Fox News' O'Reilly And Watters Ridicule “Transvestites,” “Gays” At Mermaid Parade

Parade Is A 30 Year Coney Island Tradition Promoting Self-Esteem

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly sent his producer Jesse Watters to interview participants at Brooklyn, NY's historic Mermaid Parade. The resulting video package mocked the appearance and demeanor of the interviewees -- many of whom were dressed in drag -- in order to imply the subjects were disgusting, deviant, and unfit to be around children.

The July 11 video package, part of a recurring segment on The O'Reilly Factor dubbed “Watters' World,” featured clips of the Fox contributor conducting interviews with attendants and participants of Brooklyn's Mermaid Parade, a large art parade founded in 1983 with the goal of promoting self-esteem and self-expression in the Coney Island neighborhood.

The package featured Watters asking parade-goers dressed in drag and in costumes a variety of questions, followed by derisive reactions from either Watters or from inserted film clips that depicted famous actors and actresses in moments exuding disgust or disdain. One clip of an attendee dancing near Watters was spliced together with a clip of Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura character puking into a toilet. At one point, Watters asked a parade-goer -- who revealed he was a teacher -- whether he was “setting a good example” for children:

After the package played, O'Reilly opined, "I'm not being a wiseguy or being offensive. It seems like there are a lot of gays attracted to this ... Why is that?'':

WATTERS: I think a lot of the transvestite community descends on Coney Island during this parade. I have no idea why. But they're very flamboyant and set the tone for the rest of the parade.

O'REILLY: Just a week ago there was a gay pride parade. How many parades do you want?

WATTERS: Well they like parades! They're into pageantry, they like to show off their wares.

O'REILLY: Exhibitionism.


O'REILLY: Well was that the prevailing theme here? Crossing dressing, transvestite people?

O'Reilly has a history of promoting damaging depictions of people who don't conform to strict gender norms, including advising parents to punish boys who like the color pink and warning that watching transgender people on television might cause kids to experiment with homosexuality.

The Watters' World segment is also symptomatic of Fox's broader transphobia problem. The network repeatedly uses the image of a "man in a dress" to mock and stigmatize the transgender community.

A number of equality groups, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Basic Rights Oregon, have criticized Fox for its transphobic content.