9/11 Myths Busted!

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 7, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Personal Story segment tonight, I have trouble believing this, but a new poll by Scripps-Howard and the University of Ohio, says 36 percent of Americans believe it is likely or somewhat likely that the U.S. government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks, or did nothing to stop them.

Some nutty college professors are trotting that nonsense. And apparently, some Americans are buying it.

With us now, James Meigs, the editor of Popular Mechanics magazine, which is debunking these conspiracy theories using scientific evidence.

Before we get to the specifics, I mean, I would never have done this story even a week ago. And I see this poll come out, and I'm going, 36 percent are buying this nutty conspiracy garbage? How do you react to that?

JAMES MEIGS, POPULAR MECHANICS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, you know, it's been bubbling up kind of from the fringes for years and gradually making headway into the mainstream.

O'REILLY: On the Internet it started, right?

MEIGS: On the Internet.

O'REILLY: Right.

MEIGS: But also a French author, Thierry Mason, had a bestseller in France several years ago, arguing that the Pentagon basically attacked itself on 9/11.

O'REILLY: And Michael — well, Michael Moore hasn't said it, but it's that kind of paranoia that the government's so evil, it wants the War on Terror.

All right now, let's go over the myths one by one:

The World Trade Center towers fell too quickly. That's the big one. And you say what?

MEIGS: Well, they didn't. I mean, you know, one of the things that comes up a lot in these conspiracy theories is kind of a cartoon version, how we think things ought to have happened.

Well, no one had ever seen 100-plus story building collapse to the ground before. And so the idea that it was going to tip over like a big tree or something was based on just a hunch, as opposed to science.

What we found is this is the most closely studied collapse of any kind in world history. You know, thousands of engineers. And witnesses have been interviewed. Engineers have studied it. And the engineering community's unanimous that a combination of devastating impact from the jets — it severed building members — and then the effects of fires over multiple floors gradually weakened what remained until it began to sag and ultimately collapse.

O'REILLY: All right, so basically, the trauma to the building was so much that no building could have withstood it?

MEIGS: Well, actually, it's fascinating. A lot of the engineers say the real surprise is that the buildings stood up as long as it did.

O'REILLY: As long as they did. OK.

Now why wasn't the hole in the Pentagon as wide as the plane's 124-foot, 10-inch wing span?

MEIGS: This is another one that is kind of based on the idea what we think a plane crash ought to look like. That plane was going over 500 miles an hour. It ran into the Pentagon, which is basically built like a bunker. It's reinforced concrete.

Those thin wing tips — a wing is mostly just thin aluminum and fuel. They were not going to be strong enough to penetrate the building and leave a cartoon outline of itself.

In fact, the hole was about 90 feet wide. The building then collapsed around it, but what was left of the airplane after it hit really flowed into that structure, more like a liquid than a solid.

O'REILLY: All right. So there's absolutely no evidence in both the World Trade Center or the Pentagon that anything happened that was stunning to the analysts who, after the fact, examined it, correct?

MEIGS: That's exactly right.

O'REILLY: All right, so it's all scientifically proven that A led to B, led to C.

MEIGS: Right.

O'REILLY: No miraculous things or any of that.

Now the final thing is — and this happened to the TWA crash off Long Island, the missiles things — the notion that "there were other missiles involved." And I'm saying to myself, I was here in New York. I was watching the damn thing on television. I didn't see any missiles. And nobody else did. How does anybody believe this?

MEIGS: Well, every major plane crash leads to conspiracy theories.

O'REILLY: Everyone, right.

MEIGS: People always want to believe that there's a more powerful explanation for these things. It's not just something went wrong, or there's evil people in the world. They want to believe that somebody's more in control, even if it's somebody who they don't like. They want to believe that somebody's sort of pulling the switches back.

O'REILLY: Now you're not a political magazine. Popular Mechanics has been around forever. You don't take — you're not a political magazine, right?

MEIGS: And these aren't political questions.

O'REILLY: No, these are scientific questions, right?

MEIGS: Facts are facts. Facts don't have politics. And we really wanted to establish the core facts. Let people make of it what they may.

O'REILLY: All right. The University of Wisconsin has a professor who is teaching this fall that puts forth this, OK. Would you want your kid taking a class from that guy?

MEIGS: Well, you know, our problem with Kevin Barrett, this professor, is not that he's teaching a certain opinion, it's that he's got his facts wrong.

You know, for example, one of the things he says is that cell phones don't work in airplanes. This is very common in conspiracy circles. And therefore, those phone calls that people make from Flight 93 must have been somehow faked by the government when they called their loved ones and what not.

Well, we just talked to the engineers of the cell phone companies. Cell phones certainly work in airplanes. They ask you not to use them for a variety of reasons.

O'REILLY: Yes, because they don't the dials going up [in the cockpit].

MEIGS: But they work fine.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Meigs, thanks for coming in. We appreciate it.

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