Mon, Oct 3, 2005 12:32pm ET

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O'Reilly falsely claimed he did not have option to register as an independent

On the September 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that there was no option to register as an independent voter when he registered as a Republican in Nassau County, New York, in 1994. But while the "party enrollment" section of O'Reilly's actual registration form, reprinted (Amazon registration required) in Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Dutton, 2003), does not contain a box labeled "independent," it does include a box labeled "I do not wish to enroll in party." O'Reilly checked "Republican."

Despite O'Reilly's January 10, 2000, claim on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that "I am a registered independent," the New York Daily News reported on December 6, 2000, that "a search of voter registration rolls in Nassau County, where he lives, shows he has been a registered Republican since 1994 -- something he insists he was not aware of until The News asked." The Daily News added that O'Reilly changed his registration after the paper interviewed him and said, "I am now officially an independent."

In an October 8, 2003, interview on the public radio program Fresh Air, O'Reilly told host Terry Gross that he was "as surprised as anybody" by his Republican registration, which he called "my mistake, an oversight."

On his radio show, O'Reilly said that after learning about his Republican registration, he "traced it back" and discovered "that at the time I registered there was no independent registry in Nassau County, that there was no box to fill in." He added: "But I still can't tell you, honestly, what happened there."

From the September 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: You know, I mean, New York Daily News came and interviewed me four or five years ago, and they said, well, what is your voter registration? I said, "independent." And I had moved from Jersey to Long Island and registered, and I thought I had registered as an independent, you know, and that's what I told the woman. So the woman went and checked, and all of a sudden I'm a registered Republican. I had no clue that I was a registered Republican. I had no clue. I thought I had registered as an independent. Now, it's true that on the rolls in Nassau County, I was a registered Republican. That's absolutely true, but I can tell you I had no idea of that. Now, I was trying to recall, because it was two years since I had gone in and registered, how that could possibly happen, and I couldn't. I couldn't recall it. So the day that I found that out I changed it to independent.

But I traced it back. And then I learned about a month later that at the time I registered there was no independent registry in Nassau County, that there was no box to fill in. But I still can't tell you, honestly, what happened there. I don't know. I don't remember. I can tell you I was the most surprised person on earth when that reporter said, well, you're registered Republican. Because I always had registered as an independent. Anyway, nobody believed me -- I mean, nobody. People who liked me believed me, but the people who hated me didn't. And what can I do? What can I do? It was an error, it was a mistake. Maybe it was my mistake, but I can't imagine, you know, how that happened.

—J.S.

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