Rev. Jackson to O'Reilly: "[T]o underestimate the civility of blacks was insulting to many people"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

During the September 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked host Bill O'Reilly what he was "trying to say" during the September 19 broadcast of his radio show when he made controversial remarks about his visit to Sylvia's, a restaurant in Harlem. O'Reilly replied: "The hour was on how ... many whites fear blacks. And fear drives racism, as you know. Fear drives it. And I said to my audience, 'Look, this is a restaurant like any other restaurant,' but a lot of whites are afraid to go there." Jackson then told O'Reilly: "What concerns me is that fear and ignorance, you know, lead to hatred and leads to violence, obviously. ... And so, to underestimate the civility of blacks was insulting to many people." O'Reilly countered: "Who underestimated the civility of blacks?"

Jackson later said during the program:

JACKSON: It's like if I were to go to a white restaurant -- basically white restaurant -- and say, "I came out, didn't see any nooses, no white people called me a defaming name,"* you'd say, "Of course not," because I would not in that sense underestimate their civility. That's what this kind of rhubarb is all about.

But what struck me more about this conversation about you and that statement was what was ignored that day. That's the same day -- the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Central desegregation in 1957.

[...]

JACKSON: Completely ignored. Here we are 50 years later with a radical re-segregation of our school system because of, in part, tax base -- property tax base funding. Here we are trapped in these inner cities, first-class schools -- first-class children, second-class schools.

President Clinton was there. The Little Rock 9 also alive, they were there -- completely ignored. The same day, a report came out that showed that blacks are expelled at a huge disproportionate rate to our population.

In New Jersey, blacks are expelled 60 times more than whites in the population, and in Texas, it's like 26. So issues of great substance -- the re-segregation challenge, the need to make an even playing field in education, the impact of the disproportionate rate that drives the jail system, which completely ignored our argument about -- your statement about civility of blacks in Harlem.

To me, that was even more insulting -- kind of institutional disregard for our situation.

When Jackson asserted, "I think the real point here is for us to get beyond the smashing and counter-smashing ... and best it," O'Reilly replied, "You can't unless you speak out against it." He continued, "Unless you condemn what Media Matters and CNN did -- you, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, as well, unless you guys came out and said -- and I think you have said this in the public. I read it -- 'O'Reilly didn't say anything racist at all. This is diverting attention from the real issue.' ... You've got to do that."

From the September 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Now to the top story tonight: We are happy to have for the first time in 11 years on the air, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, everybody.

You know, I'm glad to see you.

JACKSON: Bill, what were you trying to say?

O'REILLY: In what? I'm saying the press is corrupt and they're exploiting black Americans.

JACKSON: In the Sylvia's statement, what we were you trying to say?

O'REILLY: The press is corrupt and they're exploiting black Americans.

JACKSON: No, when you said about -- you know, about the -- how civil the people were, what was your point?

O'REILLY: Oh, up in Sylvia's?

JACKSON: Yeah.

O'REILLY: Did you hear the tape, by the way? Did you hear the whole hour?

JACKSON: Yeah. What were you trying to say?

O'REILLY: But did you hear it?

JACKSON: Yeah.

O'REILLY: You heard the whole hour?

JACKSON: Not the whole hour, no.

O'REILLY: OK. OK -- because I have to tailor my explanation for what you heard. The hour was on how whites fear -- many whites fear blacks. And fear drives racism, as you know. Fear drives it.

And I said to my audience, "Look, this is a restaurant like any other restaurant," but a lot of whites are afraid to go there. When you walk in there, it's just like any other restaurant. OK?

It was framed in the sense that fear drives racism and there's nothing to be afraid of.

JACKSON: What concerns me is that fear and ignorance, you know, lead to hatred and leads to violence, obviously.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

JACKSON: And so, to underestimate the civility of blacks was insulting to many people.

O'REILLY: Who underestimated the civility of blacks?

JACKSON: I'm -- in a sense, that's how it came off.

O'REILLY: No, it didn't.*

JACKSON: In a sense, that's how it came off. It's like if I were to go to a white restaurant -- basically white restaurant -- and say, "I came out, didn't see any nooses, no white people called me a defaming name,"* you'd say, "Of course not," because I would not in that sense underestimate their civility. That's what this kind of rhubarb is all about.

But what struck me more about this conversation about you and that statement was what was ignored that day. That's the same day -- the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Central desegregation in 1957.

O'REILLY: Right, 50th anniversary.

JACKSON: Completely ignored. Here we are 50 years later with a radical re-segregation of our school system because of, in part, tax base -- property tax base funding. Here we are trapped in these inner cities, first-class schools -- first-class children, second-class schools.

President Clinton was there. The Little Rock 9 also alive, they were there -- completely ignored. The same day, a report came out that showed that blacks are expelled at a huge disproportionate rate to our population.

In New Jersey, blacks are expelled 60 times more than whites in the population, and in Texas, it's like 26. So issues of great substance -- the re-segregation challenge, the need to make an even playing field in education, the impact of the disproportionate rate that drives the jail system, which completely ignored our argument about -- your statement about civility of blacks in Harlem.

To me, that was even more insulting -- kind of institutional disregard for our situation.

O'REILLY: Well, look, you're right in the sense that this brouhaha is ridiculous, and it was contrived by far-left people to try to diminish me and this network -- and CNN, as corrupt as CNN is, and you used to work there, seized upon it. And you're right about that this should have never been an issue, ever. But you're wrong about -- you're wrong about one thing.

JACKSON: Is there --

O'REILLY: You're wrong about one thing, and let me tell you why you're wrong.

JACKSON: OK.

O'REILLY: Many white Americans fear blacks. That's the truth. And that's why things don't get done faster than they should get done -- because many whites won't say what they feel to blacks, won't ask blacks questions, won't try to understand blacks because they're afraid to be demonized --

JACKSON: But, Bill --

O'REILLY: -- if they say something wrong.

JACKSON: But, Bill, blacks have more reason to fear whites than the other way around.

O'REILLY: Maybe so, but we are all Americans.

JACKSON: Yeah, because --

O'REILLY: We are all Americans.

JACKSON: -- whites have never been enslaved by blacks. Whites have never been locked out in Jim Crow laws. So, this is an unfounded fear of blacks.

O'REILLY: I agree. It's unfounded. And then I tried --

JACKSON: But -- but --

O'REILLY: I tried to allay that fear, and I got smashed unfairly for doing it. I'm on your side. I want the white Americans to understand that the mainstream black American is no different than they are.

But what you see and what my grandmother saw on television is blacks on the news being taken into custody, is rappers saying the F-word, is glorification in the rap industry of drug-taking and the violence against women. That is what white America sees.

JACKSON: What most of what white America sees comes through white-controlled TV lenses.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

JACKSON: So we're projected as less intelligent than we are, less hard-working, less universal, less violent and less patriotic. So, we're kind of seen through these prejudiced lenses every day and of course, these stereotypes.

O'REILLY: You bet. And I tried to right that wrong, and I got smashed for doing it.

JACKSON: Well, I think the real point here is for us to get beyond the smashing and counter-smashing --

O'REILLY: You can't unless you speak out against it.

JACKSON: -- and best it.

O'REILLY: Unless you condemn what Media Matters and CNN did -- you, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, as well, unless you guys came out and said -- and I think you have said this in the public. I read it -- "O'Reilly didn't say anything racist at all. This is diverting attention from the real issue."

JACKSON: Well, I think --

O'REILLY: You've got to do that.

JACKSON: I think the issue about you and your view of civility in Harlem was far -- was not nearly as offensive as --

O'REILLY: It wasn't offensive at all.

JACKSON: -- as [former radio host Don] Imus' statement, referring to girls as black "nappy-headed" --

O'REILLY: Not even close.

JACKSON: -- or even Michael Richards. But more than that, the ignoring of Little Rock 9 50 years later and what that meant to our country and means to our country, ignoring of this gross expulsion rate, even the drug rate -- a Tribune reporter came out some weeks ago -- a story -- that 70 percent of all drug users in Illinois are white and 13 percent are black. But prison is 66 percent black and less than 10 percent white.

O'REILLY: 'Cause it's easier to catch them. They don't have lawyers. They -- you know. You know that poverty drives this and if you don't have enough money to pay a lawyer, you're going to get convicted. You know all of that.

JACKSON: Well, I guess, but most Americans don't know. They've assumed those in jailed are the most guilty, and those who are out are the most innocent, and that's why --

O'REILLY: Let's get to that [inaudible].

JACKSON: -- we have something against the focus --

O'REILLY: Reverend, let's get down to this, all right? Let's stop all this stuff. Here's what's driving the expulsion, the crime, and the poverty in the black community. You want to know what's driving it? No fathers in the home. Seventy percent of black babies are born out of wedlock in this country -- 70 percent, as opposed to 25 percent for whites. That's what's behind it, Reverend. That's what's behind all of these problems. And that's what has to be addressed.

JACKSON: I think in some sense, when you look at urban America, with jobs out --

O'REILLY: Nah, it's not about that. It's about discipline, and it's about raising children.

JACKSON: You have a point of view. May I share mine?

O'REILLY: Sure.

JACKSON: Jobs out, investment out, guns and drugs in. We do not grow drugs, nor manufacture them. To unleash semiautomatic weapons as legal again to enforce the drug trade. Taxes up, service down. First-class -- just second-class schools. There is a --

There's a phenomenon here that lends itself to marginalizing a whole body of American people. We must take that on seriously, because in some sense, it costs more to lock up than to lift up.

O'REILLY: Listen. I don't disagree with you, but unless you get to the root problem, the root problem of the disintegration of the family in the African-American community, all of these other things are not going to solve it.

JACKSON: Well, I --

O'REILLY: They're not going to solve it.

JACKSON: Well, I would at least argue if, in the major cities, seven of 10 young black males don't finish high school, in part driven by this excessive expulsion rate --

O'REILLY: If they had a dad in the home, they would finish.

JACKSON: No, I'm not sure that dads in the home address the issue of excessive expulsion rates --

O'REILLY: All right. Let's take a break and we'll talk about that.

JACKSON: -- and excessive sentencing that do not correspond with crime.

O'REILLY: OK. Let's come back. We'll take a look at Jena, Duke, and the expulsion rate, with Reverend Jackson in a moment.

And later, a CNN guest commentator calls Juan Williams a, quote, "happy negro." Juan will be here to reply to that, upcoming.

[...]

O'REILLY: Continuing now with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

What do you think of Bill Cosby, who has a message similar to mine -- does it much better than I could ever do -- going around and saying, "Look, it is the family. It is traditional values, American values, that we African-Americans must embrace self-reliance." What do you think about that message?

JACKSON: Bill has the moral authority to say it and the penetration. He does not invite reaction, because of his history. The night that Bill was at the anniversary of the '54 Supreme Court decision, he said the price to be paid through Jim Crow and lynchings and jailings, and the role that Dorothy Height played, the role that A. Philip Randolf played and Thurgood Marshall -- he said, now for us to have been fighting to get in school 50 years ago and now dropping out, doing less than our best is a disappointment to me.

So, he began to argue the case, if you're behind, run faster. Bill speaks as a coach, not as one who has animus or a bone to pick -- and so, I make the case, for example, that we have a six-point plan.

One, parents that take your child to school: Meet your child's teachers; exchange home numbers; turn the TV off three hours a night; pick up your child's report card every nine weeks; and take your child to church, temple, or synagogue once a week. That is a message of bottom up.

O'REILLY: I love that.

JACKSON: On the other hand -- on the other hand, we must also fight for even funding, equal funding. Why do we do so well on the football field, the basketball court? Because the playing field is even. The rules are public and the goals are clear. And rules do matter.

But, for the most part, black men fighting to survive the system, black boys are catching hell, and so, Bill says it with -- Bill Catch [sic] says it 'cause he loves people. People accept it from Bill.

O'REILLY: OK. Now let's go down to Jena, Louisiana, and Duke, North Carolina. You were unfairly, I believe, criticized in the Duke case. All you did was say that you'd pay the college tuition for the accuser, whether she was guilty or not. You didn't go down and protest. You didn't do anything else.

JACKSON: And --

O'REILLY: When you saw --

JACKSON: And --

O'REILLY: When you saw --

JACKSON: Wait a minute.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait.

JACKSON: That was the big media lie, because --

O'REILLY: Right.

JACKSON: -- I did not go. Al didn't want to go.

O'REILLY: So, now you know how I feel.

JACKSON: Well --

O'REILLY: Now you know who [sic] I feel. It was a big media lie. Now you know how I feel.

JACKSON: But now --

O'REILLY: But wait, wait, wait. When you heard that those three white students, whose families were wrecked, whose lives were wrecked for more than a year, were not guilty, what did you say?

JACKSON: We celebrated their relief. We said it was a good thing. The one -- one statement a young man made, he said: "Had our parents not had the money to fight the case" --

O'REILLY: They wouldn't have got off.

JACKSON: They wouldn't have gotten off. And so -- and while you can kind of buy justice --

O'REILLY: You can!

JACKSON: And those who can't buy it, can't get it. To clarify, again, when I heard about it and people from North Carolina, who I knew in school, called me, I called Senator [sic] Dan Blue [Democrat in the North Carolina House of Representatives] and some other minister friends, so did Reverend Sharpton, and said, "We want to see what the layout is" -- 'cause Blue said, "Let's go slow to find out what's going on."

And the young lady said that she was raped, apparently was not; said that she was engaging in these -- the naked dancing routine to send her kids to school, I said, "If you have to dance naked to send your kids to school, we'll send you to school. You don't have to dance naked anymore."

O'REILLY: Are you still going to send her to school?

JACKSON: Well, I don't know. I've never heard from her. I don't know what her interests are.

O'REILLY: Oh, you don't know anymore.

JACKSON: But my point is -- was, if in her poverty, she had to dance naked before men to go to school, we said we could send her without dancing naked.

O'REILLY: But if she's a drug addict and irresponsible, then you've got another situation.

JACKSON: But if she's a drug addict, she needs care.

O'REILLY: Right.

JACKSON: She needs to get well.

O'REILLY: But you can't force people to get well. That's the problem.

JACKSON: Well, you --

O'REILLY: Some people are going to be irresponsible no matter what you do and how much money the government kicks at them.

JACKSON: Well, that's true for certain people, but you should never give up on trying --

O'REILLY: Well, I agree.

JACKSON: -- to help the sick and to heal those who hurt.

Correction: 

Due to a transcription error, this item originally quoted Jackson as saying "It's like if I were to go to a white restaurant -- basically white restaurant -- and so, I came out and seeing the nooses, no white people called me a defaming name, you'd say, 'Of course not,' because I would not in that sense underestimate their civility." Jackson actually said, "It's like if I were to go to a white restaurant -- basically white restaurant -- and say, 'I came out, didn't see any nooses, no white people called me a defaming name,' you'd say, 'Of course not,' because I would not in that sense underestimate their civility." This item also incorrectly transcribed O'Reilly saying, "Does it?"; in fact, he said, "No, it didn't." Media Matters for America regrets the error.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bill O'Reilly
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor
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