The Washington Post has leveled accusations of “historical fraud” at Fox News host Bill O’Reilly over a scene in his book Killing Reagan.
Mediaite.com reported that Post blogger Erik Wemple found video which puts the lie to O’Reilly’s description of a hostile encounter between former Pres. Ronald Reagan and ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson.
O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard described a scene that purportedly took place at Reagan’s California ranch in 1984 when Donaldson — who O’Reilly and Dugard portrayed as a loud, obnoxious boor who loathed Reagan — asked Reagan a question at a press conference at Rancho del Cielo.
According to Killing Reagan, Pres. Reagan was permanently disabled by the attempt on his life in 1981. At the Rancho del Cielo press event, Donaldson was so rude and confrontational that Reagan became confused and befuddled by his questions and Nancy Reagan had to whisper the answer in his ear.
Wemple wrote, “As this blog noted on Saturday, this passage has factual problems. Donaldson, for one, tells the Erik Wemple Blog, ‘I wasn’t there.’ The 82-year-old retired newsman says he was in Santa Barbara with other members of the press, while a small contingent of rotating pool members went to the ranch to photograph and question Reagan.”
Furthermore, when Wemple checked the archives from the Ronald Reagan Library, he was able to track down video of the press conference, which was actually a photo op where Reagan took no questions from the press.
“The entire Q & A took less than a minute,” Wemple said Friday. “And contrary to the ‘action-packed’ description in Killing Reagan, it doesn’t come off very dramatically, either.”
Neither O’Reilly, Dugard nor their publisher was willing to comment for Wemple’s article. The Post reached out to former CNN correspondent Charles Bierbauer — who, unlike Donaldson, was actually at the short press event.
Bierbauer explained that the incident was nothing like what Dugard and O’Reilly described in the book.
“O’Reilly is writing fiction,” he said.
Watch video of the 1984 press conference, embedded below: