Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.
O’Reilly Mocks Hair Of African-American Congresswoman
O’Reilly: I "Didn't Hear A Word" Rep. Maxine Waters Said Because Of Her "James Brown Wig." Discussing Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) criticism of President Donald Trump’s supporters, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said he “didn't hear a word” she said because “I was looking at the James Brown wig.” From the March 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
BILL O'REILLY: I didn't hear a word [Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)] said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): It's the same one.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And he's not using it anymore. They just -- they finally buried him.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): No. OK, I've got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She’s a -- you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.
O'REILLY: I didn't say she wasn't attractive.
EARHARDT: Her hair is pretty.
OREILLY: I love James Brown, but it's the same hair James Brown -- all right, the godfather of soul -- had.
EARHARDT: So he had girl hair.
O'REILLY: Whatever it is, I just couldn't get by it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/28/17]
O’Reilly Was Widely Criticized For The Remark. Multiple media figures criticized O’Reilly for the remark, saying it “crosses a huge, bright, red line,” was “beyond belief,” was “openly racist,” and was “racially-insensitive.” [Twitter, 3/28/17, 3/28/17, 3/28/17; The Daily Beast, 3/28/17; Mic, 3/28/17]
O’Reilly Apologizes For The Remark. O’Reilly later issued an apology for his remark, saying he made a “dumb” “jest about [Waters’] hair.”
O’Reilly Has History Of Racism
O’Reilly: African-Americans Are “Ill-Educated And Have Tattoos On Their Foreheads.” During an interview with Trump during the April 4 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly said “many” African-Americans “are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads and I hate to be generalized about it but it's true.” Despite intense criticism, O’Reilly doubled down on his claim the following week. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/11/16, 4/18/16]
O’Reilly Was Surprised “There Was No Difference" Between A Harlem Restaurant And Other New York Restaurants. Discussing a visit to Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding, "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." [Media Matters, 9/21/07]
O’Reilly: Go To Any "Mexican Restaurant In The World, They Come Out And They're Singing 'Guantanamera' With The Sombreros On." Angry about a college president who apologized after receiving criticism for posting a photo of his staff wearing sombreros and mustaches, O’Reilly claimed that “if it's racist, I can't go to the Mexican restaurants anymore.” He added, “If you go to any restaurant, Mexican restaurant in the world, they come out and they're singing ‘Guantanamera’ with the sombreros on.” From the November 10, 2015, edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY: Look, the sombrero picture, it's Halloween. They've got sombreros on, OK. Is this racist? If it's racist, I can't go to the Mexican restaurants anymore.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well here's why I think it's -- this in the end will die out. Because it really --
O'REILLY: Tell me about the picture. Do you see anything racist about this picture?
KRAUTHAMMER: We have a problem here, Bill. Because I'm in Washington and all I can see is my own mug.
O'REILLY: All right, it's a bunch of people, adults with sombreros, all right, a few have mustaches and they're holding caracaches (sic) or whatever that --
KRAUTHAMMER: Is the reference here to the Three Amigos? To the movie?
O'REILLY: Yeah. But if you go to any restaurant, Mexican restaurant in the world, they come out and they're singing "Guantanamera" with the sombreros on. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 11/10/15]
O'Reilly: "Asian People Are Not Liberal By Nature. They're Usually More Industrious And Hard-Working." Discussing issues in Hawaii, O’Reilly said, “Thirty-five percent of the Hawaiian population is Asian, and Asian people are not liberal by nature. They're usually more industrious and hard-working.” From the January 3, 2013, edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Now I have to say, Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. It's beautiful.
JESSE WATTERS: 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: All right. 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 I think the one person who said, “Look, this is a place where people come to to escape.” This is generally speaking. But you know what's shocking? Thirty-five percent of the Hawaiian population is Asian, and Asian people are not liberal 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 2-to-1. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/3/13]
O’Reilly Said He Was “Proud” Of Jesse Watters For The Correspondent’s Widely Condemned And Racist Chinatown Segment. O’Reilly defended a segment by Fox correspondent Jesse Watters that used blatantly racist tropes about Asian-Americans during interviews in New York City’s Chinatown, saying that while “I would have edited it a little bit differently,” “we're proud of him.” From the October 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Now, you know this piece is being widely criticized as, quote, “racist.”
BILL O’REILLY: Do you want me to give you the accurate report on it?
WALLACE: Well, do you think it was over the line? Do you regret it?
O’REILLY: I would have edited it a little bit differently than it was edited. But, no, it wasn't over the line. We ran that piece on Monday of last week. Five million people, plus, saw it live-time. You know how many negative letters we got? Less than ten. You know how many phone calls came in to Fox News? Zero, as far as I know. We checked. It was 36 hours later that this outrage appeared. And where did it appear? Far-left websites, far-left precincts. I read every single one. They're all the same.
So this is an attack on Fox News. That's what it is. It's happened before. I thought it was a gentle piece. There were a few things in there that I felt were went over the line. The old lady, I would have taken that out. I should have seen it before, but I'm so busy with the election that I didn't. But, [Jesse] Waters is a gentle satirist. He's worked very well for us. We're proud of him. This is an organized campaign. This is what they do. They've done it before. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 10/9/16; Media Matters, 10/6/16]
O’Reilly: “Eating A Taco On Cinco De Mayo Is Now Offensive?” Defending a tweet from Trump that included a picture of him eating a taco bowl on Cinco De Mayo, O’Reilly said, “So eating a taco on Cinco De Mayo is now offensive? That's like saying eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, and saying you love the Irish, is offensive.” From the May 6 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo. Donald Trump tweeted out a picture of himself eating tacos. Above the picture he said that he loves Hispanics. Almost immediately, the president of the militant organization La Raza tweeted out, "Eating a taco or wearing a sombrero doesn't cut it with our community in 2016. Trump is clueless, offensive and self promoting."
So eating a taco on Cinco De Mayo is now offensive? That's like saying eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, and saying you love the Irish, is offensive. That's how insane American culture has become. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 5/6/16]
O’Reilly: “The Left Wants Power Taken Away From The White Establishment.” During his "Talking Points Commentary," O’Reilly asserted that “the left in America is demanding that the Electoral College system put into place in 1787 be scrapped” because “the left wants power taken away from the white establishment.” O’Reilly criticized “the left” for seeing “white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with” and claimed that Democrats’ goal is that “white working-class voters must be marginalized.” From the December 20 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O’REILLY (HOST): Talking Points believes this is all about race. The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore, white working class voters must be marginalized, and what better way to do that than center the voting power in the cities? Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America today is based on race. It permeates almost every issue -- that white men have set up a system of oppression. That system must be destroyed. Bernie Sanders peddled that. To some extent, Hillary Clinton did. And the liberal media tries to sell that all day long. So-called white privilege, bad. Diversity, good.
If you look at the voting patterns, it's clear that the Democrats are heavily reliant on the minority vote -- also on the woman vote. White men have largely abandoned the Democrats and the left believes this is because of racism, that they want to punish minorities, keep them down. So that's what's really going on when you hear about the Electoral College and how unfair it allegedly is.
Summing up, the left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run. Taking voting power away from the white precincts is the quickest way to do that. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 12/20/16]
O'Reilly Blamed Black Lives Matter For "The Rise Of Fascism On American College Campuses." Criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, O’Reilly claimed that “the rise of fascism on American college campuses” is “no doubt encouraged by groups like Black Lives Matter and other radical concerns.” From the November 10, 2015, edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): The rise of fascism on American college campuses, that is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. A hallmark of fascist societies is the denial of free speech. And now that's happening on some college campuses. At the University of Missouri, President Timothy Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin have both resigned because some students there say they didn't do enough about alleged racism. It's no question that unruly students at "Mizzou," as it's called, are running wild.
O'REILLY: Now, we have seen the rise of intolerance on American campuses for years. Recently, the president of the University of Louisville had to apologize for this picture. He and his friends dressed in festive Mexican garb for Halloween. The picture was called racist by some on the Louisville campus. That picture is racist? So the next time go into a Mexican restaurant and somebody is wearing a sombrero I can cry racism? That's how absurd the whole thing has become. Rush Limbaugh made an interesting point on his radio program, saying that for years American college students have been taught that their country is racist, a terrible place, and now the students are acting out. The nutty college professors have reaped what they have sown. They are no doubt encouraged by groups like Black Lives Matter and other radical concerns. Of course, the same thing happened during the Vietnam War. When I was a senior at Marist College, I was walking to class one day and was blocked by a radical student who told me no one would be going to class. Ordinarily, that would have been a big bonus for me. But because this guy was intruding on my freedom to make a decision, it did not end well for him. I attended the history class. Dr. Peter O'Keefe was glad to see me. There comes a point when freedom of speech, expression, movement, and thought must be defended. We have reached that point now. Get it, Yale? Get it University of Missouri? [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 11/10/15]
O’Reilly: Slaves Who Built The White House Were "Well-Fed And Had Decent Lodgings Provided By The Government." On July 26, O’Reilly responded to a speech first lady Michelle Obama gave at the Democratic National Convention in which she talked about the progress American society had made by mentioning that the White House was built by slaves. In response, O’Reilly claimed that the slaves who helped build the White House “were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government,” and he noted that, although “Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, … there were others working as well.” From the July 26 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Finally tonight, Factor Tip of The Day. As we mentioned, Talking Points Memo, Michelle Obama referenced slaves building the White House in referring to the evolution of America in a positive way. It was a positive comment. The history behind her remark is fascinating. George Washington selected the site in 1791 and as president laid the cornerstone in 1792. Washington was then running the country out of Philadelphia.
Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House. Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between  and 1801. In addition, free blacks, whites, and immigrants also worked on the massive building. There were no illegal immigrants at that time. If you could make it here, you could stay here.
In 1800, President John Adams took up residence in what was then called the Executive Mansion. It was only later on they named it the White House. But Adams was in there with Abigail, and they were still hammering nails, the construction was still going on.
Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.
I just can't get rid of that history teacher thing. You know what I'm talking about? [Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, 7/26/16]
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- Bill O'Reilly, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Ainsley Earhardt, Chris Wallace, Jesse Watters, Dana Perino, Charles Krauthammer
- Fox and Friends, The Daily Beast, The O'Reilly Factor
- Diversity & Discrimination, Race