Bill O’Reilly Defends Tucker Carlson—and Makes One Big, Embarrassing Mistake

The disgraced former Fox host questions the Kremlin memo advising Russian media to feature Carlson.

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Earlier this week, Bill O’Reilly, the disgraced former Fox loudmouth, took to the internet, where he is still permitted to pontificate, to defend current Fox loudmouth Tucker Carlson. This came after Mother Jones revealed a leaked Kremlin memo that advised pro-Putin Russian media that it was “essential” to feature once (and maybe still?) pro-Putin Carlson “as much as possible.” On his website, O’Reilly ranted that this story was an example of “media corruption.” But what O’Reilly actually did was reveal that he doesn’t know how to read.

O’Reilly began the segment with insult. He called Mother Jones a “far-left rag” and noted that article was “written by a guy named David Corn. C-O-R-N. Who is in the vile human being hall of fame. Long time horror, this guy.” Then he went on to apply that much-vaunted O’Reillyian logic to the issue at hand: how could you trust that the memo was real?

Now Mother Jones would have you believe that someone inside the Russian government leaked them a memo ordering the Russian media to use Tucker Carlson. That’s what they want the readers to believe. Okay, so the first question that comes to mind: why would they leak a memo like that to an obscure publication, which nobody reads and very few have even heard of, Mother Jones? Why wouldn’t they leak that to the Washington Post or the New York Times or a big publication. That’s question Number One. Number Two, who leaked this so-called memo? Mother Jones won’t say. It’s anonymous sources. So I guess Mother Jones is protecting someone inside the Kremlin! Doesn’t want to say who that person is or even describe what position that person might hold. Alright these are just logical questions. Why Mother Jones and why not identify the person who sent you the memo? Third, the Russian government hasn’t verified this memo. You would think they’d be right on it. Right? Tucker Carlson’s sticking up for us! Right? Wouldn’t they do that? Wouldn’t they want the world to know? What’s the downside for Putin? No downside. They haven’t verified it. Doesn’t matter. Soon as this comes out, the left-wing websites on the internet pick it up. Boom! It’s out there. So Carlson’s sitting there, going, ‘What the deuce is this?'”

It seems as if O’Reilly has lost a step or three. The article did not say that the memo was leaked by the Kremlin. It stated that the document “was provided to Mother Jones by a contributor to a national Russian media outlet who asked not to be identified.” That’s a big difference. Maybe O’Reilly didn’t reach this line. It was in the third paragraph of the article. 

So all his high-and-mighty deduction was for naught. His “just logical questions” were based on ignorance, laziness, or extremely poor reading comprehension skills. Perhaps all three. And O’Reilly challenged the credibility of the memo because Putin’s regime did not verify it. Ponder that for a moment. Does he expect a government perpetuating a major disinformation campaign—there is no illegal invasion, there are no attacks on civilians, there are no vicious war crimes—to confirm and publicize the details of its disinformation campaign? Has O’Reilly, the savvy, veteran journalist, gone soft? 

What the heck is going on here? Well, to his partial credit, O’Reilly informed his audience that he has a long-standing beef with Mother Jones and me. Let’s go back to O’Reilly and this segment: 

The same publication Mother Jones, the same guy David Corn wrote a defamatory article saying that I fabricated my reporting overseas. It was a total lie. A 100-percent lie… Mother Jones wanted to take me out, as it does Tucker Carlson, wants to take him off the board. And that’s what these people do. But the horror of it all is that the other internet news sites just pick it up and spit it out to the world. Unbelievable corruption. 

O’Reilly was referring to an exposé Daniel Schulman and I published in February 2015 that reported, “for years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.” This involved his reporting during wars in the Falkland Islands and El Salvador in the 1980s. O’Reilly had long boasted on air and in his books of his derring-do as a war correspondent, but his tales, upon examination, turned out to be not true.

O’Reilly went ballistic in response to our investigation. He called me a “liar,” a “despicable guttersnipe,” and “garbage.” He issued false denials. During a broadcast, he suggested that I should be placed “in the kill zone.” Schulman and I subsequently obtained video footage that further contradicted his claims about his war reporting. Other media outlets—CNN, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Media Mattersuncovered additional discrepancies between stories O’Reilly had reported and what actually occurred. And a cameraman who worked with O’Reilly in Argentina during the Falklands war told Mother Jones that a key story that O’Reilly had repeatedly recounted about rescuing a colleague during a violent protest in Buenos Aires was false.

By blasting the Mother Jones story about Carlson—to which Carlson himself has not responded—was O’Reilly defending a former colleague or settling an old score? We report. You decide. 

On another segment O’Reilly posted that same day, his guest, conservative media critic Bernard Goldberg, pummeled Carlson. Goldberg decried Carlson’s now-infamous Putin-friendly commentary, in which the Fox host denigrated criticism of Putin, as “one of the stupidest commentaries in the history of stupid cable news commentaries.” He pointed out that Russian state television ran Carlson’s on-air missive with subtitles. Goldberg called Carlson a “useful idiot” and a “dope.” He accused Carlson of cynically “appealing to the most extreme wing of his audience.” O’Reilly offered a half-hearted defense of the fellow who inhabits the time slot O’Reilly once dominated: “Carlson’s entitled to say what he wants to say.” But he didn’t put up much of a fight. 

O’Reilly’s response to the Mother Jones article on Carlson reveals an unsurprising fact: O’Reilly is a bitter guy. His unhinged charge that this story is evidence of media “corruption” is, naturally, inaccurate. It only shows that O’Reilly would rather feud than stick to facts. 

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaires wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2022 demands.

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