Fox News’ Jesse Watters Should Be Held Accountable for Racist Segment

October 6, 2016
Jesse Watters interviews people in NYC's Chinatown during a segment that aired on October 3, 2016. (Photo credit: Fox News)
Jesse Watters interviews people in NYC’s Chinatown during a segment that aired on October 3, 2016. (Photo credit: Fox News)

After news broke yesterday of Fox News’ airing of one of the most breathtakingly racist anti-Asian network news segments in recent memory, several AAPI advocacy groups have spoken out against the video — which aired during Tuesday night’s O’Reilly Factor episode — and its creator, Jesse Watters. The Asian American Journalists’ Association issued a statement said the segment was “rife with stereotypes.”

“It is not ‘all in good fun’ to perpetuate racist stereotypes about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and it certainly is not ‘gentle fun’ to target or mock people who are not fluent in English. No person should be used as a prop in such a heartless manner,” said the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice issued a statement saying, “Although The O’Reilly Factor may believe this was “all in good fun,” the segment does nothing more than play up every offensive stereotype of Asian Americans that the community has fought against for decades.  What they should have done is to talk about the important role that Asian Americans can play in this upcoming election.”

Christine Chen of APIAVote said, “We are shocked and disgusted by the blatant use of disparaging stereotypes against Chinese American and Asian American voters.”

A rally has been scheduled for today at 4pm in front of Fox News HQ in New York City, and will include Assemblymember Ron Kim, Assemblymember Walter Mosley, Assemblymember Nily Rozic, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Councilmember Peter Koo. Senator Daniel Squadron, NYC City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Congresswoman Grace Meng also issued statements condemning the segment.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced Watters as engaging in “vile, racist behavior,” and says Fox News should “keep this guy off TV.”

Although Fox News has not issued a formal statement on the segment, Watters had this to say on Twitter:

With all due respect to Watters, this mealy-mouthed non-apology is not enough. Tuesday night’s video segment contains the sort of astounding racism one would normally ascribe to the early twentieth century; except, it’s 2016.

There is nothing tongue-in-cheek or light-hearted about referencing virtually every single one of the terrible anti-Asian stereotypes of the past two centuries in an obnoxious video segment that was neither entertaining nor illuminating.

We need to hold Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, and Jesse Watters accountable for this deplorable racism.

Please sign this petition and share it widely with your social network! 

Update (10/6/2016 4:15pm):  Activists organized a rally that took place beginning at 4pm today before the offices of Fox News. Meanwhile, this story received extensive media coverage in mainstream and ethnic news. Here’s a (continuously updating) list of my favourites:

AAJA is also reporting that they received an invitation to appear on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss the incident, and declined the invitation with a counter-offer to have O’Reilly appear at a townhall in Chinatown to address the whole community. They write:

AAJA has reached out to David Tabacoff, Executive Producer of “The O’Reilly Factor” at Fox News Channel yesterday, and he has extended an invitation for AAJA President Paul Cheung to appear on this Friday’s show to discuss the journalism organization’s concerns.

We appreciate the invitation to educate Bill O’Reilly and his audience on the offensive nature of the “Watters’ World” segment. However, we believe meaningful engagement can occur only if there is significant dialogue not just with us but with the broader community.

Therefore we respectfully decline Mr. Tabacoff’s invitation and instead propose a solution we believe can facilitate such a dialogue. AAJA would like to extend an invitation to participate in a dialogue between Fox News staff and the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at a town hall, which we will host in New York’s Chinatown. We encourage Jesse Watters, his producers and other Fox News staff to attend. It will be this Sunday afternoon in Chinatown. Exact time and location details to follow.

Finally, word on the street is that Watters is going to get some serious side-eye on tonight’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Update (10/6/2016 4:40pm): The DNC issued the following statement condemning the segment:

DNC Statement on the Racist Fox News Segment Disparaging Asian American Voters

WASHINGTON, DC – DNC AAPI Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong issued the following statement condemning the racist and condescending “Watters’ World” segment of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” profiling Asian American voters:

“It is tragically tone deaf and insensitive that a Fox News correspondent decided to ambush and mock Asian voters in New York’s Chinatown. These historic neighborhoods came into existence because of racial discrimination and laws that denied Chinese American residents property rights, the right work in institutional agencies, and most importantly, the right to vote. This outrageous segment showed that division and fear of those who are different are clearly still present, including at Fox News.

“While Fox News has never been a bastion of tolerance, this is yet another example of the Trump effect, where attacks on communities of color have been normalized thanks to Trump’s divisive campaign. The DNC stands alongside the Asian American Journalists Association in calling for an apology and an explanation for how they will prevent this dehumanizing and racist programming in the future.”

Update (10/6/2016 11:45pm): AAJA’s townhall will take place on Sunday, October 9 at 2pm at the Museum of Chinese in America in NYC.

Update (10/7/2016 12:20am): Daily Show featured this video segment.

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