Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources hosted by Brian Stelter, Eric Engberg, a correspondent for CBS News for 26 years, shared his account of Argentina during the Falklands War. As a former colleague of Bill O’Reilly, Engberg disputes the Fox Anchor’s description of Argentina as a ‘war zone’. A transcript and videos from the show are available below.
Engberg on O’Reilly’s description of the protests in Argentina: “I didn’t see that happen. I didn’t see anything like that happen. I don’t know of any American foreign correspondent who had a weapon pointed at him. But the important thing is, I didn’t hear any gunfire. Not only did I not hear any gunfire, as I say, I didn’t hear any sirens. I would — I came to Argentina from years of experience in Washington covering anti-war demonstrations against Vietnam War in Washington.”
Engberg on O’Reilly’s story about the CBS correspondents: “What he just said was a fabrication, a lie. There were five CBS correspondents, including him, assigned to the bureau. They were under the direction of Larry Doyle, one of our very first field producers. You marines out there will understand what I was saying. He was a lurp in the marines in Vietnam before he went to CBS. He’s a very skilled operator in combat and dangerous situations. He sent all five of the correspondents and all 10 or 12 of the camera crew members out into the street. Nobody stayed in their hotel room because they were afraid. We were all working and we saw what looked — what was a moderate size riot. It was a couple thousand people attacking Casa Rosada, or the area around the Casa Rosada, by waving their arms, by clapping and chanting and singing songs. Nobody attacked the soldiers. Nobody attacked the police. There was nobody lying on the ground when it was over that I saw.”
BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. And it’s time for RELIABLE SOURCES.
And, first this morning, dueling answers to a very important question. Did Bill O’Reilly embellish his war stories from 1982 Falklands War? Nowadays, O’Reilly is the biggest star on FOX News, and that means he’s the biggest star on all of cable news. But back in the early 1980s, he was a young correspondent for FOX News. Here he is in El Salvador covering the war there.
He also covered the Falklands War from Argentina and he said he did not exaggerate anything about his experience there. He is furious that anybody is scrutinizing his record. But this weekend, we have interviewed six other people who were working for CBS in Argentina at this time. And all of them are refuting O’Reilly’s version of the events. One of those people will join me live in a moment.
But, first let me back up and tell you why this is a big story, because here is the headline that started all of it. It came out Thursday evening and it said that Bill O’Reilly has its own Brian Williams problem, that’s what the left-leaning magazine “Mother Jones” said.
Now, Brian Williams, of course, has been suspended on NBC because of his misstatements about an Iraq war mission amid scrutiny of other past claims. Obviously, Williams and O’Reilly are two different kinds of television stars. O’Reilly’s main selling point is his point of view. But he calls himself a journalist and correspondent, as well as a bloviator. So, his journalistic credibility matters.
“Mother Jones” asserted that O’Reilly has repeatedly in books, and in public forums, and on his show repeatedly exaggerated his war zone experience. And here’s an example, they say, this is one episode of his show in 2013. Notice here how he links Argentina and Falklands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O’REILLY, FOX NEWS: I was in a situation one time in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Let’s pause there. Hear what he said there. He said war zone, using his time in Argentina as credential.
But the actual battles in the Falklands War, everyone agrees, were more than 1,000 miles from Argentina. Again, O’Reilly was again in Buenos Aires.
O’Reilly also conflated the two places, the Argentina mainland and Falkland islands in his 2001 book. Here’s what it says, I reported on the ground and active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.
Now, after “Mother Jones” pointed all this out, O’Reilly denied ever saying he was on the Falkland Islands. And he spends a lot of time attacking the messenger, first on Thursday night, interviews with a series of news outlets, and then Friday on his own show. He really focused on a co-author of the “Mother Jones” report, that’s David Corn, who was a paid contributor to FOX News many years ago. Corn is now a paid contributor to MSNBC. That leaves some people wondering if this is all about television news rivalries.
O’Reilly, for his part, says Corn is just out to get FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: This man, 56-year-old David Corn works for far left magazine, “Mother Jones”, smeared me, your humble correspondent, yesterday saying I fabricated some war reporting. “Mother Jones”, which is low circulation, considered by many the bottom rung of journalism in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: I’m not sure he’s talking about when he says bottom rung of journalism, but Corn says O’Reilly is just trying to distract from the substance of the story. Most of the conversation since Thursday has been about whether O’Reilly misstated where he was during the war. But this morning, we’re going to hone on some other important details. Let’s play that 2013 clip again, this is the one where O’Reilly was talking about his photographer being injured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: I was in a situation one time in a war zone in Argentina in the Falklands where my photographer got rundown and hit his head and was bleeding on the ear on the concrete. And the army was chasing us, I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off. But, you know, at the same time, I’m looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure, I had to get this guy of there, because that was more important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, O’Reilly there is describing a riot that happened in Buenos Aires, right after Argentina surrendered to the British. Here is CNN’s footage from that night. It was hairy, it was scary. But we can find no evidence that anyone from CBS was injured. We’ve been trying tall weekend.
To the contrary, six other people who were there working for CBS said they were unaware of any injuries. They also say they are unaware of any civilians being killed in the riot. And O’Reilly repeatedly claimed during the years people were killed there.
None of them, none of these people agreed with O’Reilly’s depiction of it as a combat situation or a war zone. Some of them remarks to us yesterday and this morning that the said events in Ferguson were actually more serious and more severe.
Now, Jim Forest who worked for O’Reilly as a sound engineer on the day of the riot told me, quote, “There were certainly no dead people. Had there been dead people, they would have sent more camera crews.”
Unfortunately, some of the other staffers we talk to are insisting on anonymity because they still work in the industry or because they don’t want to be criticized by Bill O’Reilly.
But Eric Engberg is speaking out. He was a correspondent for CBS News for 26 years, and he and O’Reilly were both in Argentina during that war, he joins me from Sarasota.
Eric, thank you for being here.
ERIC ENGBERG, FORMER CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning.
STELTER: Let me cut right to it. Is Bill O’Reilly lying when he describes this combat situation?
ENGBERG: Well, I think what he’s doing is trying to build it up into a more frightening and deadly situation than it was.
It wasn’t a combat situation by any sense of the word that I know. There were no people killed. He said that he saw troops fire into the crowd. I never saw that. And I don’t know anybody who did. And I was there on the scene.
What’s interesting is, not only did I not hear any shots, I didn’t see any ambulances, I didn’t see any tanks. I don’t see any armored cars, things you would expect to see had people been shot.
STELTER: A couple of things we should share with the audience. Number one, I tried on Thursday and again on Friday to reach Bill O’Reilly through FOX News. I asked him for an interview and FOX News declined on Friday. I asked them for comment again this morning on these allegations we’re describing here, all from these staffers, and so far, they have not responded to those allegations.
I also want to mention that you said yesterday O’Reilly’s team reached to you. They’ve asked you to go on “The O’Reilly Factor”, and you’ve said no. Why is that?
ENGBERG: I don’t want to turn this into an argument on his turf over what he did that night. I’m simply stating the facts. The facts speak for himself. If he has a response to what the facts are, that’s fine. Let him lay it out. I’m not going to argue about it.
STELTER: I do want to play —
ENGBERG: The one thing I am going to argue about — the one thing I am going to argue about, the thing that got me talking about this, in one of those tapes, you haven’t played it.
STELTER: Actually, I think I know what one you’re referring to, let me play sound bites, the ones you’re referring to.
ENGBERG: Go ahead and play that.
STELTER: So, here’s the first one. This is from the Hamptons in 2009.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: When the Argentine surrendered to the British, there were riots in the streets of Buenos Aires, I write about this in my novel “Those Who Trespass.” And I was out there by myself because other CBS News correspondents were hiding in the hotel. You’ve got to get out and cover the story, which I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, Eric, that was the first time I want to have you react to, because he says nobody else was out there that night, but you were a CBS correspondent who was out there.
ENGBERG: What he just said was a fabrication, a lie. There were five CBS correspondents, including him, assigned to the bureau. They were under the direction of Larry Doyle, one of our very first field producers. You marines out there will understand what I was saying. He was a lurp in the marines in Vietnam before he went to CBS. He’s a very skilled operator in combat and dangerous situations.
He sent all five of the correspondents and all 10 or 12 of the camera crew members out into the street. Nobody stayed in their hotel room because they were afraid. We were all working and we saw what looked — what was a moderate size riot. It was a couple thousand people attacking Casa Rosada, or the area around the Casa Rosada, by waving their arms, by clapping and chanting and singing songs.
Nobody attacked the soldiers. Nobody attacked the police. There was nobody lying on the ground when it was over that I saw.
But at any rate, all CBS people did their jobs, covered the demonstration, brought their video back to be used in a story that night. And that was when O’Reilly bucked at the idea turning his tape shot by his camera man over to the unit that was putting together the story.
When Doyle said, Bob Schieffer will do the story tonight and we’ll use the video your crew shot, he said, I didn’t come down here — this is according to Larry Doyle who remembers it well. O’Reilly looked at him and said, I didn’t come down here to shoot video so this old man can use it in his story. And Larry Doyle said, what old man are you talking about? O’Reilly said, Schieffer.
Well, they took, wrestled the tape from him and used it in the Schieffer piece. Doyle turned to O’Reilly and said, I think you better leave. You don’t belong here. Doyle took steps to send O’Reilly out of Buenos Aires to send him home.
O’Reilly, by the way, according to Doyle, said, you can’t send me out of here. And Doyle said, oh, yes I can.
And maybe it was the last time O’Reilly has been beaten down in a shouting contest but Larry Doyle did it.
I should also say that Larry Doyle was one of those people who are extremely concerned about the safety of the personnel who are going out on the street during a riot situation. And he had instructed all the camera crews, do not turn on your lights during the midst of this riot because lights will draw a crowd, they will cause people to throw rocks at you. They may get somebody hurt. So, shoot only things that can be shot in the dark.
O’Reilly ordered the camera man that he was working with to turn on his lights in violation of that instruction. When Doyle found out about that, he was extremely upset. I think the camera man was upset, too, that he had been exposed to danger.
ENGBERG: Now, I’ll be more than happy to talk about his claim that there were people killed if you wan to hear my view — my take on it, Brian.
STELTER: Well, what I want to get to is the facts that night. And, by the way, I should tell the viewers, Doyle declined to speak on the record today.
But let me play one more sound bite. This is one that I haven’t seen covered in the past few days, amid all this controversy. It’s from 2011 on stage interview with O’Reilly and Marvin Kalb. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: I got a call from CBS bureau chief to say, O’Reilly, get down there. Great. I get down, got my two crews. So, I’m looking around. Where are the other CBS correspondents? I don’t see anybody.
OK. Maybe they are busy maybe on the other side of Casa Rosada. I don’t know where they are.
So, anyway, all hell breaks loose. People start to storm the Casa Rosada, the Argentine troops the people down in the streets. They shot them down. It’s not like rubber bullets or gas. These people are dying, all right?
So, anyway, I get my crew, and I grab my crew away, down a side street. We’re shooting this stuff. It’s unbelievable. I mean, people falling. Bing bing bing.
A soldier runs down the street, I’m there. A photographer gets trampled. All right? So, he’s on the ground. I grab him and the camera and drag him into a doorway.
The soldier comes up and he’s standing maybe 10 feet away, he’s got the M-16 pointed at my head. I thought it was over. I said (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) it means, journalist, please don’t shoot, por favor. The guy was about, I know, 18, 19 years old. He didn’t shoot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: So, Eric, we’ve had no luck corroborating this so far. Can you help us with that? Is there anything that sounds —
ENGBERG: I didn’t see that happen. I didn’t see anything like that happen. I don’t know of any American foreign correspondent who had a weapon pointed at him.
But the important thing is, I didn’t hear any gunfire. Not only did I not hear any gunfire, as I say, I didn’t hear any sirens. I would — I came to Argentina from years of experience in Washington covering anti-war demonstrations against Vietnam War in Washington.
And I saw more violence in anti-war demonstrations in D.C. than I saw in Argentina that night. It was over quickly. It was over within two hours.
The people did not try to storm the Casa Rosada. They were they would back by troops standing there. You can see them in the video.
They did not tangle with those troops. They did not try to crash into the building. It was really a fairly minor incident. It did result in the downfall of that government, but it was ready to go anyway.
And, oh, by the way —
STELTER: Let me share with you —
ENGBERG: Yes, go ahead.
STELTER: Let me share one more detail. What O’Reilly is citing this morning, I was e-mailed by FOX right before I went on the air, is a “New York Times” story from the moment. It says one policeman pulled a pistol fire five shots over the heads of fleeing demonstrators. So, in that “New York Times” story, they are describing gunfire having happened. You’re saying you personally did not hear or see any gunfire.
ENGBERG: Over the head of — no, I didn’t hear that firing but I read that story the next day. And you will notice the phrase is, as you say state over the head. That’s not firing at people and having them fall dead to the ground.
STELTER: So, fundamentally, what you’re saying about O’Reilly saying people dying, there’s no evidence of it.
ENGBERG: I’m saying —
STELTER: I don’t want to make this into he said/he said. But people are already saying you got a vendetta against O’Reilly, you described him as a clown on Facebook. Is this simply about personal dispute?
ENGBERG: No. He’s the one who started the personal dispute by saying we were all hiding in our hotel rooms.
STELTER: That sure doesn’t sound like anybody was hiding in hotel rooms that night.
ENGBERG: I have this personal dispute with him. He’s not a real reporter. He was not in a combat zone that night. This was not a combat zone. Not even close.
STELTER: Well, Eric, stay with me. I appreciate you being here this morning.
Let me just reiterate for the audience, we have repeatedly asked for interview with O’Reilly. I would love to talk about this, but I was turned down on Friday.
So, the question I supposed now is, what does this mean? And does it actually matter for O’Reilly and FOX? We’re going to address that in a moment.
Plus, the question dominating Sunday morning TV, does Obama love America? Is he Christian? Of course, after Rudy Giuliani’s comments, reporters are asking those questions to Republicans. But should they? Is it fair? We’re going to tackle that as well, coming up.
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