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

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.

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Fox News Airs Appallingly Racist anti-Asian Segment

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)

This is a new low, even for Fox News.

Earlier this week, Fox’s O’Reilly Factor aired a jaw-droppingly racist segment about Asian Americans as part of its “Watters’ World” features. In it, Fox correspondent Jesse Watters traveled to New York City’s Chinatown under the auspices of discovering what Asian American voters thought about Donald trump and the presidential election.

Rather than to approach pollsters and researchers who professionally study Asian Americans’ and Pacific Islanders’ political attitudes — and who released an updated report this week on AAPI opinions, showing low support among AAPIs for the Republican Party and the race-baiting of the Trump campaign — Watters instead went for a man-on-the-street approach.

Actually, correction: Jesse Watters went for a holy-crap-that’s-so-racist-man-on-the-street approach. Because, why bother with investigative journalism when you can instead fill five minutes pretending to report about a growing but largely overlooked elecorate by being an offensive, annoying asshole to total strangers?

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How both Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart got it really wrong on Asian Americans

Why? Why did this happen?

So this happened.

I guess because Bill Maher’s battle of wits (in absentia) with Ben Affleck over Maher’s latent Islamophobia went viral last week and Jon Stewart could be having none of that, Stewart invited on Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly last night ostensibly to promote O’Reilly’s newest book — something-something-General-Patton-no-one-cares — but really with the singular goal of getting Papa Bear to admit the existence of White privilege (video after the jump).

And, if that was Stewart’s goal, he failed utterly at it. Instead, what we were left with was an incoherent 12-minute sputtering contest between an avowed liberal so flabbergasted by conservative obstinance that he was rendered largely speechless, and a Fox News anchor who looked for all the world like he was being held hostage on set.

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Colbert Report weighs in on Bill O’Reilly’s anti-Asian comments last week in a questionable segment

Last night, in the first return episode after a three-week hiatus, Colbert Report dedicated an entire segment to the recent controversy over Bill O’Reilly’s anti-Asian and anti-Hawaiian comments on the O’Reilly Factor last week.

Just to recap, O’Reilly remarked on-air that Asians aren’t naturally inclined to be liberal because we are generally “industrious and hard-working”, and that therefore it’s surprising that Hawaii and its high Asian population is home to rampant crime and drug addiction. Oh, yeah. He said that.

In typical satirical Colbert Report fashion, Stephen Colbert summarized the controversy in a monologue that contained a flurry of racialized (and generally schoolyard) puns and jokes. The segment ends with Colbert learning from his lawyers that stereotypes, even “compliments”, are insensitive. Check it out (fast forward to 1:48):

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Blood in the Water – Bill O’Reilly’s Racial Insensitivity
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Now, I obviously appreciate the sentiment of the segment, and for the most part thought it was a positive take on the controversy. It emphasized the point that “complimentary” stereotypes are still racist stereotypes, and that Bill O’Reilly is a jackass.

However, I also felt uncomfortable watching the segment. Peppered into the segment were some random puns and racialized humour targeting Asians. And while the segment was building to the larger point, the audience laughter felt less like they were in on Colbert’s joke, and more a “hahaha – Asians eat chop suey!” kind of reaction.

And herein lies the danger in dealing with racial topics in a comedic or parody fashion. I am reminded of Tarentino films like Kill Bill and Django Unchained (which my boyfriend has written a larger piece on in Facebook in which he addresses this subject). These films involve revenge fantasies that target specific racial minorities (and in the case of the latter, slavery); how these subject matters are being reacted to by an audience, within whom racial prejudices are ingrained, is relevant. In Kill Bill, is the audience reveling in Uma Thurman and her sword, or the visuals of a thousand Asian people getting cut to bits? In Gran Turino, when the audience laughs at Clint Eastwood, are they laughing at his ubiqutious use of the word “gook” and “zipperhead” or at it? Hell, is there anything funny about a White man calling a person of colour an epithet, ever?

I appreciate that Colbert Report dealt with Bill O’Reilly and his anti-Asian comments. I appreciate the message of his segment. But, “chop suey”? Really?

Bill O’Reilly: “Asian people are not liberal… they’re usually more industrious and hard-working”

MediaMatters reports on some comments made by Bill O’Reilly on his show on Fox News yesterday. Here’s the transcript of the clip.

BILL O’REILLY (host): Now I have to say, Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s beautiful.

JESSE WATTERS (Fox News producer): Yeah, it’s beautiful.

O’REILLY: But when I’m there I’m under water. I’m not talking to pinheads. But the state is in enormous debt.

WATTERS: They are.

O’REILLY: Alright. They’ve got a lot of social problems. When you says it’s the biggest homeless thing, it’s because of the addiction.


O’REILLY: The addiction is rampant, all over the place, because they don’t enforce the drug laws.


O’REILLY: And, you know, I think the one person who said, Look, this is a place where people come to to escape. This is, you know, generally speaking. But you know what’s shocking? 35 percent of the Hawaiian population is Asian, and Asian people are not liberal, you know, by nature. They’re usually more industrious and hard-working.

WATTERS: But they did vote for President Obama —

O’REILLY: Big time.

WATTERS: — and if you add the indigenous native Hawaiian population —

O’REILLY: About 20 percent.

WATTERS: — to the Hispanic population, they outnumber whites by more than two to one.

So, let’s get this straight. First of all, O’Reilly makes a racial generalization about all Asian people as “hard-working” and “industrious”, which is, y’know, just the model minority myth repackaged for the twenty-first century. He then uses the model minority myth to bash liberals of all other colours and creeds by suggesting a false paradox — “how could Asian Americans be both “hard-working and industrious” and liberal?!?” The implication, of course, being that other liberals of colour (re: African American and Latino) are understandably liberal because they’re not “hard-working” and “industrious”.

O’Reilly ends on the further manufactured paradox that Hawaii is surprisingly rife with drug addiction and unemployment, despite the high Asian American population. He implies that this is because the Asian population of Hawaii actually includes indigenous Hawaiians, whom, O’Reilly implies are actually unemployed lazy druggies, unlike their mainland “hard-working and industrious” counterparts. Which falls just short of explicitly calling indigenous Hawaiians unemployed lazy druggies.

Great going, O’Reilly. You manage to, once again, take our collective breath away with your mind-blowing racism.