On the October 4 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly equated trans-Atlantic Irish immigration in the 19th century to the historical enslavement of African-Americans and their forced removal from Africa. The Irish coming to the United States "had to leave the country, just as Africans had to leave -- African-Americans had to leave Africa and come over on a boat and try to make in the New World with nothing," O'Reilly said.
O'Reilly was commenting on a caller's response to his assertion that the prison population is "disproportionately African-American." The caller said that the "reason for that" is "slavery," adding, "If you take someone's language, someone's history, and someone's culture, and then you just release them out into the world, you think they're going to be successful as a people?"
From the October 4 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
CALLER: But what they fail to tell you is that most of the people in jail are actually -- are white.
O'REILLY: Yeah. The majority of people in jail are white, but it is disproportionately African-American -- I don't need --you know, I don't even --
CALLER: There's a reason for that --
O'REILLY: Can we get that stat? Can we get that stat?
CALLER: There's a reason for that, you know that.
O'REILLY: Yeah, I mean, the reason is --
CALLER: Because of slavery. If you take someone's language, someone's history, and someone's culture, and then you just release them out into the world, you think they're going to be successful as a people?
O'REILLY: All right. But let me counter that, [caller], and you can comment on my comment. That's the prevailing wisdom in a lot of the precincts, is that because blacks were in slavery in the United States, they were never able to develop an infrastructure of education and culture to compete with the white majority. That is the prevailing wisdom in lots and lots of places. Let me submit this to you, and then you can comment on it.
My people came from County Cavan in Ireland. All right? And the British Crown marched in there with their henchman, Oliver Cromwell, and they seized all of my ancestors' lands, everything. And they threw them into slavery, pretty much indentured servitude on the land. And then the land collapsed, all right? And everybody was starving in Ireland. They had to leave the country, just as Africans had to leave -- African-Americans had to leave Africa and come over on a boat and try to make in the New World with nothing. Nothing. And succeeded, succeeded. As did Italians, as did -- and I'll submit to you, African-Americans are succeeding as well. So all of these things can be overcome I think, [caller]. Go ahead.