February 25, 2015
Bill O’Reilly Falklands Controversy Prompts Fox News Ratings Surge

Bill O'Reilly's alleged "Brian Williams problem" has been a ratings bonanza for Fox News and for The O'Reilly Factor.

In the aftermath of the Brian Williams suspension, O'Reilly has been accused of embellishing his war reporting by liberal journalist David Corn of Mother Jones. O'Reilly pushed back hard on his program last Friday and Monday.

Williams, the former NBC Nightly News managing editor, is gone from the anchor desk for six months for fabricating details in a war story to apparently burnish his image as some kind of macho foreign correspondent rather than someone who mostly works behind a desk. His claim (aka the "chopper whopper") that his helicopter was hit by an RPG while covering the Iraq invasion has been disputed by eyewitnesses. Other tales by Williams such as his presence at the Berlin Wall when it came down, being embedded with a SEAL Team, seeing a dead body float by in post-Kartrina New Orleans, and so on have also been called into question.

O'Reilly refrained from joining in the Brian Willliams pile-on, however.

The O'Reilly controversy revolves around whether he misrepresented his coverage of the Falklands War more than 30 years ago by allegedly implying that he was actually in the Falklands war zone rather than Buenos Aires, where he and virtually all reporters were based. Another point of contention is whether O'Reilly and his crew found themselves in the middle of an anti-government riot in the city after Argentina surrendered to the U.K.

See The O'Reilly Factor videos below in which the host presents his case and draw your own conclusions.

Irrespective of whether a viewer agrees or disagrees with his views, O'Reilly's outsized personality is obviously not everyone's cup of tea by any means, in part because he tends to talk over his guests. On the other hand, he does give a platform to those who disagree, unlike MSNBC, for example. According to Mediate, The O'Reilly Factor pulled in some huge numbers in the fragmented media universe Monday night (particularly in the advertiser-preferred 25-54 age bracket) in which he presented CBS archival footage of the Buenos Aires unrest and interviewed a former NBC bureau chief.

"By racking up 568k viewers in the demo, O'Reilly's Fox 8 p.m. hour doubled its CNN competitor in Anderson Cooper (209k) and tripled the numbers of MSNBC's Chris Hayes (136k). In total viewership, O'Reilly broke the 3 million threshold (3.34M, to be more precise), beating Cooper (545k) and Hayes (583k) by nearly six times. His 3M+ viewers made [Monday] night the network's highest-rated broadcast of the Factor since the evening of the Ferguson grand jury verdict back in November."
For the month of February, Fox News itself even bested the cable entertainment channels, TVNewser reported. "Fox News was the No. 1 basic cable channel in Primetime (8-11 pm ET) total viewers in February, outranking USA, AMC and TNT … The O'Reilly Factor had its best demo average since April 2013, and was the No. 1 program at 8pm in all of cable."

In contrast, ratings-challenged MSNBC is going in the opposite direction. It recently cancelled Ronan Farrow's much-hyped show as well as a program hosted by Joy Reid given chronic lack of viewership. Rumors hold that other changes in the lineup may be forthcoming. According to an insider, MSNBC is planning "to move away from left-wing TV," The Daily Beast reported.

Unless another shoe drops, which is possible, the Bill O'Reilly Falklands War reporting controversy may be winding down.

O'Reilly and others have insisted that the dispute has a strong ideological component. "As we have come to see, Fox isn't just the most-watched cable news outlet. It is the scapegoat for all of the anger harbored by both liberal journalists and politicians toward those who question their policies … Fox's conservative bias is no secret, though it is far more balanced at times than the openly and almost uniformly left-wing voices heard on MSNBC and often fairer than the supposedly down-the-middle CNN. The channel's popularity is a function of the fact that almost half the country feels disenfranchised by mainstream outlets that cover up their liberal tilt with a veneer of faux objectivity," Commentary opined in the context of the Bill O'Reilly war zone controversy.

[Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images Entertainment]