Bill O'Reilly 'surprised' by attack on his credibility

NBC's Richard Engel changes kidnapping story
NBC's Richard Engel changes kidnapping story

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly says he was an "idiot" for not anticipating the recent challenge to his credibility in stories that suggested he had exaggerated his experiences as a reporter.

"I was caught by surprise on it," O'Reilly told the Los Angeles Times.

"I was an idiot for not being prepared for it before a presidential election," he told the newspaper.

O'Reilly said the firestorm involving "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams should have given him a clue that he'd soon be embroiled in a similar dispute.

Related: How Brian Williams' Iraq story changed

Williams was suspended for six months without pay in February after he owned up to repeatedly telling an exaggerated story about his time covering the Iraq War in 2003. Williams has admitted "misremembering" the Iraq incident in which he was in a helicopter that got shot down. NBC is currently conducting an internal investigation into other Williams stories. His future at the network remains in doubt.

Days after the Williams scandal bubbled to the surface, the liberal magazine Mother Jones published a report indicating that O'Reilly had told his own exaggerated story about his time in Argentina covering the 1982 Falklands War. O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed to have covered the conflict in a "war zone," despite the fact that he reported from Buenos Aires -- far from the fighting in and around the Falkland Islands.

O'Reilly mounted a furious defense, disparaging the Mother Jones authors and insisting that his accounts were accurate.

More questions surfaced about some of his other claims, and eventually he was forced to clarify that he hadn't actually witnessed atrocities while covering the civil war in El Salvador and "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Instead, he saw photos depicting violence from each conflict. And O'Reilly still hasn't offered an explanation about evidence that contradicts his claim to have been at the scene when an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald committed suicide in the late 1970s.

Related: Phone recordings contradict O'Reilly's claims

O'Reilly's ratings trended upward when the controversy received attention in late February.

He told The Times that his fans had his back.

"I put out what we had and said, 'Hey, what ever happens, happens,' " he said. "And luckily, the folks rallied."

Related: Bill O'Reilly likes a fight, and his ratings show it

As for Williams, O'Reilly told The Times that Williams is "definitely going to come back" to NBC, even if he doesn't return to the "Nightly News" anchor chair.

Andy Lack, the new chair of NBC News and MSNBC, "knows what he's doing, and he knows that America is a forgiving country. The pundits may not be, and the ideologues may not be. But the folks are."

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