Does Fox News monitor every word that comes out of Oprah Winfrey’s mouth, just waiting for something they can use to call her a racist? If not, how else to explain at least four prime time segments last night to analyze her comments to a BBC host that she thinks President Obama is disrespected because of his race? And yet her comments about how far the country has evolved on race were largely ignored.
Bill O’Reilly thought Oprah’s remarks were so important, he made them the top story of The O'Reilly Factor and the focus of Talking Points commentary last night. He followed that up with an interview with African American Harvard professor (and Obama friend) Charles Ogletree. Both of those segments are below. But even that was not enough. Following Ogletree was yet another segment, this one with Juan Williams and Mary Katharine Ham. The Hannity show also hosted a discussion on the subject.
“Oprah Winfrey defending President Obama, using the race card,” O’Reilly announced gravely to introduce his Talking Points. It was a clever way of suggesting that Obama supporters use race dishonestly. Even though Oprah was not defending Obama per se, just discussing her view of race.
In the clip O'Reilly played, Winfrey was asked whether she thought “some of the treatment” Obama has received “is because he’s an African American.” She did not bring it up herself. Her answer, at least as played on Fox:
Has it ever crossed my mind? It’s crossed my mind probably as many times as it’s crossed your mind. Probably, it’s crossed my mind more times than it’s crossed your mind.
Just the level of disrespect. When the senator (sic) yelled out, “You’re a liar.” Remember that? Yeah, I think that there’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American.
Color me crazy but even if you’re horribly offended by her opinion, this does not strike me as the stuff of four prime time discussions.
Oprah Winfrey scolded for what she didn't say
“In my opinion, she is a good person,” O’Reilly said. But that didn’t mean she shouldn’t be scolded for the umpteenth time on Fox. “There’s no question that President Bush was attacked far more viciously than President Obama has been. But Ms. Winfrey has not acknowledged that as far as I know,” O'Reilly added accusingly.
Except Winfrey was not saying that Obama was attacked more viciously. She said there was a level of disrespect that occurs in SOME CASES because of Obama’s race. Like, maybe, accusations (via Glenn Beck, validated by Sean Hannity) Obama is a black racist or smearing his birthday party as a Hip Hop BBQ (as Fox Nation did), and non-stop phony suggestions he's not American, all of which happened on Fox News. That’s not just disrespectful, it’s disrespectful with racial overtones. And you know what, O'Reillyl? It says a lot that you can not or will not see it.
O’Reilly held up John F. Kennedy – who just happens to have been an Irish Catholic like O’Reilly – as an example of someone who suffered even worse prejudice. But again, Winfrey was not saying Obama was the only one or someone who suffered it most, she was merely saying that race influenced some of the attacks on him.
“So what Oprah Winfrey is doing is making an excuse for President Obama using race,” O’Reilly concluded. That’s not only wrong, it’s him using her as an excuse to delegitimize African Americans' racial concerns. It’s a familiar meme from O’Reilly. Just a few months ago, he was obsessed with lecturing African Americans about race. Apparently, Winfrey didn’t get the memo that she should have consulted (white) O'Reilly before offering her opinion on the subject.
“There will always be bigots,” O’Reilly acknowledged. But without citing a single study or statistic, he immediately announced that their numbers are “insignificant.” He concluded, “I submit that Oprah Winfrey and others who play the race card can’t back up their statements with any facts. …It is irresponsible of Oprah Winfrey, a woman of influence in this country, to say what she said to the BBC.”
This, from the guy who marveled on his own radio show that African American customers at a restaurant in Harlem were well-behaved.
Fox's blatant race baiting of Obama gets a pass from the guest
Then came Ogletree. He did a good job of defending President Obama. “A good man, he doesn’t let race bother him,” Ogletree was well-spoken, polite and intelligent. But, sadly, he failed to hold O’Reilly’s feet to the fire over his disingenuous agenda. First, Ogletree mentioned only in passing that Oprah had also talked about how far we’ve come with regard to race in this country. I believe he should have questioned why O’Reilly took one little sliver of her comments and ignored the rest.
Ogletree did mention birthers and even Donald Trump but O’Reilly insisted, “Those people have been marginalized.” That was the moment for Ogletree to ask whether that means that Fox News is marginal. Not only has it aired countless segments questioning President Obama’s birth certificate, not only has it not apologized for doing so but it continues to treat King Birther, Donald Trump, as a credible and important pundit.
And if Ogletree missed that opportunity, he got an even better one when O’Reilly asked, “Is there one legitimate news organization in this country – anywhere! – Professor, that has used race to attack Barack Obama? One?
Sadly, Ogletree sounded Palinesque as he answered, “A lot of them.”
That only gave O’Reilly a chance to feel he had bested his guest. O’Reilly said, “You can’t! You can’t give me any! You’re pointing to kooks …individual kooks!”
Too bad Ogletree didn’t cite Megyn Kelly. She spent weeks painting President Obama as a promoter of black racism and enabling thuggish black men to intimidate white voters. Only to have her story fall apart. And how did Fox News hold this “individual kook” accountable? By kicking Sean Hannity out of his prime time hour and giving it to her.
I just banned Marv Goble. He had no business talking to you like that. Anyone who would, is obviously not hear for a constructive discussion, either.
So I hope you’re not holding your breath waiting for him to answer you.