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During the September 25 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Don Lemon and anchor Rick Sanchez discussed the recent statement by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that he was surprised "there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant [in Harlem] and any other restaurant in New York City ... even though [Sylvia's is] run by blacks." Sanchez stated that "every African-American that I've talked to since this -- and my God, have I gotten a bevy of phone calls on this, inside and outside the business -- people are actually offended. They ... call this a subtle type of racism. It's not the 'hit you over the head with a hammer' type; it's the 'velvet glove' type." He then said that, during a September 24 phone conversation, O'Reilly "didn't want any part of it" and "was screaming the entire conversation," adding, "He was not happy with me." As Media Matters for America noted, on the September 24 edition of CNN's Out in the Open, Sanchez also recounted his "animated" conversation with O'Reilly, saying that O'Reilly denied any "racial intent" in his comments and described the story as "a hatchet job by Media Matters."
Later in the September 25 segment, Lemon said: "Rick, we got a statement from Fox News, and here's what it says: 'This is nothing more than left-wing outlets stirring up false racism accusations for ratings. It's sad.' " According to the on-screen graphic, the statement was from Bill Shine, Fox News' senior vice president of programming.
From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the September 25 edition of CNN Newsroom:
LEMON: OK, let's talk now about Bill O'Reilly and Al Sharpton. They go off for some soul food. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, huh? Well, really, though, they did. They went to the legendary Sylvia's in Harlem not too long ago, and the Fox News host's restaurant review afterward has -- well, it has many people stewing. It's not that he didn't like the place; quite the contrary. In fact, take a listen for yourself.
O'REILLY [audio clip]: You know, when Sharpton and I walked in, it was like 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 is all about now here in the USA. There's no difference. There's no difference.
LEMON: Well, now O'Reilly says Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog that spotlighted his comments, is doing a "hatchet job" on him. Our Rick Sanchez spoke to Bill O'Reilly last night about all of this, and Rick joins us now from New York.
Rick, I understand you spoke with him in your show last night. You described the conversation as "animated." He is a very spirited guy. Tell me about that.
SANCHEZ: Well, I did what any journalist is going to do. If you're -- I would want this done in my case, if I said something that was questionable and someone was going to do a story on it, I'd want somebody to give me a phone call personally. So I put a phone call in to Bill, but unfortunately at the time that I called him in the late afternoon, he was on the air. So I talked to his assistant, and I talked to his publicist, and I left a message. And I said, "Hey, Bill, call me back 'cause we want to do this story." 'Cause you know what's interesting about this story, Don?
LEMON: What, what?
SANCHEZ: What's interesting about this story is that it's the kind of story that when you first -- at first glance --
SANCHEZ: -- you don't see it as questionable --
SANCHEZ: -- especially if you're not an African-American.
LEMON: Right. Right.
SANCHEZ: So you're looking at this guy -- you know, here's a guy who's trying to give a compliment, but what he said has maybe offended some people, so people had reached out to us -- and that's what we do at 8 o'clock here on CNN. It's called Out in the Open. We bring things out in the open that make people hold a mirror to themselves --
LEMON: Well, there's the --
SANCHEZ: -- and sometimes wonder about things like this, so that's why I called him.
LEMON: Here's -- yeah, and here's what I don't -- where I'm not getting from this because you live in -- you're in New York City. I've lived in New York City, and, as a matter of fact, we worked together there. O'Reilly lives in New York City, one of the most diverse places on Earth, and you would think why is he shocked that, [at] an African-American restaurant, people aren't, you know, acting out of context, as they should be acting at a restaurant?
SANCHEZ: That's the question. Let me read it again to you and to the viewers. "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and other restaurants in New York City. I mean, the people there, they were exactly acting the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." He goes on to say, "I think black Americans are starting to think for themselves." Here's the point --
SANCHEZ: -- and this is what we talked about last night when I had Roland Martin on. What's wrong with a white guy doing social commentary on somebody else's race? And on the one hand, he's brave enough to do it; on the other hand, he's trying to be real honest about it.
LEMON: And he's trying to -- it's meant to be a compliment --
SANCHEZ: It's meant to be a compliment --
LEMON: -- but it's not a compliment.
SANCHEZ: But it doesn't --
LEMON: Not -- no.
SANCHEZ: As a matter of fact, every African-American that I've talked to since this -- and my God, have I gotten a bevy of phone calls on this, inside and outside the business -- people are actually offended. They think -- they call this -- and you would know -- they call this a subtle type of racism. It's not the "hit you over the head with a hammer" type; it's the "velvet glove" type.
SANCHEZ: And that's what I tried to talk to Bill about. He called back yesterday and we got on the phone, and he didn't want any part of it. He said, "Hey, Rick, look" -- I mean, he was screaming the entire conversation.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. He was not happy with me. I said, "Hey, I'm a huge fan, Bill, and I've been watching you for years, and by the way, just finished reading a book about you." He just wanted to let me know, he said, "Look" -- to be fair now, this is what he says. He said, "This is totally -- it was a totally benign conversation. There was absolutely no racist intent." And I agree with him, by the way, I don't think there was.
SANCHEZ: And he goes on to say that, "Look, we didn't get any complaints at my radio stations." But, you know, obviously, you know, that may have to do with his audience as well.
LEMON: And I do have to tell you, Rick, we got a statement from Fox News, and here's what it says: "This is nothing more than left-wing outlets stirring up false racism accusations for ratings. It's sad."
I've known you for a number of years. You're a straight shooter, and we'll be watching you tonight --
SANCHEZ: Yeah, yeah.
LEMON: -- 8 p.m., Out in the Open.