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More journalists have come forward to dispute Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s description of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a “combat situation” during the 1982 Falklands War.
Eric Engberg, a former CBS correspondent who worked alongside O’Reilly, challenged his old colleague’s depiction of the environment as a “war zone,” saying it was more of an “expense account zone.”
“He is misrepresenting the situation he covered, and he is obviously doing so to burnish his credentials as a ‘war correspondent,’ which is not the work he was performing during the Falklands war,” Engberg wrote in a Facebook post.
According to Engberg, the riot was short-lived and consisted mainly of chanting, fist-shaking and coin-throwing.
He also took issue with O’Reilly’s claim that he was the only CBS reporter with enough courage to cover the protest because the rest were “hiding in the hotel.”
In an interview with Hamptons TV in 2009, O'Reilly said he told the crew, “‘Why are you guys [hiding]? You got to get out and cover the story,’ which I did.”
“It is an absolute lie,” Engberg wrote. “Everyone was working in the street that night, the crews exhibiting their usual courage. O’Reilly was the one person who behaved unprofessionally and without regard for the safety of the camera crew he was leading.”
O’Reilly, who covered the 1982 conflict for CBS News, denied allegations that he claimed to be on the Falkland Islands at the time.
Instead, O’Reilly says, the “war zone” experience refers to a violent protest in the Argentine capital, where angry mobs stormed the presidential palace “trying to overthrow the government,” after it surrendered to the United Kingdom.
“I was there on the street with my camera crews,” he said on “The O’Reilly Factor” Friday night. “The violence was horrific, as Argentine soldiers fired into the crowd, who were responding with violent acts of their own.”
Over the weekend, Engberg and two other former CBS employees who covered the event alongside O’Reilly spoke to CNN about their problems with his version of events.
Manny Alvarez, a CBS cameraman at the time, said he does not believe O’Reilly’s account of his own cameraman being run down and bleeding from the ear.
“Nobody remembers this happening,” Alvarez told the network. “If somebody got hurt, we all would have known.”
Jim Forrest, who was working as a CBS sound engineer, disputed O’Reilly’s claim that “many were killed.”
“There were certainly no dead people,” Forrest said. “Had there been dead people, they would have sent more camera crews.”
Charles Krause, who reported from Buenos Aires at the same time as O’Reilly, called the Fox News host’s tales from the Argentine capital “absurd.”
“I don’t recall him doing any major story that anybody remembers, and he was there a very short time, then he was recalled, I don't know why,” Krause said in an interview with Media Matters for America. “He wasn’t a team player, and people thought he was grandstanding, basically.”
Krause, who had lived in Buenos Aires for three years before the war, says journalists were not in harm’s way but he understands why someone who does not speak Spanish might have felt a little uncomfortable at the time.
“There were some anti-American demonstrations a little bit, and if you went out, it was better not to advertise the fact you were American,” he said.
Krause also doubts that O’Reilly saw anyone die during the protest.
“There’s a difference between demonstrations and rioting,” Krause told Media Matters for America. “I don't recall there being rioting, there could have been scuffling.”
The controversy stems from a Mother Jones article last week.
David Corn, Washington bureau chief for the left-leaning magazine, compared O’Reilly’s Falklands War stories to Brian Williams’ false tale of sustaining enemy fire in Iraq. The allegations set off intense scrutiny, spurring O’Reilly to respond Friday night on his Fox News program.
“Everything I’ve said about my reportorial career, everything, is true,” O'Reilly said, dismissing Mother Jones as the “bottom rung of journalism in America” and Corn’s piece as a “political hit job.”
The top-rated Fox News host presented an internal memo from CBS News praising his coverage that day, as well as a letter he wrote to then-CBS News boss Ed Joyce praising the crew’s bravery.
“The crews were great,” the letter reads. “The riot had been very bad. We were gassed and shot at and I had the best vantage point in which to report the story.”
O’Reilly said he spent hours crawling around his dust-filled basement looking for those documents from 33 years ago.
“All because an irresponsible guttersnipe, a far-left zealot who’s attacked Fox News many times before, spit this stuff out on the Net,” he said. “And you know what? Nothing’s going to happen to David Corn. Mother Jones and the far-left websites couldn’t care less about the truth.”
A Fox News spokesperson released a statement saying the network is standing by its embattled star, the New York Times reports.
“Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” the statement reads.