Bill O’Reilly And The Truth

It’s not like O’Reilly made this stuff up out of whole cloth. He almost did those things he’s claimed… almost.

bill o reilly   Google Search

I have been trying to avoid the Bill O’Reilly story. It’s tough to keep away. It’s compelling. He’s compelling.

I don’t think he’s been telling the truth.

Let accept one fact first: On-the-air O’Reilly is masterful.

There are few, maybe none, who do what he does better. It disappoints me we’re usually on the opposite side of his political arguments, but that doesn’t take away his TV talents.

Did O’Reilly lie or strongly exaggerate when he talked about his experience in the Falklands War? Yes. I have no doubt.

Did he stretch the truth when in his book “Killing Kennedy” he claimed:

As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood.

By the way, that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.

Again. the evidence indicates Bill’s version doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Should he be punished? Brian Williams certainly was for his exaggerations and self inflating fiction.

I wish the O’Reilly answer was a resounding yes, but I’m not so sure. As someone who was harshly punished, I know it doesn’t always fit the crime.

Don’t we all inflate our resume just a little? Have you ever embellished a story to make it better? It’s not like O’Reilly made this stuff up out of whole cloth. He almost did those things he’s claimed… almost.

If O’Reilly does get smacked around it will be because he pushed back too hard. Instead of apologizing or backtracking he mounted attacks against the original reporter of the story and a New York Times reporter later trying to advance it.

During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”

That’s pretty low.

Bill O’Reilly was once sued for sexual harassment. He claimed, as he does now, to be innocent. He said he would fight the charges. In the end he quietly settled for millions.

I’ll be interested to see this play out.

The Roger Ailes Bio Is Brutal!

loudest ovice in the room-w1400-h1400I’m reading an excerpt from Gabriel Sherman’s new book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” It’s an unauthorized biography of Roger Ailes. What I’ve read so far is brutal.

He said he would never send Zachary to the public school because it was overrun with liberalism. At his window, he pointed at an outdoor sculpture exhibit at Boscobel House and Gardens, a half-mile in the distance. “Do you think they have the right to block my view?” Roger asked. “Isn’t it their property?” Foley asked. “It’s not their property! It’s a nonprofit! They get tax breaks!” Roger replied. He spoke of his security more than once. “He worried about his kid and his wife and said he wouldn’t want anything to happen to them because of what he was,”

If Sherman’s account is to be believed, Ailes is a paranoid, controlling, dickish son-of-a-bitch who gets his way by taking no prisoners! The excerpt doesn’t say Ailes is unhappy, but how can he not be? He is described as one troubled man.

What Ailes built at Fox News is astounding. He’s left both CNN and MSNBC in his dust. It’s not an accident. This is Ailes doing. Fox News consistently provides a broadcast easily digestible by its target audience. It is remarkably effective.

Recent reports say Ailes made disparaging remarks about his ‘stars,’ like Bill O’Reilly, but he mostly appears to be strongly supportive of his talent. Fox News pioneered talent-centric broadcasts in cable news. Outwardly, he seems the boss I always wanted.

If Ailes’ reported temper and vindictiveness can be believed, maybe Sherman should be looking over his shoulder as he reports Ailes already does on a regular basis.

Bill O’Reilly

I was disappointed in what I saw on the web clip.

I have been trading emails back in forth with Woody, who is starting to rival my friend Farrell (International Man of Mystery) in miles traveled and places seen. We’ve been talking about oil speculation. Woody’s family business is home heating oil.

If you’re not in the Northeast, this may surprise you. We have trucks that drive around and deliver fuel oil (exactly the same as automobile diesel) to big basement tanks. Woody’s family has kept us warm for nearly twenty years.

I told him about a story on futures trading by speculators and the possible implications on the price of oil, that ran on MSNBC. I’ve watched three packages on this subject, and I still don’t totally understand.

Woody sent me a link. Bill O’Reilly was on and agreeing with the point made in the MSNBC report. I took a look.

I don’t watch Bill O’Reilly often. He is a very charismatic broadcaster. He’s a great reader whose inflection can sell a story. He has an extremely well developed on-air persona, which is more important to his success than whatever political point he’s currently making.

I was disappointed in what I saw on the web clip. To me, it seemed he was cold reading his Talking Points Memo. A few times, he read words, but used the wrong inflection. That’s the giveaway.

I know he doesn’t write everything he reads (maybe anything he reads) – that’s OK. But I expect him to do the broadcasting equivalent of basketball shootarounds and take a look at his copy before he’s in the studio.

It is only fair to note. I might have just caught him on a bad night. I have bad nights. Everyone does. The average of all your work, by definition, is average. Hopefully the excellent outweighs the mediocre.

Interviewed For New Haven Magazine

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Last week I was approached by New Haven Magazine. They wanted to interview me for a story.

Was I flattered? Sure.

Of course there are always nagging worries. Why exactly me? I don’t want to be like Dr. Joyce Brothers, emergency guest when all else fails.

I asked who else had been featured.

  • Roya Hakakian, author, Iranian ex pat.
  • C. Megan Urry, chair Yale Physics Dept.
  • Hugh Keefe, leading defense attorney
  • Jonathan Rothberg, scientist entrepreneur
  • Peyton Patterson, CEO

I don’t belong anywhere near that list. Speaking to me is the journalistic equivalent of slumming!

Tonight, New Haven Magazine’s publisher Mitch Young and photographer Steve Blazo, came by.

I always worry how to answer a reporter’s questions? I’m not interested in towing the company line, but I don’t want to tick off my bosses either. Anyway, everyone can tell when you’re bullshitting to stay politically correct. Who needs that?

Years ago, we had an anchor at the station who was often quoted saying outlandish, foolish or even stupid things. I suppose she was sought out once reporters realized she made for good copy&#185.

She’d write it all off to being misquoted, but if you read the words and closed your eyes, you could see her saying them!

One question tonight came out of left field. Mitch asked, in light of Keith Olbermann’s move from sports to news, whether I’d like to make the transition to anchor? Keith Olbermann is not your typical TV anchorman. His career, though on the upswing now, has not been without setbacks and hardship.

I find what Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and a few others do very interesting. Their job demands a skill set different from those employed by a totally impartial anchor. They also work within a structure different from conventional, and impartial, TV journalism.

I don’t think local news will be moving in that direction anytime soon, so the point is moot. It was still interesting to think about. It’s a choice I won’t have to make in real life.

I’ll let you know when the article is published… unless it’s incredibly embarrassing.

&#185 – Don’t ask. I will never tell. However, your guess is probably correct.

Know Your Source

I feel awful for Mark Dixon and my other meteorologist friends at Channel 3. Here’s a taste of a story about a weather faux pas from today’s Hartford Courant:

False Alarm, Toto

Photograph Of Tornado Was Actually From Kansas, Not Thomaston, WFSB Says


Courant Staff Writers

July 21, 2007

A photo of a Kansas-size twister that accompanied a TV news report Thursday about an outbreak of severe thunderstorms in Connecticut actually was taken in Kansas.

WFSB, Channel 3, received the photo by e-mail Thursday afternoon from a man who said he shot it on his father’s farm in Thomaston, station news director Dana Neves said Friday. The timing of the e-mail corresponded with radar showing severe weather over southern Litchfield County and ground reports of funnel clouds and a tornado in that same area, WFSB meteorologist Mark Dixon said Friday. The totality of the situation, he and Neves said, convinced the station that the photo was legitimate.

The photo was shown on the broadcast and displayed prominently on WFSB’s website,

After verifying through the National Weather Service that the photo was shot in Kansas about two years ago, the station announced the mistake to viewers Thursday evening, Neves said. They also alerted federal officials.

I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened to me – because it could have. I tend to treat any kind of unsolicited video or eyewitness account with a grain of salt, but I’m not perfect.

Just to give you a taste of what goes on, here’s an email I received Thursday:

Hi Geoff–We had a tornado touch down in Thomaston and then again in Terryville–I don’t know about damage because I don’t live there. But local police saw it and reported it. Just thought you would like to know.


I was so busy, I didn’t see this until long after the cell had passed through Thomaston. By that time, based on an NWS report, we had sent a reporter there. He found nothing.

I wrote asking Sharon where she got her info.

Hi Geoff–

I was watching the Weather Channel when I first got home and it came across in the National Weather Service Tornado warning on the bottom of the screen. It said the tornado was spotted by local law enforcement.


Sharon didn’t mean to be bad or misleading. She was doing what she felt was right. But, she originally passed along second hand information as if she had obtained it herself.

I try my best to make personal contact with anyone who sends unsolicited material I use, but I know there are times I haven’t stridently followed my own rule. Speaking to someone usually provides to best clues to their trustworthiness.

This stuff happens all the time. Most of the time it’s a photo that someone claims comes from a friend or relative – but it doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same bogus Katrina pictures!

There’s a larger point to be made here and that gets to the crux of citizen journalism. Are we ready to trust random members of the public to provide our news coverage?

Opinionated reporters (Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Brit Hume) may choose to report only certain aspects of a story, but you know where they’re coming from and can adjust accordingly. With random citizens, who knows what they’re trying to accomplish or maybe they’re too naive, like Sharon, to even know.

A good TV station, like WFSB, steps up to the plate and admits when they are wrong. That’s what good meteorologists and good journalists do.

On the other hand, when caught sending dubious material, I’ve found unsolicited citizen ‘journalists’ often stop responding.

This is the new world. There are aspects I don’t approve of.

O’Reilly And Colbert

Last night was the big Stephen Colbert/Bill O’Reilly ‘confrontation.’ First they met on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. Later, they moved to the Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

Both Bill and Stephen stayed in character. Colbert has an act. O’Reilly’s persona is an affectation which has evolved over time.

In spite of what I personally think about O’Reilly, he’s obviously a smart man. However, what was shown last night is, he’s out of the loop as far as contemporary culture is concerned.

More than likely, someone (or many someones) had tipped him off to Colbert’s nightly send up of the O’Reilly style. Did O’Reilly agree without really knowing what he was getting into? That’s how it seemed to me.

Colbert is a tough target for O’Reilly to attack, because what he says is ‘conservative-speak.’ It’s not the words that make his satire, but their context.

On more than a few occasions, Colbert made sport of O’Reilly without Bill having a clue! Again, it was the nuance of what transpired, not the meaning of the individual words.

Stephen needs to be careful, because over the long run, there can be an O’Reilly Factor without Colbert, but there can’t be a Colbert Report without Bill O’Reilly. Ask Vaughn Meader.

Blogger’s note: Over at TVNewser there is a ‘who won’ poll being conducted. At the moment, it’s Colbert 92%, O’Reilly 7%

Steve Martin on the Radio

As I left the house today, I turned on Talk of the Nation on NPR. It’s a show I listen to most days.

There seem to be two types of public radio – classical and other ‘non-mainstream’ music and non-confrontational talk (which separates it from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and too many others to mention).

In this area, the ‘talking’ NPR is heard on two stations with very poor signals. One is on Long Island, far southeast of me. The other is very low powered though closer. I have buttons set for both and punch back and forth as the signals fade and distort.

On my way home from work I listen to BBC World Service news on these stations. Except for their Euro-centric sports coverage, I enjoy it and learn a lot about what’s going on in the world.

Back to this afternoon.

I turned on Talk of the Nation and heard a familiar voice speaking with the host, Neal Conan. I couldn’t place it. He was answering a question about how he describes himself and offered up his tax return (which he doesn’t personally prepare) probably says actor.

Who the heck was it?

The conversation continued and then I realized: Steve Martin. He was promoting the paperback release of his latest novella.

I find Steve Martin a very interesting person. His career has taken an unorthodox route to where it is now – yet at every point, I have found him incredibly entertaining. As he has gotten older (me too) I have found him to be intellectually interesting.

Today, on Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan played a few seconds of a cut from an earlier comedy album. I could feel Martin squirming in his seat – trying to get away from what was being played. It was the same when a caller asked when he would tour again. “Never.”

I understand how he feels. He is a different person from that “wild and crazy guy” He is not the banjo player who used to appear with an prank arrow through his head.

On the other hand, that is how we learned to like him. That is how we were originally attracted to his work. I know he’s changed. There’s no reason to run away from it.

A few years ago, in Las Vegas, we went to an exhibition of his art collection at the Bellagio Hotel. It didn’t take much to realize he’s well rounded and thoughtful.

I have seen a few of his movies. Helaine and I are both very big fans of “LA Story,” a movie which is to Los Angeles and Woody Allen’s Manhattan is to New York City. I guess after writing this, I should go out and get one of his novellas.

There’s one other part of Steve Martin that really impresses me, and I almost forgot to add it. Whenever he appears with Letterman, he prepares material. I’m not talking about re-hashing a stand-up routine, he writes absolutely fresh material. Sometimes it’s done live, sometimes it’s on tape, but it shows effort and a dedication to his craft. It’s always very funny – though that is secondary. I’m impressed with the effort, which shows a true respect for his audience and craft.

Today’s interview with Steve Martin is available on the Talk of the Nation website.