Fox News’s Jesse Watters last night answered the group of high school students who attacked the journalism ethics involved in a July piece he did that made fun of Vermont as a bastion of airheaded liberalism. Those students, who attend Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, took turns in a nine-minute January video discussing how the July “Watters’ World” story violated the principles laid out in the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics. One student concluded, “The facts have been so distorted by O’Reilly and Watters that the real truth is totally unrecognizable.” “Watters’ World” is a staple of Bill O’Reilly’s ratings-killing program “The O’Reilly Factor.”
True to his smart-aleck reputation, Watters took several swipes at the students, replaying their objections to his work and then refuting their refutations. Some were in good fun. For instance, the students objected to his characterizing Vermont as harboring “ski bums,” saying that this was an outdated cultural reference. Watters responded by showing a Vermont license plate: “SKI-BUM.” And Watters pointed to Gallup research attesting to Vermont’s liberal bent.
The lowlight, however, comes when Watters showcases two female Mount Anthony Union students disputing the sampling of interviewees in his July piece. They alleged that Watters had interviewed just six sources, all of them between 17 and 24 years old. “Have you ever heard of the phrase accurate demographic representation?” asked one of the girls in the video. As opposed to addressing that objection; as opposed to defending his sourcing; as opposed to debating the merits, Watters elected to demean these girls. And he did that by cutting to the scene from the 1993 film “Dazed and Confused” in which Matthew McConaughey (as David Wooderson) says, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
After playing back another objection from the Mount Anthony Union video, Watters asked, “Did your nutty professor write this script for you?”
In a wrap-up chat about Watters’s response, O’Reilly seemed a touch embarrassed by the elbows flying northward from the Fox News HQ. “What a wise guy you are, beating up those high school kids! How did I get dragged into this?” asked the host. By allowing Watters to propagate Fox News’s nighttime answer to “Fox & Friends” — that’s how.