Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 14, 2013

Fact Check: O'Reilly says Mandela was a Communist

It’s been almost a quarter century since the Cold War ended. But the recent death of Nelson Mandela has stirred up quite a few old ideological ghosts.

When high-profile Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, released statements of praise for Mandela after his death on Dec. 5, 2013, they were deluged with negative comments by Americans who felt Mandela was either a communist, a terrorist or both.

On Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor just hours after Mandela died, host Bill O’Reilly discussed Mandela’s legacy with former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. The exchange got the most attention for Santorum’s comment equating Obamacare with apartheid — namely, that “we have a great injustice going on right now in this country, with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives. And Obamacare is front and center in that.”

In this item, however, we’ll be fact-checking a different claim — the one by O’Reilly that preceded that statement. Mandela, O’Reilly said, “was a communist.”

Before looking into the claim, we will note that O’Reilly’s point was more nuanced than this fragment in isolation.

O’Reilly said “Nelson Mandela — I spent some time in South Africa. He was a communist, this man. He was a communist. All right? But he was a great man. What he did for his people was stunning — the sacrifices that he made. He could have repudiated and got out of that prison. He wouldn’t do it. He was a great man. But he was a communist.”

So was he?

We checked with seven scholars of Mandela and 20th century South African history, and most agreed that Mandela was — at least for a while - a member of the Communist Party. However, they added that the label is far from the sum of a very complex political leader.

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow