Under immense pressure following a record defamation lawsuit, and with ratings down following the departure of Tucker Carlson, Fox News announced a new schedule with host Jesse Watters' show now airing at 8 p.m. ET. Advertisers should beware, given that the network appears to be lifting up the same extremism that led to its current crisis.
Starting in The O’Reilly Factor days with his “Watters’ World” segments, Jesse Watters honed his frat boy style with smug interviews mocking his subjects alongside blatant racism and sexism. In June 2015, Watters produced a cruel, dehumanizing segment shaming unhoused people in New York City’s Penn Station and stressing that they are breaking the law, juxtaposed against interviews with those who found homeless people to be a nuisance. He made a follow-up segment a month later, agreeing with host Bill O'Reilly at the end that people experiencing homelessness “shouldn't be allowed to destroy neighborhoods.” (Hosting his own Fox show in September 2022, Watters called homeless people “an invasive species.”)
In May 2016, it was made public that Watters had stalked and harassed journalist Amanda Terkel while she was on vacation seven years earlier, accusing her of “causing ‘pain and suffering’ to rape victims and their families” after she wrote a story that called out O’Reilly’s pattern of victim-blaming rape survivors. (O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in 2017 following years of sexual harassment reports against him, including at least $13 million in settlements.)
In October 2016, Watters produced a widely condemned, racist and stereotype-driven segment in New York City’s Chinatown, asking bystanders questions such as, “Am I supposed to bow to say hello?” “Tell me what’s not made in China?” and, “Do you know karate?” The song Kung Fu Fighting played in the background, and the segment included clips of Watters attempting to do karate.
Here is more of Watters’ despicable commentary on Fox News over the years:
- On May 15, Watters said that Black Americans should be more concerned with “absent fathers” and” education issues” than with white supremacist mass shooters. “You know what the biggest domestic threat is to young Black men in this country? Other young Black men with guns.”
- Discussing reparations for slavery during Black History Month, he argued that the people “who financed it” deserve credit for American infrastructure built by slaves, saying, “Labor's just a part of it.”
- He said in January that Black history after the 1950s shouldn’t be taught because “it’s all activism. It’s all ideology. It’s no history.”
- In October 2022, Watters said that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “went full taco” as she responded to hecklers at a town hall.
- Watters said in January 2022 that a Black Supreme Court nominee would be “the result of a back room racial deal that was cut so a white Democrat could win the nomination, that's the truth.”
- In October 2021, Watters blamed the plight of Native Americans in the United States on “alcoholism” and “government dependency.”
- When Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) tweeted that the United States is “stolen land,” Watters said, “We won this land on the battlefield and we bought it.”
- In June 2020, Watters said that police were justified in killing Rayshard Brooks by shooting him in the back as he ran away.
- Watters blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for protesters being shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020: “Sadly, you’re going to have vigilante justice. … And things happen and it's horrible and that's not the way to handle it, but unfortunately this is what happens when a governor abdicates his responsibility to keep the safe streets.”
- While guest hosting The O’Reilly Factor in June 2015, Watters asked if white supremacy causes “African American men to not get married to women that they have babies with?”
Sexism and misogyny
- Following Republicans’ weak performance with single women in the 2022 midterm elections, Watters said “we need these ladies to get married.”
- After the Dobbs Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in May 2022, Watters attacked “women who are past their prime, who can't even get pregnant” and advocate for reproductive rights.
- In July 2022, after discrediting a report on a 10-year-old Ohio girl needing an abortion, Watters then attacked the girl's Indiana doctor who provided it.
- The following month, he voiced support for allowing teachers to spank students: “Can you paddle female students?”
- Attacking Ocasio-Cortez in August 2022, Watters said she was “not ripe enough to run for president. First, she has to get married,” adding, “And then you have to get pregnant.”
- In 2017, Jesse Watters made a lewd and sexually suggestive comment about the way Ivanka Trump was speaking into a microphone.
- Watters suggested on Fox’s Outnumbered in June 2014 that statutory rape of an adolescent boy isn't as bad if the female perpetrator is attractive: “You usually get high-fives.”
- Watters said in 2014 that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “is trying to overcompensate” on foreign policy because she is a woman.
- In February 2011, Watters ambushed a Planned Parenthood official and pushed the falsehood that the organization was “excusing and covering up underage sex trafficking.”
Xenophobia and Islamophobia
- On May 10, he pushed the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory in response to the end of Trump-era Title 42 immigration restrictions: “Imagine a generation from now. That's what they want to do here. They want to make Texas a Democrat state. And you'll never see another Republican in the White House after that.”
- On May 2, Watters said “I can tell” when a person is undocumented just by looking at them. “I'm a city guy,” he claimed. “You don't want me to get into it, but I can tell.”
- In April 2022, Watters used victims of rape and murder among asylum-seekers to justify former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
- In October 2021, Watters called the unification of migrants with their families or sponsors “taxpayer-funded human trafficking.”
- Watters called a Muslim woman “a total fraud and a total nutcase” after she criticized conservative stereotypes about Islam in 2014, adding that “she might have been a plant, who knows who she’s communicating with?”
- Watters defended Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric in 2015, saying he wouldn't let “illegal aliens come to the country and murder our women.”
- On The O’Reilly Factor in February 2017, Watters defended Trump’s Muslim ban and told an imam, “You have to admit there is a Muslim problem in the world.”
- In March, Watters suggested that young transgender people are transitioning for internet fame.
- In October 2022, Watters said “grooming teachers” are taking children’s gender away.
- Watters and O’Reilly laughed while speculating on an interviewee's gender identity in October 2015.
- In July 2013, he created a transphobic segment mocking attendees of New York’s Mermaid Parade, many of whom were dressed in drag. Watters asked one parade-goer, a teacher, if he thought he was “setting a good example” for children.
- A year later, in 2014, he ridiculed attendees of San Francisco’s pride parade and played on hateful tropes about LGBTQ people. Watters assured O’Reilly at the end of the segment that “no one assaulted me.”
- In March, he said that “Democrats can’t win elections fairly, they know they can't persuade voters their policies are better, so the only thing keeping them in power is collusion and censorship.”
- In September 2022, he claimed that President Joe Biden and the FBI had “rigged the last election.”
- Days before the Capitol riot, Watters falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was filled with voter fraud, said, “We used to storm the castle over abuses of power like this,” and told his audience, “In 2021, let's relight that great American spirit. Let's stand up to this den of thieves because they'll just keep robbing us blind until we actually do something about it.”
- In April 2022, Watters said “the logical conclusion” to climate activism is “human sacrifice.”
- He said in July 2021, “You don't fight climate change. If it's getting warmer, you adapt to it.”
- Watters criticized the Portland School Board in 2016 for banning classroom material that denied climate change.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.