My Waco Brawl with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (1999)


Fox News fired superstar host Bill O’Reilly yesterday. O’Reilly and I brawled on Waco in 1999. He had me on his program just after news broke that the FBI had fired pyrotechnic devices into the Davidians’ home before the fire that left 80 people dead. The feds were caught in a heap of lies at that time. But O’Reilly was far more concerned about my potential ideological bias than about federal atrocities. No wonder he later became one of the top torture apologists for the Bush administration.

After I stated that Waco began with the ATF launching a military-style attack on the Davidians’ home, O’Reilly declared: “Now I have to ask you do you have any ideology in play here?

“I’ve always thought of myself as a moderate,” I replied. (Geez, he had identified me as the author of “Freedom in Chains” – did he expect me to be waving pom-poms and cheerleading for the FBI, or what?)

O’Reilly sputtered: “When you say — when you say — see, what you just did – – what you just did was you point — you — your tone of voice and what you said told me — and I’m looking at this as objectively as I can — that you were sympathetic to Koresh and his people, whereas…”

The re-investigation of Waco focused on the role of Delta Force troops on the scene. O’Reilly did backflips to downplay using U.S. military forces against civilians. He declared, “If they were called in by the federal government, it assistance, it wouldn’t be against the federal law.”

I replied: “No, it would be a violation [of law] unless the president signed some type of waiver [of the Posse Comitatus Act]. The president is saying that he did not sign that. I understand there may be evidence to the contrary on that.” I had mentioned earlier the allegations that the Delta Force had been firing on the Davidians on April 19th, 1993.

O’Reilly focused on the latest denials of wrongdoing by federal officials. I commented that “this is is standard Clinton administration, trying to trickle out the truth, trying to give it in small enough doses that it doesn’t result in explosion of public opinion.”

Unfortunately, that Clinton tactic worked one more time – in part because the vast majority of the media refused to stalwartly expose federal wrongdoing.

Here’s the full transcript of the show

September 1, 1999, Wednesday

Transcript # 090101cb.256

SECTION: News; Domestic

LENGTH: 2325 words

HEADLINE: Who’s Lying About Waco?

GUESTS: James Bovard

BYLINE: Bill O’Reilly


BILL O’REILLY, HOST: Hi. I’m Bill O’Reilly. Thank you for watching us tonight…. the lead story tonight. Who’s lying about Waco?

Joining us now from Washington is journalist Jim Bovard who has been investigating the Waco situation and whose most recent book is “Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen.”

How big a fiasco, in your opinion now, after all the investigation that you’ve done, is the Waco situation?

JAMES BOVARD, “FREEDOM IN CHAINS: THE RISE OF THE STATE AND THE DEMISE OF THE CITIZEN” AUTHOR, JOURNALIST: Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10. I mean, it’s — it would be difficult to think of a more overt abuse of government power. I mean, in the first place, you’ve got the ATF launching a military-style attack on a bunch of people in a private home who were posing no threat, and then 51 days later, you’ve children. That’s — that’s pretty high up on — by any scandal standard.

O’REILLY: Now I have to ask you do you have any ideology in play here?

BOVARD: I’ve always thought of myself as a moderate.

O’REILLY: A moderate. No…

BOVARD: A moderate.

O’REILLY: … political bent because when you…

BOVARD: Well, no, I…

O’REILLY: When you say — when you say — see, what you just did – – what you just did was you point — you — your tone of voice and what you said told me — and I’m looking at this as objectively as I can — that you were sympathetic to Koresh and his people, whereas…

BOVARD: Well — all right.

O’REILLY: … a lot of Americans aren’t.

BOVARD: Well, I — I — you know, it’s — the thing I’ve focused on is not what David Koresh did. I think there are some questions about some of their private conduct, but those were investigated by Texas officials, and those officials found no reason to in — to prosecute, but the thing I’ve focused on is the action of the federal employees, federal agencies, the trail of lies that have — has been out there ever since February 28th, 1993.

O’REILLY: All right. The — we’re going to get specific on what you say is a trail of lies in a moment, but when you have a guy like David Koresh with all the armament that he had and in a very volatile situation where he was given plenty of opportunity to walk out there, contact his attorneys, and do whatever he wanted to do, don’t you think that this is a setting — and then when he opens up on the government employees, then you have emotion coming in on the government side. You know, it’s — it’s almost a situation where you say to yourself, if you’re going to put yourself in that situation, you’re going to get hurt.

BOVARD: Well, it was not a volatile situation until the ATF launched a military-style attack. I mean, the — the ATF had planned to do a no-knock raid on this home where the — there were, I guess, about 100 or so people living there, and the ATF planned to do it on a Sunday morning that — the — the — a way to serve a warrant in this case was — would be to knock and announce and then ask for peaceful cooperation. There were a number of ATF agents who testified that the ATF had shot first, and so if there’s a couple of trailer loads of government federal employees coming out there in combat gear, opening fire on your house, that does become volatile.

O’REILLY: OK. I understand that, and…


O’REILLY: … but whenever you have a situation where there are guns pointed at one another, it — somebody’s going to shoot, and the likelihood of people getting hurt…

BOVARD: Oh, not always.

O’REILLY: Not all the time, but the likelihood of people getting hurt rises. So I’m saying to myself, “Gee,” you know, you had this guy — you had all the media there. He could have walked out with his hands over his head anytime, got his attorney, sued the government, sued the State of Texas, sued whoever he wanted to, but he chose not to do that.

But — all right. Let’s assume for a — for the sake of this debate that, for whatever reason, Koresh was afraid to do that and come out and go through the process. The federal government then takes it — takes it into a standoff situation. What did they do wrong in the standoff before the raid — before the — you know, the carnage at the

BOVARD: Well, some of the hostage experts who were advising the FBI said it was wrong to try to use — to try to do — use terror tactics is an overstatement, but with the kind of soundtracks — with the soundtracks of rabbits being slaughtered, with the very excruciating loud noises…

O’REILLY: That happened later on, right? That happened when it — things weren’t moving along with…

BOVARD: Well, I think it started with — it started within a few weeks — maybe three weeks of the…

O’REILLY: That’s a long time to have somebody hole up there with the press breathing down your neck.

BOVARD: But folks were coming out. Folks that — a number of people had come out voluntarily. There was a lot of concern inside when the people inside heard that the people who had come out voluntarily were all of a sudden locked up and treated like dangerous criminals, even though they had simply been inside at the time of the ATF attack.

O’REILLY: All right. Let’s take a break. When we come back, has the FBI and Attorney General Reno in a lot of trouble.

More with Mr. Bovard in a moment….



JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The plan was designed to induce serious negotiations for the evacuation of the compound with extremely limited risk that agents would harm any of the occupants or be harmed themselves. We announced repeatedly to those within the compound that there would be no attempt to enter the compound by federal agents.

O’REILLY: Continuing now with our look at Waco. We’re talking with Jim Bovard, who has been investigating the situation.

Who’s culpable here, in your opinion? And we just heard Attorney General Reno who just came on board and I don’t think had a clue as to what was going on out there. And then we have FBI Chief Freeh now calling for an investigation. Then we have the Delta Force involved. Who’s — who’s culpable here, in your opinion?

BOVARD: Well, it’s — I think, certainly, the FBI and the — Janet Reno are. Louis Freeh was not the head of the FBI at that point. He came in in July of — about three or four months later. Janet Reno signed off on the order to use CS (ph) gas on American children, the CS gas which the FBI pumped in there hour after hour, load after load. The federal government should have known that the same type of gas had been used in the Gaza Strip in 1988, and it killed a lot of Palestinians, including children, under similar circumstances.

There was no reason — the federal government had all these experts. There was no reason why — it’s hard to imagine that they would have not known that was one of the options — that that was one of the dangers. Not only that, but the CS gas in these con — enclosed areas can become flammable, and the FBI recently admitted that they were throwing in pyrotechnical type of devices that would burn once they fired…

O’REILLY: Yeah, but, apparently, they — they only threw two of them in, and they threw them in in another part of the compound, and it’s been…

BOVARD: That’s what…

O’REILLY: … shown that that did not ignite the fire. At least that’s what they’re saying now.

BOVARD: This is what they’re saying this week. I — I mean, it’s — I — it looks to me like this is standard Clinton administration trying to trickle out the truth, trying to give it in small enough doses that it doesn’t result in explosion of public opinion, but there’s — there’s a lot of evidence out there, and there’s more evidence coming. There’s a new film coming out by a guy by the name of Mike McNolty (ph) who did the — who was a co-producer of “Waco: Rules of Engagement,” which…

O’REILLY: Right, but, see, again, those films are coming out — a certain ideological viewpoint on those films. Now I’m not discrediting them, but I’m saying you have to know where they’re coming from.

Now what about the Delta Force situation? It’s been kept very, very quiet. The U.S. military was involved in this. Tell us about that. And what do you think of it?

BOVARD: Well, once again, there are very serious allegations that the Delta Force was involved and was, you know, shooting that day.

O’REILLY: But we don’t have any proof of that.

BOVARD: Well, in the film that was a finalist for the Academy Awards, the documentary, it — it was argued in that film from…

O’REILLY: But how about you? I don’t want to go by the film. I mean…

BOVARD: Fine. Fine.

O’REILLY: You got anything hard on it?

BOVARD: You know, the information is going to be coming out on that bit by bit. My sense is that there’s reasons for very serious doubt there, that the…

O’REILLY: OK. So — let’s — let’s assume that the Delta Force did come in there. What would be wrong with that?

BOVARD: Well, first of all, it’s a violation of federal law and, second, it…

O’REILLY: If they were called in by the federal government, it assistance, it wouldn’t be against the federal law.

BOVARD: No, it — it would be a violation unless the president signed some type of waiver. The president is saying that he did not sign that. There is — I understand there may be evidence to the contrary on that.

O’REILLY: Right. I mean, if they were going to in, it — he would have had to know about it.

We’ve got a minute left here. I — it looks to me like this was a situation that was being run at the site and that they were making the calls there, and then Washington was basically saying, “Do what you have to do.” Is that the impression that you got?

BOVARD: No. It’s my impression that the ultimate calls were being made in the Justice Department and perhaps in the White House.

O’REILLY: Do you think that Janet Reno is making — I mean, the woman has never made a call in her life, and you think she’s making the call on this thing?

BOVARD: Well, you know, it’s interesting to see what her — her Justice Department has done, the kind of lawsuits they do against savings and loans, against the board of directors that have no involvement at all. Those board of directors are held responsible for all kinds of violations that they never knew of. Janet Reno has to be held responsible for what her FBI and her Justice Department did, and…

O’REILLY: That’s true, but I don’t believe that she — because she’s such a political player — would make those kind of calls.

Mr. Bovard, we’re going to keep a close eye on that. We hope you’ll come back, and we appreciate your expertise.

BOVARD: Thanks.

O’REILLY: Up next, an Energy Department nuclear safety assessor is punished for warning his superiors about bad security. We’ll talk with him in a moment.





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One Response to My Waco Brawl with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (1999)

  1. Rev. Jim Persinger April 20, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

    Of all the human trash in the world today he takes the Golden Dumpster Award. Thanks for sharing this Jim.