Radio host John DePetro: White people go to Harlem for "either" drugs or prostitutes

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams, discussing Bill O'Reilly's recent controversial comments about his visit to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, Rhode Island radio host John DePetro stated: "It was a discussion on race and we're talking about Harlem. And by and large -- I lived in New York for years -- white people don't go to Harlem." He continued: "If Dan Abrams and John DePetro, Bill O'Reilly, some white guys are sitting around a table, and Dan Abrams said, 'Yeah, I was up in Harlem last night.' We would think you were either, a) looking for drugs, or, b) looking for a prostitute."

On the September 27 edition of MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams, while discussing Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's recent controversial comments about his visit to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, host Dan Abrams asked his guest John DePetro, a Rhode Island radio talk-show host: "John, look, you've been on the show and defended Bill O'Reilly before. Don't you wish that he would just be quiet and put this behind him?" After claiming that O'Reilly was "taken out of context," DePetro asserted: "It was a discussion on race and we're talking about Harlem. And by and large -- I lived in New York for years -- white people don't go to Harlem." He continued: "If Dan Abrams and John DePetro, Bill O'Reilly, some white guys are sitting around a table, and Dan Abrams said, 'Yeah, I was up in Harlem last night.' We would think you were either, a) looking for drugs, or, b) looking for a prostitute." Abrams responded by asserting: "That is so idiotic, John," to which DePetro replied: "It is not idiotic," later adding: "It's a primarily black restaurant. It is still a primarily black area."

Later in the segment, after asserting that O'Reilly is "accusing the liberal media of having created this controversy wholesale as if somebody put him up to saying the things that he said about Sylvia," Air America host Rachel Maddow said: "But I have to say, Dan, I'm a little distracted. I wouldn't mind going back to hear more from John about how the only reason white people would go to Harlem is for prostitutes and drugs. I'm fascinated by that." DePetro responded by asserting: "Here's the Air America host who hates Bill O'Reilly, who would love to take him down, pretending that it wasn't taken out of context. ... People like you [are] trying to take him down and you can't deny that. You'd like to see him knocked off the air." Maddow then claimed, "I am indifferent to Bill O'Reilly. I don't watch his show. I don't particularly care," to which DePetro replied: "That's impossible." Republican strategist Joe Watkins then said: "Well, John, I just want to say that I hope and pray that white people go to Harlem, because it's a great place to live for Americans." DePetro responded: "They don't."

The segment concluded with Abrams returning to his earlier claim that O'Reilly "is playing out his own unfortunate statement for ratings" and asking DePetro: "Let me get back to the issue. Even, John DePetro, you would agree with me, that it's disingenuous of O'Reilly to claim that he's doing this because he wants to hold the corrupt media responsible to help your life -- meaning the individuals out there, the folks. He's doing it to help their lives. John, you would agree with me, that is totally disingenuous." De Petro replied: "I hate to admit it -- yes, I would agree with you, Dan Abrams."

From the September 27 edition of MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams:

ABRAMS: My take: I listened to his entire hour. He's saying that they are trying to get ratings? And he's doing the topic every night on his TV and radio shows? In fact, he devoted almost the entire hour of the show tonight to the issue. Why? For ratings.

Tonight, he had the gall to claim that media coverage of his comments is actually hurting African-Americans. Please.

It's true, O'Reilly was trying to decry racism when he made the comments. His intent was not bad, but, in this case, his effort to do the right thing exposed him, or at least exposed how ignorant he seems to think his audience is.

But most important now, he needs to stop blaming everyone else for his mess. He's now milking this story in an effort to play to those same people who he apparently believed would not know that you can go to an African-American restaurant and just have a nice meal. And he is playing out his own unfortunate statement for ratings.

Radio talk show host John DePetro joins us, as well as Air America host Rachel Maddow, and Republican strategist Joe Watkins.

All right, John, look, you've been on the show and defended Bill O'Reilly before. Don't you wish that he would just be quiet and put this behind him?

DePETRO: No, Dan, I think he's doing the right thing. Number one: He's firing up his base of listeners. Polls show his listeners really weren't offended. And I think it is taken out of context.

ABRAMS: No, I wouldn't think they would be, because basically what he was saying with those comments in the radio were, "My listeners apparently think that going to a black restaurant, people are going to be yelling, 'M-Fer, give me my iced tea.' "

DePETRO: Dan, it goes beyond that. It was a discussion on race and we're talking about Harlem. And by and large -- I lived in New York for years -- white people don't go to Harlem.

If Dan Abrams and John DePetro, Bill O'Reilly, some white guys are sitting around a table, and Dan Abrams said, "Yeah, I was up in Harlem last night." We would think you were either, a) looking for drugs, or, b) looking for a prostitute.

ABRAMS: You know what?

DePETRO: It was a discussion on race.

ABRAMS: That is so idiotic, John. That is --

DePETRO: It is not idiotic.

MADDOW: Wow. Wow.

ABRAMS: I mean, it's idiotic, first of all, because you don't know about the rebirth of Harlem recently, first of all. And, second of all, I mean, this is the problem.

DePETRO: How many white people were in the restaurant?

ABRAMS: I didn't -- I wasn't there. But let me --

DePETRO: It's a primarily black restaurant. It is still a primarily black area.

ABRAMS: All right, look. We have three white people and one black person on this, on this panel. And Joe Watkins --

WATKINS: That would be me.

ABRAMS: Joe Watkins was with us talking about politics before. Joe Watkins, I'm now going to ask you about this race issue. You have been somewhat protective and defensive of O'Reilly on this publicly. But I've got to ask you -

WATKINS: Yeah, I thought that Media Matters didn't do him right. I thought Media Matters [unintelligible].

ABRAMS: All right, forget about Media Matters for a minute. Shouldn't he just shut up about this?

WATKINS: Well, I have to respect his business acumen. I mean, this is a very, very smart man [unintelligible] business.

ABRAMS: He's playing it out for ratings, right?

WATKINS: He's doing very, very well in the ratings. I wish that I was smart enough to have ratings like that. Maybe I'd have my own show. But that's what you want in television. You want people to watch and as long as there's controversy, something to talk about, then that's one way to get people to watch.

ABRAMS: But he's making it sound, Joe, like he's doing -- let me let you listen to something he said on his radio program. This is number seven, where he's claiming why he's continuing to talk about this topic. Let's listen.

O'REILLY [audio clip]: And I'm sorry if I'm boring some of you. I know you'd rather talk about other items, but I can't get across to you how important this is, and how my campaign to hold the corrupt media responsible is going to help your life. Because no longer will these smear merchants be allowed to get away with it.

ABRAMS: He's doing it, Joe, because it's going to help your life. Right?

WATKINS: Does that mean I get my own show? So I can be smeared on a regular basis?

ABRAMS: I mean, come on. I mean, Rachel, that's the dishonesty here, because -- I mean, look, we've talked already about this issue of whether it was racist or not racist. I don't believe his intent was racist at all, but the bottom line is he's now accusing everyone else of doing it for ratings and he is now milking this for ratings.

MADDOW: Right. And also he's accusing the liberal media of having created this controversy wholesale as if somebody put him up to saying the things that he said about Sylvia.

But I have to say, Dan, I'm a little distracted. I wouldn't mind going back to hear more from John about how the only reason white people would go to Harlem is for prostitutes and drugs. I'm fascinated by that.

[crosstalk]

WATKINS: I know white people who go to Harlem.

DePETRO: Look who's talking. Miss Air America --

WATKINS: I hope and pray that that's not the way white people think about Harlem.

DePETRO: -- Miss Rachel Maddow --

WATKINS: Harlem's a great --

MADDOW: I think we should hear more about this.

ABRAMS: Wait, wait, wait. Hang on one second. Hang on. Hang on. Wait, wait. Wait.

DePETRO: -- with the condescending East Village --

ABRAMS: Let me -- wait, wait. Hang on. Let me let John -- let me let -- John --

DePETRO: Rachel, stop acting --

ABRAMS: John, I'm going to let you go and then I'm going hear from Joe. Go ahead, John.

DePETRO: Here's the Air America host who hates Bill O'Reilly, who would love to take him down, pretending that it wasn't taken out of context. Miss East Village -- there is no way -- stop acting.

You know what the discussion was on. It was on race, and there is a competitive nature to CNN and other liberal outlets -- forget CNN --

MADDOW: John --

DePETRO: -- people like you trying to take him down and you can't deny that. You'd like to see him knocked off the air.

MADDOW: John, I have to tell you, I -- the difference between love is not -- the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. I am indifferent to Bill O'Reilly. I don't watch his show. I don't particularly care. I do want to --

DePETRO: That's impossible.

MADDOW: -- hear more from you -- but -- from you all --

DePETRO: Air America has had --

MADDOW: -- no, come on.

DePETRO: -- a campaign against him.

ABRAMS: All right, but --

MADDOW: Listen, I don't --

DePETRO: You're Al Franken without glasses, so --

ABRAMS: All right, all right. I don't want to have a debate -- I don't want to have a debate about Rachel's ratings.

MADDOW: I want to know more about the hookers.

ABRAMS: Yeah. All right, but, Joe, you wanted to make a comment --

WATKINS: I did.

ABRAMS: -- about John's comments about Harlem.

DePETRO: I'm sure you do.

WATKINS: Well, John, I just want to say that I hope and pray that white people go to Harlem, because it's a great place to live for Americans -- Americans who happen to be black and other -- and I hope that the only reason --

DePETRO: They don't.

WATKINS: Yeah, John?

DePETRO: It's still predominantly a black area.

WATKINS: It's a wonderful -- but the --

DePETRO: In the restaurant -- Bill O'Reilly described it -- he was the only white person there. So, it's --

WATKINS: I know that he was. But -- but, it's a great place --

DePETRO: So, I took it as --

WATKINS: -- to live for Americans who happen to be African-American and other. And there are a lot of white people who live in Harlem as well. It's a great place to --

DePETRO: Well, but, maybe --

WATKINS: -- experience a great rebirth.

DePETRO: Maybe, the condescending liberal elite, like the Air America crowd, should think of moving there out of the East Village.

ABRAMS: Well, I think that's where --

MADDOW: John --

ABRAMS: -- Bill Clinton took his office, right?

MADDOW: John, it's like you're playing a character of yourself.

DePETRO: Yes, he did, and made a strong statement about it.

MADDOW: This is fair -- you are --

DePETRO: But he, Bill --

ABRAMS: All right, but let me --

MADDOW: You are God's gift to us understanding right-wing talk radio.

DePETRO: Bill O'Reilly is not out --

ABRAMS: Let me get back to the issue. Even, John DePetro, you would agree with me, that it's disingenuous of O'Reilly to claim that he's doing this because he wants to hold the corrupt media responsible to help your life -- meaning the individuals out there, the folks. He's doing it to help their lives. John, you would agree with me, that is totally disingenuous.

DePETRO: I hate to admit it -- yes, I would agree with you, Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS: That's all what I get. Totally disingenuous.

DePETRO: But I think he's doing the right thing by going after people that are attacking him and firing up his base and he continues his -- Dan, it's his campaign of I'm looking out for you.

ABRAMS: All right, that's fine. He can do what he wants. I'm just saying don't be disingenuous about what you're doing here. Don't claim this is about some sort of effort to protect the folks against the corrupt media. He's defending himself. He said something he shouldn't have said. He's defending himself. It's not the end of the world. He wasn't intending to be racist, but he shouldn't have said it. It was a dumb thing to say. Just say that. All right. I've got to wrap.

DePETRO: I think - Dan, I think some of the CNN crowd thought this was a Don Imus moment. And it's not.

ABRAMS: Maybe. Maybe. All right. John DePetro, Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

DePETRO: Good to be with you, Dan.

WATKINS: Thanks, Dan.

MADDOW: Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS: Up next, we get a unique look at the man considered the most dangerous inmate in California.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Dan Abrams
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.