On March 28, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly came under fire for saying he wasn't listening to Congresswoman Maxine Waters' floor speech on Fox & Friends because he was "looking at the James Brown wig," a jab at the California congresswoman's hair. O'Reilly later apologized for his remarks, but in a series of tweets, Media Matters for America noted that O'Reilly's comment about Waters wasn't the first time a Fox News host made a racist insult against her. Bustle has reached out to Fox News for comment on the statements.
In 2010, O'Reilly remarked to Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia professor and former Fox News commentator, "say you're a cocaine dealer — and you kind of look like one a little bit." O'Reilly did not make a public apology to Hill.
And in a 2012 clip posted by Media Matters, Fox News host Eric Bolling responded in a wildly offensive manner to another Waters floor speech, in which she was harshly criticizing then-Speaker of the House John Boehner. Bolling said:
Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston. Step away from the crack pipe, step away from the Xanax, step away from the Lorazepam, because it’s going to get you in trouble.
When the show returned from commercial, Bolling said he was "just kidding" about his remarks.
Bolling's 2012 insult against Rep. Waters was wildly offensive on so many levels. It mocked a beloved Black star less than week after she died, and audaciously suggested that an accomplished congresswoman was on drugs for speaking her mind and heart, echoing the racist myths that associate Black people with drug usage.
Last fall, Fox News came under fire again for airing an offensive segment filmed in New York's Chinatown that appeared to make fun of Asian interviewees who were asked about then-nominee Donald Trump and his views on China. In the segment, O'Reilly Factor correspondent Jesse Watters asked two Asian women "am I supposed to bow to say hello?" and complimented a proprietor on the watches he sold before asking him if they were "hot" (a slang term for stolen). In one street interview with a man who said he supported Trump, the man's comments were subtitled despite his accent being slight enough to understand the English he was speaking.
In an interview with Media Matters responding to the segment, Paul Cheung, president of the Asian American Journalists Association, laid out exactly why Fox's portrayal of the Chinatown residents they interviewed was so offensive:
The segment was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans. Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in the mainstream news media.
Regarding the controversy, Watters said on Twitter, "My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense. As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are."
Cheung's comments, though, get to the heart of why the racist gaffes are terrible: They use stereotypes to discuss news events, and in doing so bolster those stereotypes and downplay the significance of the people they are covering.
Waters' statements prior to both attacks against her were passionate indictments of the system, and instead of engaging with her points, O'Reilly and Bolling chose bigotry.