Despite President Obama's efforts to address problems that plague the African-American community, Fox host Bill O'Reilly insisted Obama never addressed the problems explicitly and lectured him on how save the black community. In his interview with the president, O'Reilly continued his condescending effort to attribute historic problems in the black community to what he called “the culture.”
On the February 3 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly played unaired portions of his interview with Obama. During the interview, O'Reilly asked the president why he and first lady Michelle Obama never “explicitly” address problems in the black community, citing statistics about families (emphasis added):
BILL O'REILLY: One of my points on the Factor is that poverty is driven by the dissolution of the American family; that is the prime mover. OK? On your watch, median income has dropped 17 percent among working families in this country. That's not a good record, it's not all your fault, part of it was this terrible recession, we all know that. Everybody knows that.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK.
O'REILLY: All right. But 72 percent of babies in African-American community are born out of wedlock now.
O'REILLY: Why isn't there a campaign, by you and the first lady, to address that problem very explicitly?
OBAMA: Yeah. Actually, Bill, we address it explicitly all the time. I'll send you at least 10 speeches I've made since I've been president, talking about the importance of men taking responsibility for their children. Talking about the importance of young people delaying gratification. Talking about the importance of when it comes to child rearing, paying child support, spending time with your kids, reading with them. So, whether it's getting publicity or not is a whole different question.
O'REILLY: But I don't see the pressure from the federal government to go in and say, “This is wrong. This is killing futures of babies and children.”
OBAMA: Well first of all, I've just got to say it, Bill; we talk about it all the time. We'll continue to talk about it. We're convening, for example, philanthropists and business people city by city who are interested in addressing these problems at the local level. There is an economic component to it as well, though.
Unfortunately for O'Reilly, President Obama has been consistent about his message to the African-American community. In a June 2008 speech in in one of the largest black churches in Chicago, Obama sharply criticized absent black fathers, explaining, "[w]e need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception." Obama continued:
“Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said, to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
During a May 2013 commencement address at the all-male, historically black Morehouse College, Obama explained the importance of having a positive black male role model:
THE PRESIDENT: But that doesn't mean we don't have work -- because if we're honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you've had here at Morehouse. In troubled neighborhoods all across this country -- many of them heavily African American -- too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here -- they're places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell.
So be a good role model, set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know somebody who's not on point, go back and bring that brother along -- those who've been left behind, who haven't had the same opportunities we have -- they need to hear from you. You've got to be engaged on the barbershops, on the basketball court, at church, spend time and energy and presence to give people opportunities and a chance. Pull them up, expose them, support their dreams. Don't put them down.
We've got to teach them just like what we have to learn, what it means to be a man -- to serve your city like Maynard Jackson; to shape the culture like Spike Lee; to be like Chester Davenport, one of the first people to integrate the University of Georgia Law School. When he got there, nobody would sit next to him in class. But Chester didn't mind. Later on, he said, “It was the thing for me to do. Someone needed to be the first.” And today, Chester is here celebrating his 50th reunion. Where is Chester Davenport? He's here. (Applause.)
So if you've had role models, fathers, brothers like that -- thank them today. And if you haven't, commit yourself to being that man to somebody else.
On August 21, 2013, O'Reilly similarly claimed that Obama has “never addressed” the “derelict parenting” that hampers the black community. But just over a month before, in response to the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, President Obama spoke about challenges faced by African-American youth in a July 19, 2013 speech on race. He explained that "[w]e need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys" :
THE PRESIDENT: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
It remains unclear what O'Reilly would have Obama do that he hasn't already done, but what is clear is that the Fox host will continue his long history of misleadingly attributing problems of crime and poverty to African-American culture.