Dylan Byers, the dumbest media reporter alive, has typed up some thoughts at The Politico about, as his headline puts it, "Why the Bill O'Reilly charges aren't sticking." Aren't they? Or at least, isn't their "sticking" or not "sticking" in some way related to the work of a media desk such as The Politico's?
No, not at all—as Byers explains, the reason Bill O'Reilly isn't being held accountable for bullshitting about his war-reporter heroics is that the Mother Jones reporters who broke the news were the wrong people to do the story, and they did the story wrong. They "weren't war veterans" but "liberal reporters at an admittedly liberal magazine." And they failed to "deliver conclusive evidence of Choppergate-level sins":
The promised whopper was in the subhead: "The Fox News host has said he was in a 'war zone' that apparently no American correspondent reached."
Had O'Reilly falsely claimed to have been on the Falkland Islands when he wasn't, the Fox News host might be in serious trouble. But he never really said that. He has said that he was "in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands," which can reasonably be defended as short-hand for "in the Falklands War" — especially because O'Reilly has oft described his experiences there as taking place in Buenos Aires. "I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was," O'Reilly told the On Media blog last week. That hasn't really been disputed since.
This is idiotic. Bill O'Reilly said he was "in a war zone." The war zone, during the Falklands war, was in the Falklands. O'Reilly was on the Argentine mainland, about 1,200 miles away from the war zone.
Claiming to have been "in a war zone" when you were 1,200 miles distant from the war zone is, if anything, a more brazen lie than claiming your helicopter got shot down when it wasn't. At least Brian Williams was in Iraq, in a helicopter, flying the same route as the helicopter that got shot down. And Brian Williams is a shameful and absurd liar!
O'Reilly's defense is that he witnessed street demonstrations about the war that turned violent (how violent they were is another thing O'Reilly is lying about). Super. I think I witnessed the police arresting war protesters in New York in 2004—which means, by O'Reilly's standards, that I could say I was reporting from the Iraq war zone.
The reason why Brian Williams got into deep trouble for lying about his war experience while Bill O'Reilly hasn't is that Williams and O'Reilly have different jobs, for different employers. Brian Williams was paid to sit in front of a TV camera and give viewers an ostensibly neutral, agreeable account of current events. When people began disagreeing with Brian Williams about his presentation of facts, loudly and in public, it hurt his ability to perform those duties for NBC.
Bill O'Reilly is paid to go on television for Fox News and say things that get the viewers upset, even if those things are false or nonsensical. So what if his experience in the Falklands war was bogus? So is his experience in the War on Christmas. The fact that people are calling him dishonest simply proves, from Fox's point of view, that he's doing his job.
Thus the network maintains a political campaign's approach to controversy—where NBC wants to make trouble go away, Fox News wants to use trouble to promote itself. Instead of apologizing or investigating, the network counter-spins as hard as it can. You say Bill O'Reilly lied about being in a war zone; Fox says you're lying about the meaning of "in" and "war" and "zone."
And it works. Byers blames Mother Jones for coming after O'Reilly with a story that "could be argued away on semantics"—argued away, that is, if you are trying to argue semantics with someone as dull-witted as Dylan Byers. This willingness to be befogged presents a funny contrast to Byers' reaction when Fareed Zakaria was accused of plagiarism, under similarly disputed circumstances:
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) September 17, 2014
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) September 17, 2014
It's almost as if Dylan Byers writes the things that Fox News wants to see written. Certainly, the work he is doing on the O'Reilly story advances the interpretations that the Fox News PR department wants advanced.
By Byers' own semantic standards, then, it would be accurate to say that Dylan Byers works for Fox PR.
[Photo via Getty]