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Firestorm Over Fox News' Jesse Watters Racist New York Chinatown 'Man-On-The-Street' Report

Suzanne Kai

October 5, 2016 (updated October 9, 11, 12)

The Asian American Journalists Association's MediaWatch Committee, and AAJA's president Paul Cheung issued a statement (Oct. 5th 2:30 pm ET reprint below) condemning the October 3rd segment by Jesse Watters of "Watters' World' on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor.'  

AAJA - WATTERS WORLD 2016-10-03

AAJA MediaWatch requested a meeting with the show's producers, and announced a town hall on Sunday October 9 at the Museum of Chinese in America in New York. Check the AAJA.org website for updates.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, "O'Reilly Factor" goes on the air on a Fox News segment to discuss the piece by Jesse Watters. View his entire video interview below.

O'Reilly said, "No, it wasn't over the line...we ran that piece on Monday of last week, okay, 5 million people plus saw it live time."

"Do you know how many negative letters we got? Less than ten. How many phone calls came into Fox News? Zero - as far as I know, and we checked. Okay?"

"It was 36 hours later that this outrage appeared. And where did it appear? Far left websites, far left precincts...I read every single one - they were all the same. So, this is uh, an attack on Fox News - that's what it is. It's happened before."

O'Reilly said "I thought it was a gentle piece. There were a few things that were over the line, the old lady I would have taken that out I should have seen it before but I'm so busy with the election that I didn't. But Watters is a gentle satirist. He's worked very well for us. We're proud of him. And uh, this is an organized campaign this is what they do, they've done it before." 

UPDATE: FOX NEWS SEGMENT PARTICIPANTS RECOUNT ENCOUNTERS WITH CORRESPONDENT (Oct. 12)

AAJA.org's 2016 VOICES staff member Vivian Wang, a former editor at the Yale Daily News talks with people interviewed by Jesse Watters. For her full story go to AAJA.org

Excerpt of Wang's article: Before last week, Qanta Shimizu didn’t know who Jesse Watters was – even after the FOX correspondent with “The O’Reilly Factor” approached Shimizu with a microphone on the street in New York City’s Chinatown.

In their five-minute encounter, Watters asked a litany of questions about Donald Trump and Japanese-Chinese relations. At one point, Watters asked Shimizu to demonstrate a karate punch. All the while, Shimizu said, the FOX correspondent never identified himself nor explained his purpose – among the basic tenets of journalistic responsibility.

When the resulting video aired Oct. 3 on the cable network, Shimizu felt like a punchline in a bad joke.

Henry Leung, who was also featured in the FOX clip, reacted angrily as he watched himself on national television.

“I understand it’s a TV show, and I understand they want to entertain people,” said Leung, a retired Manhattan restaurateur. “It was a complete joke – and, of course, I wasn’t laughing because they were making fun of me and my own fellow Chinese people.”

UPDATE: FOX NEWS AGREES TO MEET WITH AAJA (Oct. 11, 6 p.m. ET)
Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor” executive producer has agreed to meet with AAJA and several community leaders to discuss concerns over the Oct. 3 segment of “Watters’ World.” This private meeting will take place at New York City’s Museum of Chinese in America. The date is to be determined. The public can share their thoughts about what outcomes they would like to see from this meeting by posting to the public Facebook group “This is 2016.”

UPDATE: AAJA RESPONDS TO BILL O’REILLY’S COMMENTS ON FOX NEWS SEGMENT (Oct. 10, 6 p.m. ET):

We, at the Asian American Journalists Association, do not accept being busy with the election coverage as an adequate excuse to allow a racist segment to air. Not having time to edit what was “over the line” is a reflection of a lack of sensitivity toward diverse coverage.

“There were a few things in there I felt were over the line. The old lady, I would have taken that out. I should have seen it before, but I’m so busy with the election that I didn’t.” said Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Sunday.

This is 2016 and our community deserves far better treatment and coverage than we’ve been given by this Jesse Watters segment. AAJA is a non-partisan organization whose main mission is to ensure fair and accurate coverage of Asian Americans in news media. As we have said before, AAJA demands an on-air apology from Fox News to our community and a meeting with the show’s producers to prevent this insensitive type of coverage in the future.

UPDATE: INVITATION FROM AAJA TO FOX NEWS (Oct. 8th 2:00 pm ET):

Fox News has ignored several requests extended by AAJA to attend Sunday’s community town hall in New York City’s Chinatown, the location of the “Watters’ World” report on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor.”

Fox News also has not responded to multiple requests to provide an apology to the community for the offensive characterizations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the story. The “O’Reilly Factor” executive producer has agreed to a follow-up call on Monday with AAJA.

The town hall is designed to generate a constructive dialogue between news media and the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. It will take place Sunday, October 9th from  2pm to 4pm ET at the Museum of Chinese in America in Chinatown. Registration details

AAJA RESPONSE TO FOX NEWS’ INVITATION TO AAJA (Oct. 6th 2:00 pm ET):

AAJA reached out to David Tabacoff, Executive Producer of “The O’Reilly Factor” at Fox News Channel, Wednesday. Tabacoff subsequently invited AAJA President Paul Cheung to appear on Friday’s show to discuss the journalism organization’s concerns.

We appreciate the invitation to educate Bill O’Reilly and his audience on the offensive nature of the “Watters’ World” segment. However, we believe meaningful engagement can occur only if there is significant dialogue not just with us, but with the broader community.

 Therefore, we respectfully decline Mr. Tabacoff’s invitation and instead propose a solution we believe can facilitate such a dialogue. AAJA would like to invite Fox News staff members to participate in a conversation with the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at a town hall to be held in New York’s Chinatown. We encourage Jesse Watters, his producers and other Fox News staff members to attend.

The town hall will take place Sunday, October 9, 2016 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. EST at the Museum of Chinese in America in Chinatown. (Check the AAJA.org website for further schedule updates.)

AAJA STATEMENT (Oct. 5th 2:30 pm ET):

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is outraged and shocked by the Oct. 3rd segment of “Watters’ World” on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” The segment was billed as a report on Chinese Americans’ views on the U.S. presidential election but it was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans. 

Jesse Watters, O’Reilly Factor Correspondent and Host of Watters World, committed a litany of offenses, from asking Asian American women, “Do I bow to say hello?” to asking an Asian American man if he knew karate. He mixed in stereotypes of various Asian groups, conflating Koreans with Chinese and Japanese communities. The segment used clips of martial arts movies and interviewed Asian Americans whose primary language isn’t English in order to mock them. 

It’s 2016. We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.

Host Bill O’Reilly called the segment “gentle fun.” There was nothing gentle or fun about it. It was rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging.

Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in mainstream news. 

With a population of 15 million, Asian Americans remain the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. Between 2000-2010, our community grew by 45 percent, compared to 10 percent for the overall U.S. population. 

While the largest Asian American communities continue to be in states like New York, California, and Hawaii, the fastest growing populations of Asian Americans include potential swing states like Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina. 

There has been tremendous growth of Asian American representation throughout government. There are now over 600 elected officials at all levels, according to the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac. 

We deserve far better treatment and coverage than we’ve been given by this Fox News report. 

AAJA MediaWatch demands an apology from Fox News to our community and a meeting with the show’s producers to understand how this segment was conceived and greenlit to air. More importantly,  we want an explanation for how this type of coverage will be prevented in the future.

Sincerely
AAJA MediaWatch committee &
Paul Cheung, AAJA President 

RELATED STORIES: 

October 5:

WASHINGTON POST by Reporter Callum Borchers
ALMOST EVERY ASIAN STEREOTYPE YOU CAN THINK OF, IN ONE FOX NEWS SEGMENT

NBCNews.com commentary by Traci G. Lee, Charles Lam and Stephany Bai
CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE FOX NEWS FOR 'RACIST and OFFENSIVE' CHINATOWN SEGMENT 

THE DAILY BEAST by Social Media Editor Asawin Suebsaeng
SERIOUSLY? FOX NEWS AIRS OPENLY RACISM SEGMENT ON ASIAN PEOPLE
Jesse Watters ambushes unsuspectig Asians in New York's Chinatown, and Bill O'Reilla laughs all the way to the bank. 

October 6:

NEW YORK TIMES  by Reporter Liam Stack 
PROTEST AGAINST FOX CORRESPONDENT ACCUSED OF RACISM FOR CHINATOWN INTERVIEWS

The New Yorker commentary by Jianyang Fan 
THE BULLYING ANTI-ASIAN RACISM OF FOX NEWS'S "WATTERS' WORLD"

October 7: 

WASHINGTON POST by Reporter Elahe Izadi
'THE DAILY SHOW' DELIVERS A MASTERFUL TAKEDOWN OF THAT FOX CHINATOWN SEGMENT

THE HUFFINGTON POST by Reporter David Moye
'DAILY SHOW' CORRESPONDENT BLASTS FOX NEWS REPORTER'S RACIST CHINATOWN SEGMENT
For once. Chinese government censorship is a good thing.

October 9: 

WASHINGTON POST commentary by Erik Wemple

 

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