O’Reilly’s Ignorance On Full Display Yet Again

It was an embarrassing moment, not even close to being surprising.  Fox News Channel personality Bill O’Reilly, while in the middle of a discussion about the historic struggles black people have had to deal with in America, was telling a story on his nationally syndicated radio program, The Radio Factor, on the afternoon of September 19th.  He talked about taking Rev. Al Sharpton to dinner "a few weeks ago" at a restaurant in Harlem called Sylvia’s.  They had a great time, the food was good and they had first-rate service.
 
Then he had this to say:
 
"And I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that’s really what this society’s all about now here in the U.S.A. There’s no difference. There’s no difference."
 
What to make of this rather patronizing statement?  Did O’Reilly truly believe he was being complimentary when he expressed amazement that in 2007 African American citizens are capable of running a thriving business?  Why did race become so important to this story anyway?
 
It’s that phrase, "even though it’s run by blacks" that sticks out so awkwardly.  Does he have such a low, overall assessment of black people in general that this is the most positive thing he can say about a highly-regarded soul food restaurant?  What happened to saying, "Yeah, that Sylvia’s is a great place.  I highly recommend it."?  Is that so difficult?
 
Sadly, that wasn’t the only regrettable remark he made that day.  Before he even talked about taking Rev. Sharpton out to dinner (more on that in a moment), he offered this nugget of stupidity regarding an entire race of people:
 
"I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They’re getting away from the Sharptons and the [Rev. Jesse] Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They’re just trying to figure it out: ‘Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.’"
 
As Lord Alfred Hayes would say, "Oh my word!".  In his astoundingly ignorant mind, O’Reilly thinks that black people have never been independent thinkers and have solely relied on the collective wisdom of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, two controversial civil rights leaders also known for putting their feet in their mouths from time to time, to get through life.  He thinks they’re slow to putting their own thoughts together (translation: they’re stupid) and only now, in 2007, do they realize the benefits of a strong work ethic and a solid education.  As Red Foreman (and my father) would say, "What a dumbass."
 
How quickly he forgets about Jesse Owens, Frederick Douglas, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe, Muhammed Ali, Berry Gordy Jr., and many other important figures of history.  Were they all sheep?  Did they not follow their own instincts, their own ideals and their own dreams, to achieve greatness?  Were they not individuals in the truest sense of the word?
 
Getting back to the Sharpton anecdote, O’Reilly had this to say about the customers at Sylvia’s:
 
"There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea…it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all."
 
An honest question:  in the long history of the restaurant business, has any person a) referred to a staffer as a mother fucker and b) not been banned as a result of such appalling disrespect?  There’s a very good reason that kind of behaviour isn’t common in any respectable eatery, no matter who’s running it.  It’s bad for business.  How Bill O’Reilly finds the calm atmosphere of Sylvia’s a revelation worthy of a radio anecdote says everything about him as a person and broadcaster.  (I’ll give you a hint.  It starts with ass and ends with hole.)
 
But then again, this is nothing new.  As the invaluable Media Matters For America and FAIR have both helpfully pointed out, O’Reilly has made questionable remarks about race, among other topics, for years.  He’s referred to Mexicans as "wetbacks" and claimed that Americans don’t want them "clustering in" their "neighbourhoods".  He believes that liberals only care about the crisis in Darfur because black people are getting killed.  He hopes that Sunni and Shiite Arabs "kill each other" in Iraq and believes "[t]hey have fun…tortur[ing] each other" and "blowing each other up".  ("This is what Allah tells them to do, and that’s what they do," he alleged on the January 24th, 2007 edition of The Radio Factor.)
 
It goes on and on and on.  One wonders how any self-respecting Television network would ever entertain the idea of keeping him on the air, let alone hiring him in the first place.  Oh right.  He’s on Fox.  My mistake.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, September 27, 2007
1:59 a.m.
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Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 1:59 am  Leave a Comment  

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