It’s no secret that Fox News is a billowing hate mill that’s made a multibillion-dollar enterprise of churning out racist venom. Your average thinking person takes pains to avoid accidentally consuming its ugly invective, but sometimes it just crawls out of the damn TV and finds you, like the vampy girl in The Ring. Truthfully, though, I’d take the girl over Jesse Watters. At least she doesn’t talk.
Having decided that Vladimir Putin is a pretty stand-up guy, Donald Trump has instead shifted his ire to China, the country responsible for stealing American jobs and hastening our demise. Plus, Bill O’Reilly’s staff reasoned during what must have been one rousing pitch meeting, they talk funny there! Is this a recipe for comedy gold? Watters is sure it is, and his viewership — composed not just of yokels waiting on their bathtub crank, but everyday men and women who love Jesus, novelty visors, and hating poor people — almost certainly agrees.
We don’t need to parse the myriad ways in which the segment is both jaw-droppingly offensive and also deeply stupid. Instead, consider what year this was made. The title cards look like they were pulled from eBaum’s World, and Watters begins by asking a couple of young women on the Chinatown street whether he is “supposed to bow,” and then asks a man if the watches he’s selling are “hot.” The video then cuts to a clip from The Karate Kid, confirming my suspicion that the entire conceit of this idiotic joke was pulled straight out of Reagan’s dusty corpse, a relic of a time when a man could still unleash a hearty belly laugh at racial appropriation during a business meeting and no one would look at him askance. Also, Mr. Miyagi was Japanese.
“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?” Watters asks a girl wearing headphones. I assume the part where she kicks him in the nuts was removed in editing.
This election season has taught us that not only is casually dispensed racism not yet dead and buried, it’s truly flourishing. The terrifying girl crawling from the TV isn’t just Watters, it’s the entire racist juggernaut assuring asshat America that this stuff is not only funny, but OK, when of course it’s neither. The segment finishes out with a chat between O’Reilly and his putty-faced ambush artist, waxing contemplative over the day’s takeaways. “They’re such a polite people,” Watters says. “They are!” O’Reilly agrees.
“Instead of telling me to get out of here, they just SIT there, and say nothing,” said Watters.
“They’re patient! They’re patient,” O’Reilly affirms. “They want you to walk away because they don’t have anything else to do.”
My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense.
— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) October 5, 2016
Some of them must, because the Asian American Journalists Association issued a formal statement in response to the segment: “We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.”
The statement added that the organization’s MediaWatch committee is demanding “an apology from Fox News to our community and a meeting with the show’s producers to understand how this segment was conceived and greenlit to air. More importantly, we want an explanation for how this type of coverage will be prevented in the future.”
In a statement, Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes Chinatown, asked, “Would Bill O’Reilly or his correspondent treat an elderly Irish grandmother in the same manner? I suspect the answer to that question is emblematic of the persistent racism that still exists against Chinese Americans, who more than a century ago worked alongside Irish Americans to build the railroads that connected this continent.”
Chin added, “It is a legacy of hate that has been given new life and a national platform by the candidacy of Donald Trump and his allies at Fox News.”
Fox has yet to issue that apology, though the greatest service it could do the country would be to crawl back into the TV and disappear down the stony well whence it came.