Last week Fox News man Bill O’Reilly made news himself by running what I can only assume was intended to be humorous man-on-the-street style interviews by his protégé Jesse Watters.
The setup of the piece indicated it would address the political climate between the U.S. and China with regard to the 2016 election. However, within moments the tone was clear and, instead of a tongue-in-cheek exposé that one might witness on "The Daily Show" or an old "Colbert Report," there was a flood insensitive and bigoted examples of bias that Asian people and their culture face regularly.
I far from condone what Watters did and Bill O’Reilly’s defense of it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, did that really fall into the category of “news?” But more to the point, if it was supposed to be humorous why was it so cheesy and lacking of true satire?
As a professional comedian I believe all subjects and people are fair game, however I was bothered by the complete lack of wit and true comedic talent in presenting his points. All comedians know that the #1 rule in comedy, the only rule in comedy, is that it has to be funny. Sure, comedy is subjective, but fortunately we can rely on a general consensus to help us measure whether something is funny or not.
The people have spoken and this attempt at humor was a bust.
The backlash was big enough that Watters even felt compelled to offer a sorry-if-you-were-offended apology on Twitter:
As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are.— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) October 5, 2016
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
At the same time, while I didn’t condone what was said or how this piece was done — I wholeheartedly defend it’s right to be. Because I believe in the First Amendment and freedom of speech, and while I do not like or agree with everything I hear, I believe people have the right to say it.
As a speaker and comedian I would be the ultimate hypocrite if I didn’t hold that belief. I also am certain that the only way to fight ignorant and bias speech is with more speech. So I applaud every Asian-American who spoke out about this. I encourage anyone who has Asian people in their circle of family and friends, and anyone period, who found it obnoxious and offensive to exercise their right of free speech to make their voices heard. That is the only way we can progress as a society.
So often we only think of there being two main “racial groups” in America: black or white. But we are so much more than that.
The United States of America is a country of multiple cultures, languages and ethnicities. So truth be known, I’m glad "The O’Reilly Factor" had that piece run because it has given a minority group in this country an opportunity to show how much bias, conscious and unconscious, they still face on a regular basis. It has also given us as a country a chance to reflect on how well we are doing in terms of racism, bigotry, diversity and inclusion and how much further we have to go.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.