The coverage of Mother Jones’s inquiry into Bill O’Reilly apparent fabrications reveals a lot about the tribal loyalty of “conservative media” and the laziness of non-Internet media to weigh claims seriously.
I don’t like Mother Jones’s editor-in-chief David Corn—the most recent issue includes a hit piece against me and what I’ve done here at Gotnews.com—but Corn is right about Bill O’Reilly’s fabrications surrounding the Falkland Islands. And conservatives should reject the Fox News tribalism and embrace the truth—if they are serious about standards in media.
I’d note that radio host Hugh Hewitt interview with Corn was a ridiculous hit piece that didn’t take seriously any of the claims made in Corn’s piece about O’Reilly. Hewitt engaged in several fallacies and non sequiturs that have little relevance on the central question of “Did O’Reilly lie about his reporting?” And it sure looks that way based on both Corn’s reporting and the source material he and others have placed online from O’Reilly’s opus.
The coverage of Mother Jones’s reporting has been silly. Even the New York Times also wrote that Corn alleges that he was in the Falklands. Well, no. There’s actual video of O’Reilly claiming on camera that he was in the Falklands. This isn’t an opinion. This is smoking gun video. And that isn’t even discussing O’Reilly lying about being present for a JFK-related suicide.
I, unlike Hugh Hewitt, do take Corn’s claims about O’Reilly’s reporting and self-aggrandizement seriously and I went through them all trying to disprove them—and I can’t. Corn has approvingly pointed out that CNN has latched on to his reporting. Why CNN which has a plagiarist—Fareed Zakaria—with his own show has moral authority, I don’t really know. Given the research Gotnews.com has done I don’t think CNN really wants to go there but now they have so their reporters are fair game. Expect more on this soon.
Interestingly Hugh Hewitt’s defense of O’Reilly was similar to the initial defense of Brian Williams—”memory” problems. This is ridiculous.
It’s obvious that Mother Jones’s readers are trying to retaliate against conservatives for scalping Brian Williams. As one of the journalists who exposed Brian Williams’s Katrina lying it’s sort of a compliment that they take the story seriously enough to try to equate Brian Williams’s systemic lying.
It’s equally obvious that conservatives like Hugh Hewitt—who repeatedly and rather ridiculously campaigned for Mitt Romney—are trying to get the guy who got the illegally recorded 47 percent comment video. Why else would Hewitt mention Corn’s award?
Hewitt dislikes Corn’s reporting and so has decided to make Corn’s past in some elaborate conflict of interest involving a dislike of News Corps.
(In the spirit of full disclosure: I’ve won an award from News Corp. & admire Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes but think that Fox, like TV news generally, is starting to show its age. Super Betamax advertisements? Really?)
The politics and fault lines on the Corn story are more than a little odd. It’s wrong that James O’Keefe is attacked for recording people without their consent and David Corn is given a pass because of politics but both O’Keefe and Corn are part of the emergence of a new kind of cinema verite—snappy headline, tight lede, and damning evidence. Both O’Keefe and Corn delight in scalping their opponents. All is fair in love and war, sort of thing. And weaponized journalism has become one of the battlefronts of our electronic civil war. Each of us has become a sort of tweeting guerrilla gunning for each other.
While I admire much of Fox, I don’t care for Bill O’Reilly. He is one step above an Irish bar blowhard. And, like a lot of the corporate media, O’Reilly has used my research without attribution in the past when I wrote for the Daily Caller and pretended that his research team found it. I’m not pleased about this but stealing content is kind of par for the course. He gave Jonathan Gruber a pass on information I revealed years ago showing that Gruber had a conflict of interest.
I don’t find O’Reilly all that serious but then again I don’t find any television news all that serious. The Internet is eating TV just as it is eating print. News consumers are becoming news producers who like the game of researching ideological opponents and garden-variety frauds.
The more interesting side of David Corn’s story is that he wasn’t the one who initially found it. He told Robert Wright on Bloggingheads.tv that a Mother Jones’s reader had alerted him to O’Reilly’s war zone claims. This approach to engaging his left-wing readers in the production of news is why Corn has become politically influential. The right ignores (or plagiarizes) its researcher community at its peril. There should be less “gotcha” of the journalist behind the 47% comment and more thought into how to produce similar viral videos.
(Corrected the word attacking to attacked 12:21 EST 02.27.2015)