There are a number of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Could it have been a secret CIA hit job? A bold move by the US mafia? A stealth attack by an embittered Fidel Castro? To this vast list of questions, theorists must now ask themselves a new question: was Bill O’Reilly present for the suicide of one of the event’s main players, or was he not?
In 1977, Bill O’Reilly was a young, hotshot reporter for WFAA-TV in Dallas. His second major job after graduating from Boston University, he earned his stripes covering the investigation that followed the JFK assassination. He was even awarded the Dallas Press Club Award for excellence in investigative journalism.
On multiple occasions, O’Reilly has claimed that he traveled to Florida as part of his investigations. He was seeking an interview with George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, who testified before the Warren Commission. But, as he stepped onto de Mohrenschildt’s porch in Florida on that day in 1977, O’Reilly heard a gunshot from inside the house.
“As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood,” O’Reilly wrote in his 2012 book, “Killing Kennedy.” “By the way,” he continues, “that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.”
Just in case the third-person narration was confusing, O’Reilly repeated this account in his 2013 book, “Kennedy’s Last Days,” saying, “As I knocked on the door, I heard a shotgun blast. He had killed himself.”
If that sounds fishy to you, you’re not the only one. Kennedy’s assassination occurred in 1963. That O’Reilly should arrive on the doorstep the very day, 14 years later, that said witness decided to commit suicide, sounds monumentally fortuitous.
And apparently O’Reilly’s former colleagues at WFAA agree. As Media Matters reports, several of his peers from that time in 1977 say he wasn’t even in Florida on that day.
“Bill O’Reilly’s a phony, there’s no other way to put it,” Tracy Rowlett, a former WFAA reporter and anchor told Media Matters. “He was not up on the porch when he heard the gunshots, he was in Dallas. He wasn’t traveling at the time.”
“[O’Reilly] was in Dallas,” Byron Harris, another former colleague, said. “He stole that article out of the newspaper. I guarantee Channel 8 didn’t send him to Florida to do that story because it was a newspaper story, it was broken by the Dallas Morning News.”
Harris also points out that if O’Reilly had, in fact, been present for such an event, WFAA would have reported it as an exclusive, “and there was no exclusive.”
His self-aggrandizing account didn’t even come into being until decades later. During a 1992 report he did for Inside Edition, O’Reilly reported that “moments before he was to be interviewed by House investigators, de Mohrenschildt blew his brains out with a 20-guage shotgun.” A graphic account, but one in which O’Reilly is suspiciously absent.
Another problem for O’Reilly is the conflicting account of New York Times Journalist Gaeton Fonzi. As Jefferson Morley noted for JFKFacts.org, Fonzi wrote that O’Reilly had called him from Dallas to confirm de Mohrenschildt’s death.
“About 6:30 that evening I received a call from Bill O’Reilly,” Fonzi wrote in his 1993 autobiography. “’Funny thing happened,’ [Bill] said. ‘We just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located de Mohrenschildt in South Florida. Now de Mohrenschildt’s attorney….calls and says de Mohrenschildt committed suicide this afternoon. Is that true?’”
This is the latest example of O’Reilly potentially inflating his own career. Morley wrote that O’Reilly was in Dallas, 1,200 miles away from the shotgun blast, on that day. Coincidentally, 1,200 miles is almost exactly the same distance between Buenos Aires and the Falkland Islands. O’Reilly claims to have reported from a war zone in the Falklands, while his CBS colleagues insist he was stuck in the Argentinian capital like the rest of them.
Between Bill O’Reilly and Brian Williams – who has suffered a devastating blow to his reputation over similar allegations – it’s hard to know what to believe these days. Was he or wasn’t he? Did he or didn’t he? The world seems upside down. But as O’Reilly himself admits, during his early time at WFAA, he made a series of “stupid comments in the newsroom,” so at least that’s always been consistent.