Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia's, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "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." O'Reilly added: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' "
During the September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, discussing his recent trip to have dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding: "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." Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- 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." O'Reilly also stated: "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 Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly has made a number of provocative statements about race. During the February 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, in a conversation about President Bush's description of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as "articulate," O'Reilly told Temple University education professor Marc Lamont Hill: "Instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They're terrified. Now we can't even say you're articulate? We can't even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?" Other examples include:
- On the June 7 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said of Edwin Roy Hall -- the man charged with murdering 18-year-old Kelsey Smith after abducting her from the parking lot of a Target store in Overland Park, Kansas: "[T]his guy who is charged has a child and a wife. You know, he's like white-bread guy. And we're all going, 'What is that?' "
- On the August 16, 2006, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly argued extensively for "profiling of Muslims" at airports, arguing that detaining all "Muslims between the ages of 16 and 45" for questioning "isn't racial profiling," but "criminal profiling."
- During the April 12, 2006, broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly claimed that on the April 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, guest Charles Barron, a New York City councilman, had revealed the "hidden agenda" behind the current immigration debate, which, O'Reilly said, was "to wipe out 'white privilege' and to have the browning of America." O'Reilly suggested that this "hidden agenda" included plans to let "people who live in the Caribbean, people who live in Africa and Asia ... walk in and become citizens immediately."
- In a February 27, 2006, conversation with a caller about the disproportionately few jobs and contracts that have gone to locals in the rebuilding of New Orleans, O'Reilly said: "[T]he homies, you know ... I mean, they're just not going to get the job."
- On the September 13, 2005, broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly claimed that "many of the poor in New Orleans" did not evacuate the city before Hurricane Katrina because "[t]hey were drug-addicted" and "weren't going to get turned off from their source." O'Reilly added, "They were thugs."
From the September 19 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor:
O"REILLY: Now, how do we get to this point? Black people in this country understand that they've had a very, very tough go of it, and some of them can get past that, and some of them cannot. I don't think there's a black American who hasn't had a personal insult that they've had to deal with because of the color of their skin. I don't think there's one in the country. So you've got to accept that as being the truth. People deal with that stuff in a variety of ways. Some get bitter. Some say, [unintelligible] "You call me that, I'm gonna be more successful." OK, it depends on the personality.
So it's there. It's there, and I think it's getting better. I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the 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."
You know, I was up in Harlem a few weeks ago, and I actually had dinner with Al Sharpton, who is a very, very interesting guy. And he comes on The Factor a lot, and then I treated him to dinner, because he's made himself available to us, and I felt that I wanted to take him up there. And we went to Sylvia's, a very famous restaurant in Harlem. I had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful. They all watch The Factor. You know, when Sharpton and I walked in, it was like a big commotion and everything, but everybody was very nice.
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. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin.
O'REILLY: No, no, I mean, I like that soul food. I had the meatloaf special. I had coconut shrimp. I had the iced tea. It was great.
WILLIAMS: Well, let me just tell you, the one thing I would say is this. And we're talking about the kids who still like this gangsta rap, this vile poison that I think is absolutely, you know, literally a corruption of culture. I think that what you've got to take into account that it's still a majority white audience -- young, white people who think they're into rebelling against their parents who buy this stuff and think it's just a kick. You know, it's just a way of expressing their anti-authoritarianism.
O'REILLY: But it's a different -- it's a different dynamic, though.
WILLIAMS: Exactly right --
O'REILLY: Because the young, white kids don't have to struggle out of the ghetto.
WILLIAMS: Right, and also, I think they can have that as one phase of their lives.
WILLIAMS: I think too many of the black kids take it as, "Oh, that's what it means to be authentically black. That's how you make money. That's how you become rich and famous and get on TV and get music videos." And you either get the boys or the girls. The girls think they have to, you know, be half-naked and spinning around like they're on meth in order to get any attention. It really corrupts people, and I think it adds, Bill, to some serious sociological problems, like the high out-of-wedlock birth rate because of this hypersexual imagery that then the kids adapt to some kind of reality. I mean, it's inauthentic. It's not in keeping with great black traditions of struggle and excellence, from Willie Mays to Aretha Franklin, but even in terms of academics, you know, going back to people like Charles Drew or Ben Carson here, the neurosurgeon at [Johns] Hopkins [University]. That stuff, all of a sudden, is pushed aside. That's treated as, "You're a nerd, you're acting white," if you try to be excellent and black.
O'REILLY: You know, and I went to the concert by Anita Baker at Radio City Music Hall, and the crowd was 50/50, black/white, and the blacks were well-dressed. And she came out -- Anita Baker came out on the stage and said, "Look, this is a show for the family. We're not gonna have any profanity here. We're not gonna do any rapping here." The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.
WILLIAMS: Oh, and it's just so awful. It's just so awful because, I mean, it's literally the sewer come to the surface, and now people take it that the sewer is the whole story --
O'REILLY: That's right. That's right. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea."
WILLIAMS: Please --
O'REILLY: You know, I mean, everybody was -- 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.