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Keith Olbermann has responded to the recent furor over his Nazi Salute at the Television Critics Association gather last weekend by blaming, of all people, NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams and Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly for his obscene antics. Clearly feeling the heat for a stunt that even Olbermann supporters have disavowed, Olbermann told Tonight Show host Jay Leno last night that Williams told him "do something creative" so he came up with the idea of donning a paper cut-out Bill O'Reilly mask and giving the Nazi Salute. Later, Olbermann claimed that Bill O'Reilly "defended the Nazis from World War II on three separate occasions", a claim he had advanced earlier in the day in a letter sent to noted media blogger Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute.
And incredulous Leno asked "Oh, really?"
Olbermann replied "Yes, I wish I were making this up."
To his credit, Leno's instincts were right. Olbermann was making it up.
As we shall see, Bill O'Reilly did confuse an alleged atrocity at Chenogne, Belgium [where American troops reportedly executed captured German troops] with another alleged atrocity at Malmedy, Belgium [where German troops reportedly executed captured American troops]. The Chenogne atrocities have been portrayed as "revenge killings" for the Malmedy atrocities which had occurred two weeks before. Olbermann is fatuously attempting to portray O'Reilly's errors in confusing Malmedy and Chenogne as "defending" Nazis and labeling victims of German atrocities as "war criminals" in some sort of inane, desperate plea for attention as the clock winds down on his contract at MSNBC.
Readers can excuse Leno for not being familiar with Olbermann's absurd accusations because they were aired on Keith's show which is the equivalent of a tree falling in a forest. For those who missed (in other words for all of you), watch below how KO transforms 18 seconds of video from The O'Reilly Factor taken completely out of context and transforms them into a seven minute and forty-nine second propaganda film that would have made Dan Rather or Leni Riefenstahl proud.
It might appear useful that in order to better understand the claims and counterclaims about the Malmedy Massacre to know that there is no agreement today on precisely what happened at Malmedy and why or what happened in the aftermath at Chenogne but the consensus seems to be that although the numbers of soldiers involved and the sequence of events is unclear, American troops were murdered by German troops at Malmedy and, in retaliation, German troops were murdered by American troops at Chenogne. In the case of the American troops, it is alleged that orders came down from the command of the 11th Armored Division to take no prisoners. There is what purports to be a first hand account of the atrocities at Chenonge on the web but as best as I could tell there was never any "war crimes" trial and no official report was ever filed. The accounts of these incidents might be cited as an example of how history is written by the victors.
The article Keith cited in his piece, Michael Reynold's comprehensive and authoritative article for World War II magazine, published on The History Channel web site, World War II: Massacre At Malmedy During the Battle of the Bulge makes it clear that there is nothing clear about what happened at Malmedy:
The delightful Belgian town of MalmÃ©dy will forever be associated with the most infamous massacre of American troops in World War II. And yet, but for the presence of an Associated Press correspondent there in early January 1945, it is doubtful that this terrible incident would have ever achieved international notoriety. "Nazis Turned Machine Guns on GI POWs" wrote Hal Boyle in his January 1945 Stars and Stripes article, and from that first graphic account sprung a plethora of books and articles about the so-called MalmÃ©dy Massacre. Few of these accounts are based on fact, and most are embellished and inaccurate.
It is unlikely that we shall ever know the precise sequence of events at the Baugnez crossroads, near MalmÃ©dy, on December 17, 1944, or the reasons for them. The secret lies with the guilty and the dead. Nevertheless, many corroborated facts are known and a careful analysis of these facts can bring us closer to the truth of what happened.
Two weeks later, on January 1st, 1945, came the events to which O'Reilly appears to have been referring - the Chenogne Massacre in which U.S. troops allegedly lined up and killed 60 German POWs. Other reports claim that unarmed German soldiers were allegedly shot by Americans while attempting to surrender, in one case some while attempting to flee a burning building. There is not a lot of substantive documentation for this incident online but there was mention of what appears to be a part of the Chenogne incident in The Washington Post from December 18, 1994:
Atrocities occurred. On Dec. 17, a German SS unit machine-gunned 72 captured American soldiers in the town of Malmedy. A dozen who escaped hid in a cafe; the SS set fire to the building and shot those who emerged. Five days later, U.S. troops shot and killed 21 Germans fleeing a burning house under a Red Cross flag at Chenogne, according to historian Martin Gilbert.
It should come as no surprise that there is not a lot of information available about the Chenogne Massacre. The U.S. military, war corespondents, politicians and other officials often conspired during World War II to suppress such information on the grounds that it might undermine morale among the troops and on the home front.
This was very much to the point of Bill O'Reilly's June 27, 2005 column for Jewish World Review, entitled The limits of dissent in which O'Reilly alluded to but did not specifically mention three atrocities committed during the Sicilian campaign under General Patton's command which, if known at the time, would have certainly resulted in his losing his command and never taking the field again. The famous "slapping incidents" which did result in Patton losing his command were chicken feed in comparison - incidents that were also hushed by reporters who took it upon themselves to suppress the incidents (they were later revealed when a columnist back in the U.S. got wind of the story and published it).
In his JWR column, O'Reilly argued that some statements by Bush critics were irresponsible and undermined the war on terror. He cited remarks by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) comparing interrogations at Guantanamo Bay to the behavior of Nazis which were widely publicized in news outlets throughout the Arab world. O'Reilly observed that in World War II there was government censorship and cited several examples of revenge killings and torture by U.S. troops that were hushed up during WWII:
After German SS troops massacred 86 American soldiers at Malmedy in Belgium on Dec. 17, 1944, some units like the U.S. 11th Armored Division took revenge on captured German soldiers. In the Pacific, relatively few Japanese prisoners were taken in the brutal island fights. But the folks back home never heard about those things or what techniques were used to interrogate prisoners who might know where the next ambush would be. The American military did what they had to do in order to win. As General Patton once said to his army: "I do not advocate standing Germans up against the wall and shooting them â€” so shoot the sons of bâ€”â€”â€” before you get them to the wall."
On October 3, 2005 (not October 28 as reported elsewhere), Bill O'Reilly drew on the JWR column when he interviewed General Wesley Clark, a Fox News Channel analyst.
In the course of the discussion O'Reilly said:
O'REILLY: General, you need to look at the Malmedy massacre in World War II and the 82nd Airborne that did it.
This statement has been advanced by Olbermann as the first example of O'Reilly "defending" Nazis and labeling as "war criminals" those Americans murdered at Malmedy by German troops. A video can be found here.
What you will see upon review of the full transcript is that O'Reilly erred twice. O'Reilly called the "Chenogne Massacre" the "Malmedy Massacre" and referenced the 82nd Airborne instead of the 11th Armored Division. O'Reilly most likely mixed up the 11th Armored and the 82nd Airborne because Clark had mentioned the 82nd Airborne moments before in a different context. O'Reilly did not issue a clarification for this show but later explained his mix up of Chenogne and Malmedy in May 2006 by saying that what he meant to say was that Americans committed atrocities in the aftermath of Malmedy, which by all accounts appears to be true. That would seem to apply here as well.
When you consider the full context of the discussion you will see that O'Reilly is attempting to rebut to a claim put forward by Clark who is explaining his support for a recent court ruling in which the court ordered the government to release additional Abu Ghraib photos. Clark is arguing that the military is no longer the honorable military that he served in because Abu Ghraib went up the chain of command and that this was unprecedented - at least during the 34 years he served in the military. O'Reilly attempts to counter that point by noting that the Chenogne Massacre was allegedly the result of specific orders within the chain of command of the 11th Armored Division to "take no prisoners" or "take no SS prisoners".
There would be absolutely no reason for O'Reilly to attempt to win the argument on that point by making the inverted claim that American troops murdered German troops at Malmedy. There would be every reason for O'Reilly to attempt to win by putting forward the example of Chenogne because it would, in fact, undermine Clark's claim to some degree (Clark's claim only extended to his years of service going back 34 years; World War II ended 60 years before). Regardless, there is absolutely no basis for Olbermann's claims that O'Reilly is "defending Nazis" or accusing the men killed at Malmedy of being "war criminals". It would have been correct to say that O'Reilly was accusing some members of the 11th Armored Division of being war criminals but that would not serve Olbermann's purpose because it appears to have been true.
With that said, here is a transcript of the exchange:
THE O'REILLY FACTOR
October 3, 2005
General Proposes Solution for Iraq
FOX News military analyst General Wesley Clark on live remote from Little Rock, Arkansas
(this is the original raw transcript which contained several transcription errors noted on the Media Matters for America site. I have attempted to correct the raw transcript but if anyone finds any additional errors in the raw transcript please let me know)
O'REILLY: OK. Now let me ask you about this Hellerstein ruling last week that at the behest of the ACLU, Hellerstein says, yes, the government has to put out more Abu Ghraib pictures. Now, you heard Myers say nothing new. Just more of the same. We all know from the "Newsweek" debacle this is going to enflame. Because crimes of passion need a lighter. They need a flame. This would provide it. More Americans are going to die. I have not heard anybody come out and condemn Hellerstein's ruling, any politician, anybody from the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, nobody. Just me. I'm outraged. What do you think?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: A lot of us don't know what's in those pictures and we don't know what to say.
O'REILLY: You don't believe Myers?
CLARK: Let me go back to the other side of it.
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
CLARK: Wait a minute, Bill. The other side of it is what is happening in Iraq? You know, it wasn't just Abu Ghraib. You've got a captain now in the 82nd Airborne who says that this kind of torture and beating up people and so forth was condoned by his unit; the chain of command is protecting it.
O'REILLY: Hey, general, you know what war is about?
CLARK: No, I don't know what it's about, Bill. Because the United States Army that I served in proudly for 34 years, we did not beat up and torture prisoners.
O'REILLY: General, with all respect, there were atrocities in Vietnam.
CLARK: Yes. And they were trials and they were punished.
O'REILLY: And World War II and World War I and the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.
CLARK: They were not by the chain of command.
O'REILLY: Yes, they were.
CLARK: No, they weren't. No they weren't.
O'REILLY: Lieutenant Callie and Medina in Vietnam?
CLARK: They were not condoned by the chain of command. Those guys were court martialed.
O'REILLY: With all due respect...
CLARK: ... all the way up the chain of command.
O'REILLY: General, you need to look at the Malmady (ph) massacre in World War II and the 82nd Airborne.
CLARK: You're looking at World War II. I'm looking at a volunteer army fighting a war against terror and if you're going to win, you've got to have a higher standard.
O'REILLY: You want those picture pictures out? You want these pictures?
CLARK: I want our Army to live up to American values.
O'REILLY: So everybody does. You want the pictures out?
CLARK: We don't torture people. So I think we need a complete investigation to see where this goes all the way up to the top level with the chain of command and up to the White House.
O'REILLY: Fine, no problem. Yes or no, general? Do you agree? Do you agree...
CLARK: I would like to see the pictures, Bill.
O'REILLY: You want to see the pictures.
CLARK: I want to see...
O'REILLY: Even if would put Americans in danger, you want to see them?
CLARK: I'll tell you what's put Americans in danger, is not having the Geneva Convention in force.
O'REILLY: All right. That's theory, General. We've got guys over there now. That's theory; we've got guys over there. Just rethink it. I disagree with you on that.
O'REILLY: I appreciate you coming on.
CLARK: Well, I want to hear you come back on my ground. I want to see what we can do to really clean this up. We can't win this war on terror by torturing people.
O'REILLY: I agree with that, but I don't want to put our guys in the field in any more danger than they already are.
CLARK: I certainly don't want to put them in danger either.
O'REILLY: OK. Hellerstein is wrong.
Several months later, on May 30, 2006, Bill O'Reilly was again interviewing General Wesley Clark this time in regard to John Murtha's statements about the alleged atrocities in Haditha, Iraq. And once again O'Reilly confused Malmedy and Chenogne. In the course of the discussion O'Reilly said:
O'REILLY: In Malmedy, as you know, US Forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. It's on the record and documented.
This statement has been advanced by Olbermann as the second example of O'Reilly "defending" Nazis and labeling as "war criminals" those Americans murdered at Malmedy by German troops.
What you will see upon review of the full transcript is that O'Reilly simply misspoke. Had he begun with "After Malmedy..." he would have been correct. If he had begun with "In Chenogne..." he would have been correct. But he did not and was not correct in what he said; he rightly issued an on-air clarification during a subsequent viewer mail segment.
O'Reilly responded to a viewer email by saying:
In the heat of the debate with General Clark my statement wasn't clear enough... after Malmedy some German captives were executed by American troops
This is, from all reports, correct.
Again,when you considered the full context of the discussion you will see that O'Reilly is attempting to rebut to a claim put forward by Clark. This time that the alleged atrocities in Haditha are a sign that the Bush policy in Iraq is "on the edge of feasibility" and "an indicator that the stress on the units is such that standards of discipline and performance are breaking down at the margin". O'Reilly is attempting to counter that by noting that there have always been atrocities in war and that the occurence of atrocities is not correlated to the feasibility of a particular governmental policy at a given time in history.
And again, there would be absolutely no reason for O'Reilly to attempt to win the argument on that point by making the inverted claim that American troops murdered German troops at Malmedy. There would be every reason for O'Reilly to attempt to win by putting forward the example of Chenogne and adding to a list of other alleged atrocities by American forces over the years because it would support his point and undercut Clark's point. Regardless, there is absolutely no basis for Olbermann's claims that O'Reilly is "defending Nazis" or accusing the men killed at Malmedy of being war criminals.
With that said, here is a transcript of the exchange:
THE O'REILLY FACTOR
May 30, 2006
Murtha on Haidth Investigation
FOX News military analyst General Wesley Clark on live remote from Washington, DC
(this is the original raw transcript, if anyone finds any additional errors in the raw transcript please let me know)
BILL O'REILLY: ...over the weekend, Congressman Murtha, who continues to duck "The Factor", spoke harshly about the investigation of some Marines who may have murdered some Iraqi civilians. Murtha even scolded ABC's Charles Gibson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Charlie, this has been going on \ six months. I mean, they've been trying to -- they know the day afterwards. Don't make excuses for the military. This thing has been going on for six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: Now what is Murtha's intent here? Is this an I told you so because he opposes the war? The Marines respectfully asked us to wait until they had concluded their investigation. I said that was fair. But Murtha is obviously bomb throwing. Again, why? Murtha should answer that question because 95 percent of the military is performing heroically overseas in the chaos of war. Perspective and fair play are vitally important. And that's the Memo. Now for the top story tonight, another view of this. Joining us from Washington, FOX News military analyst General Wesley Clark. General, if you were on active duty over in Iraq, and you heard Congressman Murtha, you know, don't stick up for the military, Charlie, you know, and really bomb throwing, agitating in my opinion, what would you think about that?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't think I'd interpret it that way, not quite like you put it, Bill. I think that what Congressman Murtha is doing is a legitimate function of the legislative branch. He's not part of the executive branch of government. And he's getting fed information from the inside. He obviously has had a lot of people who have talk to him about this. He's not making this up. And that's the way he sees it. And he wants to get the facts out. Look, when these things start to happen, and all of my sources in and around the Pentagon indicate that, in fact, something like this incident did happen, it was murder, people were covered up. Now I haven't seen the investigation. But people who have -- are familiar with the facts are reporting these things. And when it happens like that, it's an indicator that you are on the edge of feasibility of your policy. It's an indicator that the stress on the units is such that standards of discipline and performance are breaking down at the margin.
O'REILLY: See, I disagree.
CLARK: And it's a real warning for us.
O'REILLY: I disagree. In Iwo Jima, in the Battle of the Bulge, Malmedy, all these things, and you're a military historian. You know, these happen. It happens in every war. It's happened in every army. And you're right. It's a breakdown caused by stress. And the breakdown has to be dealt with by the military extremely quickly, effectively.
O'REILLY: Murderers, if they're deemed guilty in a military court of justice, have to be punished. But to draw a wider implication, general, when 95 percent, and I think you'd agree with that figure, of American forces overseas under tremendous stress, are performing heroically every day, to draw a wider implication at this juncture brutally unfair, both to our forces and to our country. What say you?
CLARK: I say that, first of all, you'll have to show me and prove to me that there were ever any American soldiers in Belgium, and Normandy, or in Iwo Jima, who murdered civilians. Secondly, I think you're too low when you say 95 percent of the forces are performing effectively. I'd say 99.5 percent of the forces are performing effectively. Maybe higher. But when you have incidents like this, and you have chains of command under enormous stress, that is an indicator that things aren't going right. You've got to be sensitive of those indicators. You've got to fix the problem. Otherwise, it's going to get worse.
CLARK: This is a long term problem.
O'REILLY: ...nobody is disagreeing with that.
CLARK: Well that's my position.
O'REILLY: And in Malmedy, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces, who had their hands in the air. And they were unarmed. And they shot them down. You know that. That's on the record. Been documented. And Iwo Jima, the same thing occurred. The Japanese attempted to surrender, and they were burned in their caves.
CLARK: Bill, that's a lot different than this.
CLARK: These are no forces.
O'REILLY: Listen, what I'm trying to say to you is neither of those things, in the Battle of the Bulge or in Iwo Jima reflected negatively on our military, as far as its total performance was concerned. It was men under stress snapping. That's what this is. This isn't abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib was cowardice, in my opinion. Off the chart, irresponsible cowardice to do that. Here...
CLARK: I think we have to see this investigation unfold.
O'REILLY: Right, but Murtha isn't doing that, general.
CLARK: There's a big difference between...
O'REILLY: But Murtha isn't doing that.
CLARK: ...a fire fight and some guy who suddenly, after he has been shooting at you, throws up his hands, says oh, now you can't shoot me because I've put down my weapon. That's one thing. It's another thing, if it's true as reported, that they broke into homes...
O'REILLY: OK, but whoa, whoa...
CLARK: ...and shot men, women, and children.
O'REILLY: I don't want to...
CLARK: That's not the same thing.
O'REILLY: The Marines came to me and said, hey, Mr. O'Reilly, would you do us a favor and wait until we release our report? Because I had confronted Donald Rumsfeld on this very issue and used the Mai Lai massacre as a starting point. And I said to the Marines fair enough, fair enough. I will let you put out your report before I start to advance a story. Murtha, a U.S. congressman, goes on and indicts the entire military on a national program. And I'm mad about it. And Murtha doesn't have the stones to come on this program and back up what he says.
CLARK: I think Murtha has every right to say what he's saying. He's not saying...
O'REILLY: In the way he said it?
CLARK: He's saying that what he's heard. That's the legitimate function of the legislative branch of government, just like it could have been your function. Look, when another commander in chief was under investigation, the news media had no problems talking about it. Now when our soldiers are under investigation, there have always been cases where people have pushed for that. This is a function -- this is the way government works. And...
O'REILLY: I think you have to be tempered in your remarks, general.
CLARK: I think he is tempered in the sense that he has expressed a great deal of respect for the men and women in uniform. John Murtha is a long-time supporter of our armed forces.
O'REILLY: Don't stick up for the military, Charlie? Don't stick up for the military, Charlie? Come on.
CLARK: You know what he's saying, Bill.
O'REILLY: I know what he's saying...
CLARK: This is about a specific incident of misconduct.
O'REILLY: No, this is about...
CLARK: And there's no one in the military who's going to condone that conduct.
O'REILLY: I'm going to give you the last word, general, but this is about Murtha saying I told you so, it's a bad war. That's what it's about. It's about him. Go ahead. I'll give you the last word.
CLARK: Bill, I think - here's my last word. I'm glad you've come around. Iraq was an unnecessary war. Here's the other point. It's a failure by the way the president defined the mission. The problem is how do we move gracefully from this position? What we've said is we need to turn this over to the Iraqi government...
O'REILLY: All right.
CLARK: ...and begin responsible redeployment. But we've got to protect the men and women in uniform and the integrity of our institutions.
CLARK: John Murtha is worried about that and so am I.
O'REILLY: And I don't - I...
CLARK: And you should be, too.
O'REILLY: You're bending over backwards to give him the benefit of the doubt Maybe I'm wrong.
CLARK: I'm just telling you the way I see it.
O'REILLY: I know. Maybe I'm wrong about it. I'd like to talk to the man face to face like we're talking here. General, thanks as always.
CLARK: Well, let's talk some more, Bill.
Olbermann has claimed that O'Reilly "defended" Nazis and labeled as "war criminals" those Americans murdered at Malmedy by German troops on three occasions. I am unaware of what he is referring to as a third instance but I will be happy to dispose of that claim as well if someone will be so kind as to point it out to me. Perhaps it was broadcast in some secret frequency known only to Olbermann, his fellow OlbyLoons and small dogs.
I said earlier that it might appear useful that in order to better understand the claims and counterclaims about the Malmedy Massacre. In the context of the discussions with General Clark in October, 2006 and May, 2006 we can now see that they are entirely irrelevant. In neither case was O'Reilly asserting what Olbermann has claimed - that the SS Troops at Malmedy were murdered by American troops. Instead, it is clear that O'Reilly misspoke in referencing the "Chenogne Massacre" as the "Malmedy Massacre". It was appropriate for O'Reilly to provide an on-air clarification to his viewers but there is nothing in any of this which even remotely supports the ludicrous claim advanced by Olbermann that O'Reilly fabricated a story of an atrocity by U.S. troops, "defended Nazis" or called the U.S. troops murdered at Malmedy "war criminals".
Did O'Reilly make errors?
Yes, in October 2005 and May 2006
Did O'Reilly correct the record?
He did not correct the record after the error in October 2005. He did correct the record after May 2006.
Did O'Reilly ever "defend" the Nazis?
Did O'Reilly ever call those Americans killed in the Malmedy massacre "war criminals"?
Is Keith Olbermann lying?
Will this analysis make any difference to the bloggers, Wikipedians, liberal talk show hosts and assorted anti-Fox News vigilantes in the traditional media make any difference?
This is a tall tale that is too good to fact-check and so has now entered the collective consciousness of the OlbyLoon left-wing fringe. It seems clear to this writer that this was Olbermann's express intent. If O'Reilly is forced to explain why he is not defending Nazis then Keith "wins". If O'Reilly keep his powder dry, as he has done so far, Keith "wins" because his lies become part of the ever-expanding cannon of LoonThink.
The problem for Keith is that while this may present the illusion of a winning strategy for Olbermann - building support among the radical left in some obsure attempt to boost his abysmal ratings - it is raising some serious doubts about Olbermann within the management of NBC News as he sets about debasing what was once a venerable news organization.
Now that you know the facts, you might want to take a second look at the Olbermann video in order to more accurately gauge the full magnitude of the deceit in which Olbermann is engaged.
One last thing...
In a classic attempt to toss out a "red herring", Olbermann has also claimed that Fox News Channel nefariously altered the transcript of the May 30, 2006 show to change the word "Malmedy" to "Normandy". Having spent a good deal of time reading through transcripts from Fox News and MSNBC in order to prepare this piece I can tell you that all of these raw transripts are replete with all sorts of errors from simple typos, to the phoenetic spellling of proper nouns and names to wholesale deletion of passages. That the transcriptions typed a well-known location like "Normandy" in place of the less-known "Malmedy" is hardly a shock to anyone who actually reads these transcripts. Fortunately, I do not need to spend time on that because J$ has already thoroughly debunked Olbermann's claim on his personal blog.
video h/t Newsbusters
The Olbershphere weighs in...
The Cable Game - a meticulously researched, rock-solid debunking/rebuttal to MSNBC host Olbermann's slanderous claims on sister network NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that Fox News' Bill O'Reilly "defended Nazis."