioned Bill O’Reilly. Bill let’s start with the latest developments.  Former CBS correspondent Eric Engberg, who was in Argentina at the time, takes you on in a Facebook post.  He starts by calling you a bloviater, I hope that didn’t hurt your feelings, and he says that O’Reilly has been correct in describing the situation in Buenos Aires as somewhat dicey for reporters. Well get into details in a moment. But then he goes on to say that this was a pretty tame riot.  Your reaction?

OREILLY: Its absurd. I mean it might have been tame for him because I don’t know if he was there. I mean, I asked him to come on the program tomorrownight, The Factor, he turned us down. But he is running over to CNN.

KURTZ: he says he was there. 

OREILLY: He’s running over to CNN but he can’t come on to my program. See I don’t know if Eric Engberg was there. And by the way, all the CBS correspondents that were there, five, were sent to cover the Falklands war. That’s what we were told: “your going to Argentina to cover the Falklands War”. Ok, so that’s what everybody should know. That was the description of what our job was to be. All right to Eric Engberg, he’s calling the riot that happened at the Argentines surrender to the British a quote “relatively tame riot”. All right, this is the article written by Richard Maslen on June 15th 1982, and I’m quoting, “policemen firing tear gas tonight dispersed thousands of angry Argentines who had massed in front of the presidential palace to condemn the government surrendering to the British on the Falkland Islands.  As the crowed chanted increasingly bitter invectives at the government before the speech, reflecting sorrow, anger, and disbelief for the public here over the loss, police in riot gear moved in, firing tear gas canisters and roaring through the plaza on motorcycles. Hundreds fled to the side streets shouting obscenities, as the police fired gas. Others ripped down wooden street signs and set them on fire in the plaza.  Fires appeared in several nearby intersections as demonstrators through wastebaskets into them and set them ablaze to slow the police. One large grey van pulled into an intersection a block from the plaza.  Policemen emerged, seizing anyone they could. One policeman pulled a pistol firing five shots.  The leaders of the ten political parties, in a statement tonight, denounced the police’s brutal repressors in a flagrant violation of the public faith.  Several demonstrators reported to have been injured, along with two reporters at least. Local news ABC said three buses had been set ablaze by demonstrators.  Another one fired upon. The demonstration of national outrage was the type seldom seen since the military took power in 1976”. That’s the New York Times.

KURTZ: Right, exactly. But now Engberg says he’s suspicious that there was actually gunfire. You obviously …

OREILLY: Wait, wait, wait. He’s suspicious of the New York Times then. Ok? Not me. He’s suspicious of the New York Times, they reported that. 

KURTZ: Now you have said, in describing the episode in Buenos Aires, that your photographer was run down, hit in the head, he was bleeding, the army was chasing you. Engberg says “I never heard of any injury to the photographer.” 

OREILLY: well because I don’t think he was there. I don’t think he knows what happened. And I’ll tell you why. I left the hotel; Engberg was still in the hotel, the Sheraton. I came back, running back. With video for the Rather broadcast that night, Engberg was in the hotel. So if he were in the plaza De Mayo, where was the video? Why did I have to run it up to the feed point and send it to New York? So I don’t know if he was even there. And I’d like everybody to ask him “where you there” because his reputation, his nickname, was room service Eric, because he never left the hotel.

KURTZ: one more point from the Engberg Facebook posting. He says that you violated the bureau chief’s orders by having your cameraman turn on the light to shot some of the footage. That footage, of course, later used by CBS news. 

OREILLY: Totally absurd. I was there in the daytime. No order was given to me about anything.  We turned on a light one time so I could do a standup with people falling all over around me on a side street. It lasted for about 30 seconds. I didn’t know of any order or anything like that. I was working, ok? I was working this whole situation.  I mean this is such a smear it is unbelievable. I went to Montevideo on 6/13, June 13, Montevideo, Uruguay, ok? And I covered the causalities coming back from the HMS Herald, which was destroyed by the Argentina air force. I didn’t see Eric Engberg there. Ok?

KURTZ: so do you believe that this criticism from your former CBS colleague is personal?

OREILLY: yea because in 1998 I laced him for big footing.  Why don’t you tell your audience what big footing is Howard.

KURTZ: All right. Big footing is when a journalist, such as yourself, you were not then the Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, is covering a story, and another better known journalist comes in and basically writes the article, does the standup, I guess in your case, and you complained about this in a book. Bob Schieffer came in and you left CBS afterwards. So I guess you felt big footed, yes.

OREILLY: That’s right. So this has been in place in 1998. Now you’re a newspaper reporter formally correct?

KURTZ: Correct. 

OREILLY: So if you write an article and send it in and another reporter puts there name on it, what’s that called? It begins with a p. 

KURTZ: I’ve always called it big footing and your not happy when that happens.

OREILLY: What’s it called in print? It beings with a P. 

KURTZ: I’ll let you tell me.

OREILLY: Plagiarism.

KURTZ: Oh, but if its your colleague and your working together…

OREILLY: I wasn’t working together with these guys. I filed, I got the video. My crews were magnificent by the way.  And Roberto got hurt, okay? And we tended to Roberto but he was a tough guy and I left him to run the video back to the bureau and then I went back and subsequently he was ok. But he got knocked down. We had to get him out so that he didn’t get any more damage.  But they did a fabulous job. This is such a smear and it’s a coordinated smear. Do you know that Eric Engberg was written about by Bernie Goldberg in his Book, “Bias”, as one of the worst correspondents on CBS News. And Bernie goes into how he smeared Steve Forbes.

KURTZ: I’ve read the book. I know there is some animosity there. I know Bernie Goldberg, obviously, is part of your program, so again

OREILLY: He was working at CBS then Howard.

KURTZ: Of course, I am saying he is not a Fox News contributor

OREILLY: Yea. It didn’t matter. He wrote that book far before he was on Fox, Bernie did. 

KURTZL I understand. Let me get you to the bottom line here. Because it seems to me in my analysis of this that the Mother Jones piece ultimately, if you boil it down, comes down to this semantic question. You have said you covered a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war. You’ve said war zones of the Falkland conflict in Argentina. Looking back, do you wish you had worded it different?

OREILLY: No. When you have soldiers and military police firing into the crowd as the New York Times reports and you have people injured and hurt and your in the middle of that, that’s a definition, all right? This is splitting hairs, trying anything they can do to bring down me because of the Brian Williams situation. That’s exactly what it is. This lair Corn wrote in his original piece that I hammered Brian Williams.  Is that true Howard?

KIURTZ: No, I know for a fact that’s not true because I was on The Factor with you the first night of the Brian Williams story and you stayed away from criticizing him.

OREILLY: Yeah. You know for a fact that isn’t true. And everybody who saw me on Kimmel or on Fox news knows it isn’t true. So why does David Corn have any creditability at all? Why?

KURTZ: You’re saying that…

OREILLY: No, why does he have any creditability anywhere if he lied in his article about something this demonstrable? Why would anybody, CNN or anybody else, take anything else he says seriously? Why?

KURTZ: Well, Corn has been a Washington reporter for a long time and some people respect his work. 

OREILLY: Who? Name one. You cant. He is a hatchet man. You know he is. He’s an apparatchik from the far left and all of this is driven…Stelter at CNN, you don’t get more far left than this guy, former New York Times guy.  Google him, and Fox News, google him, over the years. Look, final world Howard, if these guys want to come after me, I’m here.  Anybody who says my reporting in Argentina was erroneous, they can come on tomorrow night.  I’ve got calls into Dan Rather; I got calls into the CBS brass at the time. I’m going to get the video. CBS I think they will give it to us tomorrow so people can see for themselves. They can see it. I wasn’t everybody to read the New York Time article. It’s up. You can get it.

KURTZ: I have to get to a break. Don’t go away. When we come back, more on this controversy as we get reaction from David Zurawik. And later, Scott Walker complains about gottcha journalism after ducking a Washington Post question of whether he believes President Obama is a Christian.


KURTZ: Bill O’Reilly is still on the phone. Joining us now is David Zurawik, television and media critic from the Baltimore Sun. You just heard Mr. O’Reilly defend himself.  You read what Eric Engberg wrote about what happened in Buenos Aires on Facebook. 

ZURAWIK: Well look, room service Eric? This is a really fierce battle now.  This is culture war stuff, going back and forth. That was on the questions that made me hesitant when the story first came out Thursday night, was the source of it, Mother Jones and the most prominent person on Fox TV. So immediately you have the ideological component to it. Which made me wary of it. You didn’t have that, that’s one of the many ways this is not the Brian Williams story. You didn’t have that with Brian Willams. Stars and Stripes, I didn’t see any ideological…

KURTS: That’s a good point. Let me just point out, David Corn used to be a contributor to Fox News. He was not renewed. He is now at MSNBC. He is an unabashedly liberal journalist who obtained that Mitt Romney 47% video during the last campaign. But the headline of that Mother Jones piece was Bill O’Reilly had his own Brian Williams problem. Was that headline, was the tone of the piece, in your opinion, was it objective, was it fair?

ZURAWIK: Well, two things. One, I understand the impulse in the clutter of media to try to simplify stories because Brian Williams was a big story, try to link this to that.  I don’t think it was warranted in this sense. I’ll give you another way its not warranted. Brian Williams was in charge of a nightly newscast seen by 9 million. Theoretically as a managing editor and an anchor, he decided what went into that newscast. That’s a position of journalistic, tremendous journalistic responsibility. Bill O’Reilly is the most popular person on cable news TV but it’s a nighttime show has a very different agenda and no one in cable TV, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, says these are journalistic entitles. So there is a difference right there.

KURTZ: Bill, do you agree with Zurawik’s assessment that this has kind of morphed into a culture war?

OREILLY: From the very beginning I said this was a political hit piece. But I want to make it very clear to David Zurawik, as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, that when you wrote last night about Eric Engberg that you want to hear more. Right David, is that right?

ZURAWIK: I want to hear more…

OREILLY: I want to hear more too. 

ZURAWIK: Let me answer. What I want to do is I want to be able to talk to him. I want to ask him questions.

OREILLY: And here’s what you ask him: were you there in the plaza De Mayo? Because I didn’t see him. And as I told Howard, when I left the hotel, he was there. When I got back, he was in the hotel. And didn’t have any video until I showed up. So if you were there, what the hell were you doing? And then you can ask him about big footing. And how he stayed in the hotel, and the correspondents, who went out and put themselves at risk, had to come back and he took all their video and put his name on it.  That’s plagiarism. And they did that crap all the time. And here’s the final thing David, Anybody challenging my report being down there, have them come on. How come Eric Engberg is not on with me? How come? He’s on CNN. Why won’t he come on with me?

KURTZ: Let me jump in and ask you this because CNN has been doing a lot with this story but MSNBC hasn’t touched it, the broadcast networks haven’t touched it. Do you think this is getting traction as a story or do you think because it comes down to there’s no dispute, there is not question that Bill O’Reilly was in Argentina, that is fades after a couple days?

ZURAWIK: If you asked me this Friday I would have said it was definitely down trending, it wasn’t getting traction. As a matter of fact, I’ve been trying to find it on twitter. I think it only trended for a brief moment and that was when it was announced that Bill O’Reilly was going to take it on, on his show.  I think now with the back and forth, it does because, don’t forget, this is 33 years ago. But these are big names involved now. And they’re questioning each other’s memories. Look, Bill O’Reilly’s strategy is pure Bill O’Reilly. But it’s going to you know, and I think they will be studying this in strategic communications and PR courses.

KURTZ: Let me give Bill the final world because I’ve got half a minute. Do you think by responding so aggressively…. Are you making this story bigger?

OREILLY:  They are trying to impune my career. They are trying to smear me and impune my career. Nobody’s gunna do that. If anybody contradicts what I have said about my reportage, they need to come on my program and look me in the eye. Eric Engberg is a coward. Ok? He’s a coward. He can come on and say ‘hey Bill, This didn’t happen. I was there, I was this’. I want David and I want you, Howie, to call up Engberg and ask him if he was there. I’d like to know if he was there and if he was, why he has no video.

KURTZ:  I would welcome the change to talk to him.

OREILLY: Right and I know you’ve got to run. We will have more on this. We are trying to get Rather. We are trying to get the president of CBS News at the time, and we will have the video. They are telling me we will have it. The video that I shot, that my guys shot, we should have it all tomorrow on The Factor.

KURTZ: All right. Clearly this story is not over. Bill O’Reilly, thanks for calling in.