The backlash was swift and intense following a racist Fox News segment Monday night advancing ridiculous stereotypes in Chinatown. Bill O’Reilly sent his flunky, Jesse Watters, to the neighborhood to find out what Chinese people think of the U.S. presidential election. Now our local elected officials are denouncing the “story.”
“Am I supposed to bow to say hello?,” asked Watters of two women he encountered. In another scene, he asked a merchant, “I like these watches. Are they hot?” The self-proclaimed cable news jokester asks someone else whether they know karate. You get the idea. It goes on and on. Just about every news organization — local and national — picked up on the controversy today.
Earlier this evening, statements came rolling in for elected representatives. City Council member Margaret Chin, born and raised in Chinatown, said:
Bill O’Reilly sent his correspondent into our neighborhood without knowing or acknowledging the culture, the language or even the difference between Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans. As the daughter of an elderly Chinese American who still lives in Chinatown, the moment when his correspondent mocked a senior citizen who seemingly did not know English stood out as a particularly mean-spirited act of disrespect. 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. 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.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Lower Manhattan, said:
Under the guise of asking residents of Manhattan’s Chinatown their thoughts on Donald Trump, O’Reilly Factor correspondent Jesse Watters brought the kind of disrespect to my constituents that has been all too common this election cycle: stereotyping, mockery and a thinly veiled disdain for immigrants. Unfortunately, one of the real costs of Trump’s divisiveness is the climate of racism and disrespect it’s made commonplace in our national discourse. That’s unacceptable in Chinatown, unacceptable in New York, and must be unacceptable on Fox News. And to Jesse Watters: welcome to my district — hope you don’t come back.
And Yuh-Line Niou, Democratic nominee in the 65th Assembly District, added:
I am utterly shocked and disgusted by the blatant racism against Asian-Americans that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly expressed during his show. Mr. O’Reilly’s characterization of our community as lazy thieves and karate masters reflects a long and painful history of discrimination that has no place in our society. I stand with every family in Chinatown, every Asian-American and every immigrant in calling for a full retraction and apology from Mr. O’Reilly and Fox News. Sadly, this isn’t the first or last time that racism against Asian-Americans has reared its ugly head. At a time when Donald Trump and Fox News will stop at nothing to slander and disenfranchise entire communities, we must remain vigilant in the face of bigotry. I am proud to be an immigrant and I am proud to be an American. My parents came here seeking the unique freedom that America offers, and taught their children to always work hard and contribute to the betterment of our nation. The actions of Mr. O’Reilly and Fox News stand is stark contrast to the values of this nation, and they should be ashamed.
Elected officials and community activists will be holding a rally in front of Fox News’ 6th Avenue headquarters tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m.
Watters responded to his critics on Twitter yesterday. “As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are,” he tweeted. “My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense.”
UPDATED 10/6 12:04 p.m. Here’s a statement from Alan van Capelle, president and CEO of the Educational Alliance:
As an organization that has served the Lower East Side and Chinatown for 127 years, we are horrified by the segment aired on Fox News. It was offensive to this neighborhood, its residents, and its history. It was a racist attack on New York City’s values and its people. We demand that Jesse Watters be terminated and that the segment be removed from Fox News’ website and social media channels immediately. Educational Alliance is proud to be a part of this vibrant dynamic and diverse neighborhood, whose residents lift people up rather than tear each other down.