In his best-selling book Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly tells a brief tale of an intrepid reporter — himself — chasing the historical truth of JFK’s assassination in south Florida. But the story itself is a fiction, as O’Reilly revealed in his own voice in an audio recording first published on JFK Facts.
CNN’s Brian Stelter picked up on the story, and I explained what really happened.
In the annals of the JFK assassination story, rife with CIA and FBI malfeasance, O’Reilly’s fanciful anecdote might seem trivial. But O’Reilly’s yarn was accepted as fact by reviewers in USA Today and the Fort-Worth Telegram; His book dominated the best-seller charts for months; and a credulous National Geographic made a documentary of Killing Kennedy. O’Reilly’s credibility matters and on this point, he clearly mistated the facts of his own actions.
A dramatic tale
In O’Reilly’s account, the dramatic incident happened on March 29, 1977. The Fox News talk show host was then a 28-year-old television reporter in Dallas seeking to make a name for himself by investigating a popular subject that other reporters disdained: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Working in Dallas at a time when Congress re-opened the JFK investigation in the mid-1970s, O’Reilly scored some real scoops, especially about a man named George de Mohrenschildt. A Russian emigre who moved in both European high society and the American underworld, de Mohrenschildt would have made a splendid character in a Graham Greene novel, except he was a real living CIA asset involved in the events that would culminate in JFK’s murder on Dallas on November 22,1963.
De Mohrenschildt was good copy. He was probably the only person on the planet on friendly terms with both the family of First Lady Jackie Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing her husband. De Mohrenschildt was not a paid CIA employee, but as JFK investigators closed in on him, he expected CIA assistance.
In September 1976, he wrote to CIA director George H.W. Bush seeking help for his “hopeless situation.” Bush, the only CIA director to become president, ignored him, while privately telling CIA colleagues they had a slight acquaintance. De Mohrenschildt’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations was expected to be explosive.
O’Reilly spins the story with third person modesty in Killing Kennedy (p. 300), calling himself “the reporter.” He wrote that he
“traced de Mohrenschildt to Palm Beach, Florida and travelled there to confront him. At the time de Mohrenschildt had been called to testify before a congressional committee looking into the events of November 1963. As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast [Emphasis added] that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood.
“By the way, that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.”
It’s a vivid story and well told. It’s also mostly imaginary.
In fact, the reporter named Bill O’Reilly was in Dallas, Texas, on that day.
Where O’Reilly Really Was
The truth can be heard on a cassette tape made by Gaeton Fonzi, a congressional investigator who was O’Reilly’s most reliable source on the JFK story. Fonzi wrote about that day in his 1993 memoir, The Last Investigation:
“About 6:30 that evening I received a call from Bill O’Reilly, a friend who was then a television reporter in Dallas,” wrote Fonzi, who died in August 2012. In Fonzi’s account, O’Reilly told him that he had just received a tip that de Mohrenschildt had committed suicide.
A recording of three phone conversations between Fonzi and O’Reilly on March 29, 1977, confirms Fonzi’s account. Fonzi’s widow, Marie Fonzi, shared the tape with JFK Facts and then with CNN.
“Gaet liked O’Reilly and did lots to help him,” Marie Fonzi said in an email. “He hired him in the early ’70s when editor of Miami Magazine at $25 a month to write movie reviews. He wrote letters of reference for him and was instrumental in getting him his first TV shot.”
But she adds, “I know O’Reilly was in Dallas” on March 29, 1977. “There is no question about it.”
4 thoughts on “Bill O’Reilly’s JFK fib was exposed by reporter’s audio tape”
Here’s another distortion:
(On a side note, I noticed Mr. Fonzi passed away in the same month and year as my dad. It was a pleasure to see his widow Marie and hear her speak at this year’s Lancer conference.)
Perhaps we should excuse O’Liely’s whopper re. having heard the gunshot? After all, it’s been revealed that he had very little to do with writing this drivel; Hence it’s doubtful that he’s even familiar with the book’s content. The shame is that so many young people have to be exposed to O’Liely’s historical revisionism.
As commented previously on this topic, Sam Ballen writes in “Without Reservations” that he was involved in scheduling the interview between Edward Jay Epstein and George deMohrenschildt. If that is true, did Epstein approach Ballen to arrange the interview based on Ballen’s known friendship with deMohrenschildt or was Reader’s Digest involved in the arrangements since they had commissioned Epstein to write a book on the assassination? Did Ballen work a back channel on their behalf? Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird under Richard Nixon was senior counselor to Reader’s Digest Association at the time. Did he/they know that deMohrenschildt was about to be called before the HSCA? Would it have fallen on Laird’s shoulders to audit the situation?
Ballen also claims that Epstein phoned him in Austin, TX within hours of deMohrenschildt’s death. He says that he was on a business trip in Austin that afternoon. This was pre mobile phone days so did Epstein have Ballen’s phone number at the Texas state government building where he was attending a meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission – the agency responsible for regulating national oil industry policy? Admittedly, Ballen indicates he had been worried about his friend so he may well have asked Eptstein to keep him updated, but how precisely did that work practically speaking. Ballen also writes that deMohrenschildt was scheduled to visit him in Santa Fe later that year.
All of this in the context of Sam Ballen’s role in (re)introducing the deMohrenschildts to Everett Glover (Glover had met George and Jeanne while ice skating in 1956/57) in early 1963. It was Glover who arranged for his friend Ruth Paine to attend the dinner gathering in his home where she was introduced to Marina and Lee Oswald for the first time and where she allegedly first met (very briefly) the deMohrenschildts. George and his wife would leave Dallas within weeks of that dinner party. It’s not apparent whether or not Sam Ballen attended that particular gathering at Glover’s house, but the question must be asked: was this event meant as a handover? Glover was employed by Socony Mobil; his professional bio indicates he had studied psychology and behavioral science. Mobil’s advisors in 1963 included Columbia graduate, social and behavioral scientist Eleanor HB Sheldon (later president of the Social Science Research Council) who shared the residential address, 630 Park Ave. with Dorothy Kilgallen.
Ballen also revealed in his book that he was a friend of David Davenport in Santa Fe, former CIA, and according to researcher TJ Scully, Davenport was a cousin of Priscilla McMillan whose role in the life of the Oswalds is well documented. In the summer of 1964, McMillan brought Marina Oswald to Santa Fe for a rest.
The roots of Socony Mobil include Magnolia Oil, whose insignia was the Flying Red Horse, a landmark on the Dallas skyline that features often in photos and videos related to the Kennedy assassination. Magnolia was fully incorporated into Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New York in 1959. Soon after, Mobil hosted their national convention in Dallas at the newly opened Cabana Motel where the theme was “Go, Go, Go.” My parents attended that convention and came home amused and perplexed by the flagrant (and expensive) attempt at brainwashing the oil jobbers who were essentially independent operators consigned to sell Magnolia products. I realize now that social scientists like EHB Shedon would have been consulted in preparation for these events. I remember this was the first time I heard the term “Mafia.”