Bill O'Reilly apologizes for interviewing "Sweden security adviser" who never worked for Swedish government

Fox News has again committed journalistic errors in trying to prove a Swedish immigrant crisis that doesn't exist

By Matthew Rozsa
Published February 28, 2017 2:55PM (EST)
 (Fox News)
(Fox News)

Less than two weeks after Fox News aired a story on Swedish immigration that distorted interviews to give a false impression about migrant crime rates — a story that President Donald Trump later used as the basis for claiming that Sweden is "having problems like they never thought possible" — Fox News is yet again under attack for journalistic sloppiness.

In a Thursday segment on Swedish immigration, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed a man who called himself Nils Bildt, presenting him as a Swedish defense and national security adviser. Bildt was on the show to refute claims made by Swedish journalist Anne-Sofie Naslund and argue that, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, Swedish immigration has led to an increase in violent crime.

On Monday, O'Reilly clarified that he had made a mistake by booking Bildt.

"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 told his audience. "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 had told The New York Times that he had no role in assuming the fake title.

"I have never claimed to be a representative of, nor for, the Swedish Government — or any institution thereof. I always stated that I was an independent adviser," Bildt explained to 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."

What is known so far about Bildt is that his original name was Nils Tolling, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper Dagens Nyheter also claims that Bildt served one year in prison in 2014 for committing a violent crime in Virginia, a claim that Bildt told The Post was false. He did not dispute that he had emigrated from Sweden in 1994, but his claim to having been related to former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt was contested by the original Bildt himself, who argued that Tolling is "trying to use the name to gain favors." Carl Bildt does have a brother named Nils Bildt, but he is not the man who appeared on O'Reilly's show.

The Post also reports that Nils Bildt (the one not related to the former prime minister) is a founder of a consulting company called Modus World LLC. This does not qualify him as an expert on Swedish immigration, with Professor Robert Egnell of Swedish Defence University telling The Post that Bildt "is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate. 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."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Bill O'reilly Donald Trump Fake News Nils Bildt Sweden