Fox Guest Pushes Back Against Bill O'Reilly's Shaming Of Poor Parents
Nikki Johnson-Huston To O'Reilly: "You Are Confusing An Economic Status Of Someone With Their Character"
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From the October 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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BILL O'REILLY: With us now Nikki Johnson-Huston who is also an advocate for the poor. All right, so you heard what I said.
NIKKI JOHNSON-HUSTON: Yes.
O'REILLY: Where am I going wrong?
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Where I think you are going wrong is twofold. I think that you overestimate the availability of those services and poor people's ability to access them.
O'REILLY: That's --
JOHNSON-HUSTON: First off.
O'REILLY: Well all right -- go ahead.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: And secondly, The second point was that you were making the point that because children might be hungry it's totally the parent's fault and that it was a form of child abuse. And I thought that your characterization of the poor was unfair and not nuanced enough.
O'REILLY: OK. Let's take your situation, all right? From what I understand from our research of you, in San Diego, when you were growing up, there was a six month period in 1983-84 where you were hungry; is that correct? As a child.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: I was homeless.
O'REILLY: You were homeless and hungry.
O'REILLY: And that is because your mother -- no father, right?
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Father wasn't around.
O'REILLY: OK. Your mother was an alcoholic, is that true?
JOHNSON-HUSTON: She had alcohol and drug issues, yes.
O'REILLY: OK. And drugs issues. Now, my point is: I feel terrible for you that you had to go through that, I really do. And I give literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities to help kids who are in your circumstance. You should know that.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Thank you and I appreciate it.
O'REILLY: But that's not society's fault that your mother was a drug addict and alcoholic and you didn't have a father. That's not my fault. But that was my point and it was clearly made.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: I didn't say that that's the point that you were making and I didn't say that it was society's fault. But we as a society have said that we are not going to let children go hungry and we have put an apparatus into place with our tax dollars and I'm saying it's not working the way that you think it is.
O'REILLY: Let me challenge that. OK? Society is responsible for providing safety nets, all right?
O'REILLY: Now here in Philadelphia where you live, if you are a poor person making $19,000 or less in Philadelphia, here is what you're entitled to right at this moment: more than $6,000 in food stamps. More than $7,000 in housing -- that's rent. All right. About $15,000 in day care subsidies, which means that your kids will be minded by somebody else and fed while you work. All right? About $7,500 per child and $10,000 per child for Head Start and Early Start educational programs. The package adds up to more than $40,000.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: But a lot of the programs that you cited are not money that comes directly to the parent and, again--
O'REILLY: That's because many of these parents are drug addicts and alcoholics as your mother was. What I'm trying to say is--
JOHNSON-HUSTON: That is not the reason that we ended up on the streets. Someone took our money and, look, I'm not saying that my mother was perfect. She made mistakes, but we said in the United States that people have second chances at life. And you know what?
O'REILLY: Well look at you. Look at how successful you've been.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: I am, and you know what, I'm not blaming the system. I'm saying, in this sense, the system worked for me.
O'REILLY: That's what I want you to understand and everybody else hear me. It is not the system or the country's fault that irresponsible people have children and then cannot feed or raise the children.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Everyone who is poor is not irresponsible.
O'REILLY: That's not what I said, counselor, and you know that.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: You are confusing an economic status of someone with their character, and people make mistakes in life, but you know what? My mother loved me and what you put forth was that people who are in these situations, that they're abusing their children. I know people who have been abused. I was not abused and my mother did the right thing by me which was to put me in a more stable environment--
O'REILLY: Your grandmother took you.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Yes, my grandmother took me.
O'REILLY: I contend, and I'm glad you love and you're loyal to your mother. I contend that it's not America's fault.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: No one said it was America's fault.
O'REILLY: That's what I said. I was telling Kirsten Powers, who was saying that there are droves of hungry children.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: She wasn't saying that it was America's fault, what she was--
O'REILLY: Yes she was.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: No she wasn't.
O'REILLY: That it was the system's fault, the system is America.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: No, she was saying that it doesn't always work the way it's supposed to. She was saying that she volunteers her time and she sees it on the ground and so do I.
O'REILLY: And we applaud that. But there is nothing on earth that America can do.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Absolutely can.
O'REILLY: No they can't.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: You know what, the social system was put into place to allow people like me to have a shot at the American dream.
O'REILLY: And you succeeded.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: And it worked. So, I'm saying what worked in my situation and how do we duplicate that for other people? But by calling parents names does not move the conversation forward.
O'REILLY: Listen, in my opinion, and you should respect it--
JOHNSON-HUSTON: I do respect it. I respect that you're wrong, but I respect it.
O'REILLY: A mother or father who is addicted to a substance and allows their children to go hungry because of said addiction, is abusing the child. My opinion. I got to go.