It’s Not About Watters; It’s About Fox

Bill O'Reilly interviews a segment of "Watters' World" on The O'Reilly Factor (Photo credit: Fox News / YouTube)
Bill O’Reilly interviews a segment of “Watters’ World” on The O’Reilly Factor (Photo credit: Fox News / YouTube)

By Guest Contributor: Kelvin Yudianto

In the middle of heated racial tensions and xenophobia permeating the U.S., Asian Americans found ourselves unexpectedly in the spotlight, thanks to Jesse Watters’ racist Chinatown segment which aired last Monday on Fox News’ darling show, The O’Reilly Factor. In that segment, Watters went to New York’s Chinatown supposedly to interview Chinese Americans regarding their political opinions.

The segment consists of condescending, unserious and flippant interviews Jesse Watters conducted with Chinese Americans — and, in fact, one Japanese American whom Watters assumed was Chinese American. Watters starts out by questioning his interviewees regarding the upcoming presidential election, and the rest of the clip shows Watters haughtily treating his interviewees as stereotypical Asians. The stereotyping includes asking a man Watters assumes to be Chinese if he knows Karate, which is from Japan. Elsewhere, Watters asks two young Asian ladies if he needed to bow before talking to them, as if they are Asians from Western movies. The most insulting parts were, probably, Watters asking older Asians (who, in all honesty, look like people who don’t understand English well) about their opinions on Trump; Fox News ridiculed these seniors’ inability to answer with awkward cricket sounds.

In the following days, mainstream media, important elected New York officials, and many Asian Americans harshly criticized and/or cursed Watters and his racist segment. The most famous one perhaps came from The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng. Many of these criticisms, however, have been vulgar and personal against Watters himself.  Even though I condemn Watters’ actions, this tactic is inappropriate. Watters is not the root of Fox News’ racism, but merely a symptom of it. By solely channeling our anger towards Watters and not focusing primarily on Fox, we do nothing to prevent racist episodes by Fox News from recurring.

Fox News’ racism towards Chinese Americans was not a distinct event. The news corporation, indeed, has a long history of airing, as well as inciting, xenophobic opinions. The most recent of these are Fox News pundits’ apologetic views on Trump’s proposals of deporting Mexican immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the U.S. Fox News claims to be fair and balanced, but it is mainly a tabloid that markets itself to racist, ignorant conservatives.

Without redirecting our anger towards Fox News, the network will once again emerge unscathed from this saga. We already see how the network has successfully deflected most of the criticism towards its poster boy—Watters. He is clearly not as important an asset as Bill O’Reilly or Megyn Kelly. So Fox derives no benefit in defending him from further criticism, which so far have come from high-profile figures like New York mayor Bill de Blasio. Moreover, Fox News knows how short our collective memory often is in this day of the 24-hour news cycle; a new story would shortly emerge to draw away our attention. And, as if on cue and only a few days after Watters’ segment was broadcast, the revelation regarding Donald Trump’s lewd remarks from 2005 resurfaced. So long as we continue to avoid targeting the real culprits – the leadership of Fox News – we can only predict that personalities like Watters will re-emerge. Even Fox News acquiesces to public calls to dismiss Watters, he will just be replaced with someone similar. That person might not necessarily air remarks that are racist towards Asian Americans, but ones that could attack any minority group. The stake is clearly high for any sensible American.

I clearly denounce Watters’ remarks!! But, by focusing him as the main culprit, we ignore the chief cause of the problem that deserves the majority of our criticism: Fox News!!

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Kelvin Yudianto is a political science and history student who is passionate about Asian culture & history, as well as Asian American issues. Kelvin loves reading in the spare time, doing fellowship with friends, and has recently picked up an interest in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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  • Ryan Clarke

    You’re making a classic mistake progressive Asian activists make which is to shift focus AWAY from offenses against Asian-Americans and widen the aperture far too broadly. Hence: “The most recent of these are Fox News pundits’ apologetic views on Trump’s proposals of deporting Mexican immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the U.S. Fox News claims to be fair and balanced, but it is mainly a tabloid that markets itself to racist, ignorant conservatives.”. In other words, you are exploiting this opportunity that Watter’s created to not fight for what’s right- which is appeal the anti-Asian racism that Watters demonstrated, but leverage Asians in your preferred ‘wider war’ against the Right. Sometimes fighting for Asians is the right thing to do. You don’t always have to ‘zoom out’, abandon the campaign for Asian-Americans, and fight other people’s battles. Not everything has to be viewed in the standard Left vs. Right framework; sometimes fighting anti-Asian racism is the right fight, given what happened. And sometimes spreading yourself too thin dilutes the fight against anti-Asian stereotypes; which requires focus to win.