Publishers stand by Bill O’Reilly despite accuracy questions

Bill O'Reilly

NEW YORK (AP) — Book publishers for Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly say they stand behind his work despite questions that have been raised about his reporting.

O’Reilly’s series of books about the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ have sold millions of copies and been turned into successful movies for the National Geographic channel. The latest adaptation, “Killing Jesus,” is set to premiere on Palm Sunday.

The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America this week reported on a 2013 online post that questioned O’Reilly’s claim that in 1977 he was outside the Florida home of George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, when he killed himself with a shotgun. De Mohrenschildt had been contacted by congressional investigators looking into the assassination.

O’Reilly’s claim that he was there was in his book “Killing Kennedy.” Media Matters quoted police reports, media accounts, former colleagues and other sources that dispute O’Reilly’s claim that he was there. At the time, O’Reilly was a reporter for a Dallas television station.

Henry Holt and Co. “fully stand behind Bill O’Reilly and his best-seller ‘Killing Kennedy,’ and we’re very proud to count him as one of our most important authors,” spokesperson Pat Eisemann said.

Fox News issued a statement reiterating its “staunch support” for O’Reilly and said it would not respond to the individual accusations.

Also this week, the publisher of O’Reilly’s best-selling “The O’Reilly Factor” defended the book, which refers to his disputed coverage of the Falklands War. The magazine Mother Jones said that O’Reilly claimed to be in a “war zone” in Argentina when instead he was at a demonstration far from the front.

David Drake, senior vice president and deputy publisher for the Crown Publishing Group, said that Crown would “continue to publish our author’s book just as he wrote it.”

O’Reilly has faced questions on his books in the past. In 2011, one of the stores at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated, declined to sell “Killing Lincoln” because of historical errors. Those included giving the wrong year the theater was destroyed by fire and referring to the Oval Office in the White House when it had not been built.

Media Matters posted another story Wednesday questioning an O’Reilly statement that he had witnessed the execution of four nuns during El Salvador’s civil war in 1980, based on a 2012 statement that O’Reilly made that “I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head.”

O’Reilly said Wednesday, however, that he had been shown pictures of the aftermath of the shooting while he was in El Salvador. He said his 2012 statement, during a discussion of the nature of evil after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting massacre, was a reference to seeing those pictures, not the shooting itself.

O’Reilly was defended — sort of — by longtime nemesis Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” on Monday. Stewart has suggested the media should be spending more time looking at the actions of politicians than media figures like Brian Williams and O’Reilly.

Stewart noted the reporting on O’Reilly’s past work at the same time his Fox show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” is sending a staffer to look at all the snow in Boston and question global warming — reporting more worthy of scrutiny.

“Why don’t we just agree that a certain amount of anecdotes from our media figures are seasoned with (expletive) and let’s move on,” Stewart said.

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Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

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Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder

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