Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has weighed in on the mystery surrounding Nils Bildt, a recent guest on his show whom producers falsely identified as a Swedish defence and national security adviser.
During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor last Thursday, Bildt argued that Muslim immigrants in Sweden had driven up crime and created social problems. But Swedish officials and national security experts quickly pointed out that Bildt did not work with the Swedish government and was not known in the country’s professional circles.
O’Reilly sought to clear the air during his show Monday night. In a segment titled “owning up to an error,” he said criticism from the Swedish government and “left-wing people” over Bildt’s qualifications was valid.
“Mr. Bildt does consulting work on terrorism, that is true, but we should have clarified that he had no direct role with the Swedish government,” O’Reilly said. “The information we gave you in the segment was accurate, but in hindsight a more relevant guest should have been used on the anti-immigrant side.”
Earlier Monday, Bildt accused Fox News of making up his fake title, which was displayed in the caption during his appearance on the network. He said he made clear that he was an “independent adviser.”
“I have never claimed to be a representative of, nor for, the Swedish Government — or any institution thereof,” Bildt told the New York Times. “Fox News was responsible for the title used — I think it was an unfortunate choice of words, but it is something they will need to answer for.”
Fox denied the accusation, according to the Times.
In his appearance last week, Bildt sparred with Anne-Sofie Naslund, a Swedish newspaper journalist, over claims that Sweden had become more dangerous in recent years due to the country’s relatively soft stance on immigration. Naslund argued that Sweden was safer than O’Reilly and others had portrayed it. Bildt disagreed, telling O’Reilly that the country had struggled to integrate immigrants into Swedish society. “These things are not being openly and honestly discussed,” he said.
The debate was prompted by comments U.S. President Donald Trump made recently during a recent rally in Florida, in which he suggested that Sweden had been attacked by terrorists. He later clarified that he was referring to a Fox News documentary that linked refugees and crime spikes in the country — a position Swedish scholars say is oversimplified, as The Washington Post has reported.
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Bildt’s appearance week caused an immediate backlash in Sweden. The newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that Bildt was originally named Nils Tolling and ad left the country in 1994. He was unknown to the military and the Foreign Ministry, the newspaper reported. Prominent academics and national security experts also said they’d never heard of him. One academic, Robert Egnell, a professor at Swedish Defence University, told The Post that he had studied with Bildt at King’s College London in 2002, but echoed others’ concerns about Bildt’s credentials.
Initially, Fox News defended its decision to book Bildt. “Our booker made numerous inquiries and spoke to people who recommended Nils Bildt and after pre-interviewing him and reviewing his bio, we agreed that he would make a good guest for the topic that evening,” David Tabacoff, executive producer of “The O’Reilly Factor,” said in a statement. The network said later that O’Reilly would address the controversy on his Monday show, a promise he made good on.
Fox News recently came under fire when another one of its guests was exposed as having faked his credentials. For years, Wayne Simmons made unpaid appearances on The O’Reilly Factor and other shows as a purported former CIA operative, commenting on terrorism and national security issues, including the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In 2015, he was charged with fabricating career with the CIA and pleaded guilty to fraud last year. Fox News distanced itself from Simmons when the charges came down, and host Neil Cavuto issued an on-air apology for having brought Simmons onto his show.
Egnell said that Bildt had left the program early and moved to Japan, after which they had gradually lost touch. “He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Egnell said in an email. “He has not lived in Sweden for a very long time and no one within the Swedish security community (which is not a very big pond) seems to know him.”
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