The Real Reason Brian Williams Got Fired & Bill O'Reilly Won't

After NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams got taken off the air for lying about being in a helicopter that was shot down during the Iraq War in 2003, some pundits went looking for other personas in the news that may have exaggerated their own war coverage. They discovered that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly embellished his own war coverage, and some groups are asking for him to be taken off the air.


Whether he deserves to be fired or not, it's doubtful that O'Reilly will get anything other than a slap on the wrist -- if that.

First off, considering what was said, it could be argued that O'Reilly's faulty comments were a matter of semantics. Critics say that he claimed to be in the Falklands in Argentina during the Falklands War and its aftermath in 1982.

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O'Reilly claimed last week, "I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was," which could technically be true. What he did say was that he was "in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands." Since English is tricky, he may have been referring to being in the general area of the war zone, not the specific area itself.

Another factor when considering why Williams was taken off the air and O'Reilly is still on nightly is the nature of their reporting. O'Reilly is a right-leaning political commentator on a cable news network, while Williams was supposedly a non-partisan reporter on network news.

Not that that condones someone from embellishing their resumes, but let's face it -- Fox News viewers are going to be more apt to forgive the host his embellishments than most people who watch the Nightly News would be willing to look beyond Williams'.

Furthermore, one Politico reported pointed out that it matters where the accusations came from. The backlash against Williams was from vets who were with him when he claimed to have been shot down. The ones against O'Reilly came from an openly leftist site, Mother Jones. Americans who watch network news respect vets, but those in Bill O'Reilly's demographic will write off whatever anyone at Mother Jones says without a second thought.

And on top of all that ... Fox News isn't likely to take O'Reilly off the air because he's ratings gold for network. Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News ratings seem to be up now that Williams is off the air. Of course it could be coincidence ... but it's worth nothing.

Let me be clear in saying that I do not believe Bill O'Reilly should have embellished his war correspondence. As a cynic, I actually have no opinion on whether either host should be taken off the air. But all things considered, it looks like Brian Williams is losing his current job while O'Reilly is not -- and I can see why.

Do you think Bill O'Reilly should be taken off the air like Brian Williams was?


Image via Justin Hoch/Flickr

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