Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lost his job on Wednesday, when the network decided it had to show the world it was no longer the type of place to tolerate a man accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior.
The growing number of women speaking out about O’Reilly precipitated his fall. But he also had a long history of making offensive comments about women and people of color. The “younger generation” of the Murdoch family reportedly wanted to go in a different direction.
But it’s not clear the new Fox will be all that different from the old Fox, at least on air. The network’s new 8:00 p.m. show will be hosted by Tucker Carlson, who has his own history of unenlightened remarks about women.
And although O’Reilly lost his primetime perch, the network promoted his protege, Jesse Watters, who will now have a permanent spot on another primetime show, “The Five.”
These days, Watters is best known for producing perhaps the most racist segment on cable news in recent memory. He went to New York City’s Chinatown and mockingly interviewed residents there, many of whom couldn’t speak English well. He peppered the segment with every Asian stereotype in the book.
Watters’ segment was widely criticized. He eventually sort of apologized, saying he was sorry if people didn’t get his sense of humor.
But long before this segment, Watters was known for being O’Reilly’s ambush man. For the last decade or so, Watters has been ambushing unsuspecting people O’Reilly decided he didn’t like. He has confronted judges outside their homes, a TV pundit as he loaded groceries in a car, a journalist walking down the street and more.
Watters also tracked me down when I was on vacation in 2009, accusing me of causing pain and suffering to rape victims. I received this treatment because I had written a short blog post a few weeks earlier questioning whether O’Reilly was the right speaker for a fundraiser for rape survivors, given comments he’d made in the past. In 2006, O’Reilly had seemingly implied that a woman was partially to blame for her rape because of what she had been wearing and how much she had had to drink.
No one from O’Reilly’s show contacted me in advance for comment, and Fox News has never explained how Watters found me. To the best of my knowledge, he found my home address and then followed me for several hours from Washington, D.C., to Virginia. O’Reilly then did several segments on me, calling me a “villain.”
In another lowlight, in 2015, Watters produced a dehumanizing segment about New York City’s homeless population. He went to Penn Station and interviewed predominantly black homeless people ― and then predominantly white people ― about how they felt about the whole situation.
It’s not yet clear what O’Reilly will do next, but one option is to sit back with his $25 million payout and watch his legacy live on at the network.
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