Fox News aired an unbelievably racist segment on The O’Reilly Factor on Monday targeting Asians, specifically Chinese Americans.The segment, which I assume aired on Fox News ironically as it was definitely not news, has since gone viral, attracting much-deserved critique from viewers, journalists and celebrities alike.
As part of an ongoing segment, “Watters’ World,” on Bill O’Reilly’s so-called news show, Jesse Watters, a so-called journalist, traveled to New York City’s Chinatown to ask people living there how they felt about being dragged into the political debate between Donald Trump (“Chi-NAH”) and Hillary Clinton. The result: an undeniably racist segment making fun of Chinese immigrants, Chinese and Japanese culture and Asians in general.
The segment, which cuts between racist interview questions — “Do you know karate?” — and clips from films with stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans (Karate Kid), has, quite frankly, no journalistic value. But where “Watters’ World” Chinatown segment succeeds is in painting a racist portrait of Chinese immigrants. By editing the interviews to those involving only Asians with accents, Watters successfully conjures a world in which all Chinese Americans are new immigrants, foreigners who don’t understand America. In the segment, Watters also makes sure to hammer home stereotypes about Asian immigrant jobs. He goes to a nail salon to get a pedicure, a family market looking for “traditional Chinese herbs for performance” and he stops a random man on the street and asks him if he knows karate — a Japanese martial art.
As the segment made its way around the web, people took to Twitter to voice their outrage. Young Adult novelist Jenny Han called the segment “a piece of hot garbage,” and CNN reporter MJ Lee tweeted her reaction, calling it “beyond words offensive and disgraceful.” All critics agree: The segment treats Asians as foreigners to be made fun of, not people to be interviewed for their thoughts on politics.
This was in Chinatown, NY, and yet these people are being caricatured as though they are all foreigners. Bc obviously, if you look Asian… https://t.co/Nr7iuBwR8W
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) October 5, 2016
Other critics pointed out that, besides being racist, the bit is incredibly unfunny. Watters clearly thinks of himself as a journalist-comedian — a potential Jon Stewart for Fox News, if you will — but even his most mild racist joke in the segment (“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”) falls flat. Whether Watters is trying to be a journalist or a comedian, he’s very obviously failing at both.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly & Jesse Watters airs unabashedly racist segment making fun of Asian Americans https://t.co/OOXVZSFznH
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) October 5, 2016
The growing anger at the segment appears to have finally made its way over to Fox News. Late Wednesday evening, Watters responded to the critiques on Twitter — after, it should be noted, Fox News refused to comment. “My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue in cheek and I regret if anyone found offense,” he wrote.
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
Watters seems to have missed the point. I’m not offended that he chose to make a “light piece,” I’m offended by the racist intention behind the piece. Watters’ Chinatown segment shows Asians as an Other, something made clear by the language barriers evident in the interviews, as well as his post-segment discussion with Bill O’Reilly. After the segment aired, O’Reilly noted how some of the interviewees didn’t seem to understand what Watters was saying but continued to stand with him anyway. “They’re such a polite people, they won’t walk away or tell me to get out of here,” Watters said. To which O’Reilly responded, “They’re patient. They want you to walk away because they don’t have anything else to do!”
I assume both Watters and O’Reilly intended their statements as complimentary stereotypes — “they’re a polite people,” but I am left speechless by O’Reilly’s assertion that “they don’t have anything else to do.” Not only did O’Reilly call the segment “gentle fun,” he also managed to imply that Asians are lazy and unemployed. Given Watters’ non-apology, I don’t expect O’Reilly to be apologizing for his racist comments anytime soon.