LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney) — Fox News isn’t commenting on a controversial segment by its on-the-street interviewer Jesse Watters that has been widely criticized for containing several offensive Asian stereotypes.
The five-minute segment, which aired on “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night, features Watters asking people in New York City’s Chinatown about the 2016 campaign and U.S.-China relations. But Watters also asks his subjects if he should bow when saying hello, accuses a street vendor of selling stolen watches, and asks one stranger if he knows karate — which originated in Okinawa, now part of Japan.
“This is one of the most blatantly racist things I have ever seen,” Farhad Manjoo, the New York Times tech reporter, tweeted. “How can anyone at Fox News defend this? It’s nuts.”
“What Watters was really doing was making fun of the people he encountered with the broadest, dumbest Asian stereotypes imaginable — making it clear they were there as props for him and his viewers for what he clearly considered a hilarious joke, rather than to actually give their opinions,” Vox’s Libby Nelson observed after the segment aired on Tuesday.
Even Bill O’Reilly, the show’s host, acknowledged during a discussion with Watters after the segment aired that Fox was “going to get letters.”
To fans, he is a a fearless questioner and jokester; to detractors, he is an obnoxious “ambush” journalist who often plays on stereotypes or takes advantage of his subjects. But Tuesday night’s segment was seen as beyond the pale even by Watters’ standards.
Fox Nation, an opinion website that’s an arm of Fox News, described the segment as “hilarious” in a tweet. A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment, but did point CNNMoney to recent interviews in which Watters defended his intentions as an interviewer.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Watters told IJR last year. “I go into it thinking how can I listen to them and have them share with me their thoughts and opinions in a way that doesn’t come across as mean.”
“I try to make it enjoyable for the person I’m interviewing,” he told The Philadelphia Daily News last December. “We always come away from the interview all smiles, for the most part.”
There were no smiles among Watters’ critics on Wednesday.
“This O’Reilly factor segment making fun of Asian-Americans is unreal. It’s 2016,” Blake Hounshell, the editorial director at Politico, tweeted.
Lee Fang, an investigative journalist at The Intercept, called it “unabashedly racist.”
And in a statement to the liberal press watchdog Media Matters, Paul Cheung, the president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said, “The segment was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans. Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in the mainstream news media.”
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is outraged and shocked by the Oct. 3rd segment of “Watters’ World” on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” The segment was billed as a report on Chinese Americans’ views on the U.S. presidential election but it was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans.
Jesse Watters, O’Reilly Factor Correspondent and Host of Watters World, committed a litany of offenses, from asking Asian American women, “Do I bow to say hello?” to asking an Asian American man if he knew karate. He mixed in stereotypes of various Asian groups, conflating Koreans with Chinese and Japanese communities. The segment used clips of martial arts movies and interviewed Asian Americans whose primary language isn’t English in order to mock them.
It’s 2016. 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.
Host Bill O’Reilly called the segment “gentle fun.” There was nothing gentle or fun about it. It was rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging.
Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in mainstream news.
With a population of 15 million, Asian Americans remain the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. Between 2000-2010, our community grew by 45 percent, compared to 10 percent for the overall U.S. population.
While the largest Asian American communities continue to be in states like New York, California, and Hawaii, the fastest growing populations of Asian Americans include potential swing states like Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina.
There has been tremendous growth of Asian American representation throughout government. There are now over 600 elected officials at all levels, according to the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac.
We deserve far better treatment and coverage than we’ve been given by this Fox News report.
AAJA MediaWatch demands 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.
Paul Cheung, AAJA President & AAJA MediaWatch committee
Note: AAJA reached out to a Fox News representative for comment but has not received a response.