This post has been updated with a statement from the Asian American Journalists Association and tweets by Watters.
On the eve of the first general-election debate moderated by an Asian American journalist, the “O'Reilly Factor” on Fox News aired a segment so full of Asian stereotypes and jokes that fitting them all into five minutes was a true act of TV magic. But there was nothing magical about Jesse Watters's man-on-the-street report from New York's Chinatown neighborhood, in the eyes of many journalists who watched it.
Let's round up some of the standout comments:
- “Am I supposed to bow to say hello?”
- “I like these watches. Are they hot?”
- “Is it the year of the dragon? Rabbit? Who are you going to vote for?”
- “So, China can keep ripping us off.”
- “Tell me what's not made in China.”
- “Can you guys take care of North Korea for us?”
- “Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”
- “Do you know karate?”
- “How do they dance in China?”
- “When you go down to Chinatown, seemed like everybody is aware of what's going on. Some people say it's very insulated and they don't interact with American politics, but it looked like everybody knew what was going on.”
- “They're such polite people. They won't walk away or tell me to get out of here. They sit there and say nothing.”
- “They're patient. They want you to walk away because they don't have anything else to do.”
Show host Bill O'Reilly said, “I know we're going to get letters” but called the segment “gentle fun.” Watters claimed “it was all in good fun.”
"There was nothing gentle or fun about it," the Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement. "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."
Watters responded to criticism on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
Watters specializes in field reports starring random people — often liberals — who are unable to answer his on-the-spot questions. His segments appear designed to comfort conservative viewers by making them feel superior to his interview subjects.
A piece focused on Bernie Sanders supporters exemplifies Watters's shtick pretty perfectly:
A Fox News spokeswoman pointed to a 2015 Independent Journal Review interview in which Watters said, “I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. I go into it thinking how can I listen to them and have them share with me their thoughts and opinions in a way that doesn't come across as mean.”
Watters likes people to "share ... their thoughts and opinions." They are doing just that.