Bill O’Reilly stated, unequivocally, on April 13 that nobody on Fox News Channel had suggested that those who failed to pay for health insurance would go to jail.
In the days since, there has been fairly detailed evidence to the contrary.
The question is, now what?
Any legitimate news organization would issue a correction, and perhaps apologize — especially because O’Reilly insisted that he had researched the charge and found it meritless. That claim appears to be specious at best.
Instead, O’Reilly simply doubled down on the falsehood. MSNBC (or rather, “NBC News”) and Time magazine were smearing Fox News. Fox had never implied that jail time might be in the final bill. Even Bill Clinton wouldn’t try to parse words that neatly.
Moreover, in the context of his debate with Sen. Tom Coburn, what O’Reilly stated was nonsense. Coburn said that the people who attended his meetings in Oklahoma were misled by watching Fox News. And there’s ample evidence (see the video) that anybody heavily viewing FNC could easily have come away with the impression jail time was not merely a possibility but likely. Hell, Glenn Beck essentially said as much on O’Reilly’s show.
Game, set and match.
O’Reilly is a big guy, both literally and figuratively in the cable world. But if he ever wants to be taken seriously — and his employers do — he needs to be big enough to admit when he was wrong. Otherwise, the only person he’s lookin’ out for is himself.
Update: I’m not a huge fan of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz — he’s a pretty good example of how some radio talent doesn’t translate to TV — but he pretty much nails it in dissecting O’Reilly’s lame spin in this segment.