O’Reilly Factor ambush producer Jesse Watters visited a Star Trek convention recently and aired his silly report on The Factor last night. But the one encounter that grabbed the most attention was a brief conversation with Star Trek actor LeVar Burton in which he said that Bill O’Reilly had been “patronizing” and acted like an “a**hole” during a recent interview in which they had discussed racial profiling and the George Zimmerman verdict.
You may recall that I, too, noted O’Reilly’s condescension in the interview. First, O’Reilly suggested Burton’s concerns with racial profiling were overblown by comparing it to one experience he had with a black cop who gave him a ticket, insinuated Burton’s worries about keeping the police from over-reacting when they stop him or his children was paranoid and then “asked” whether black crime statistics didn’t “mitigate anything?”
So now, when Watters popped up at the convention, Burton told him, “Yes, that man was an a-hole to me. …I’m 56 years old. I recognize patronizing when I encounter it.”
I’d love to know what was edited out because, back in the studio, Watters revealed there had been plenty more to the conversation than what we saw.
As I also wrote about the O’Reilly/Burton interview, I believe Bill O’Reilly meant well and intended to have a respectful exchange of perspectives with Burton but just as when he gushed over how well behaved the black diners were at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem, his clueless arrogance muscled its way through.
Now, O’Reilly didn’t understand why Burton was upset and that they had “always” had “a respectful conversation” during their interviews together.
“Sure,” Watters agreed, before adding, “He (Burton) said you were derisive, dismissive, insulting, patronizing and condescending.”
“Wow,” O’Reilly said, taken aback. “All in one interview?"
Watters explained that at the end of their last interview, “He (Burton) perceived that you were giving him a homework assignment, when, in fact, you actually said, 'Do a little research, it looks like young black males disproportionately commit crime as a percentage of the rest of the population.'”
“That’s true,” O’Reilly said.
Well, it’s true in a white-washed kind of way. Because what O’Reilly did was to whitesplain that racial profiling is African Americans’ own fault. O’Reilly had said:
I want you to do a little research for me. I think it’s a fact that proportionally young black men commit far more crimes than any other group in this country. And I think that that’s what is driving all of this fear on both sides.
“And he (Burton) was very, very insulted, actually,” Watters now explained. “He goes, ‘And you’re cut from the same cloth as your boss.’”
Burton is right about that.
O’Reilly joked, “Ooh, that sounds like a kind of semi-racist statement, doesn’t it?” But he also said that Burton is invited back on the show nevertheless. “If he has a beef about the other interview, we want to hear it.”
I hope Burton takes up the offer. I think Burton was taken by surprise by O’Reilly’s attitude during their last discussion and missed the opportunity to address it then. If nothing else, someone needs to give O’Reilly an earful about what’s wrong with his racial concern trolling. If that earful comes from someone O’Reilly likes (and he seems to like Burton) it could be a teachable moment. I’d love to see Burton seize it.
Correction: Although a fair amount of research for my original post about O'Reilly's interview with Burton turned up the spelling "Levar" for his first name, today, I found his website and Twitter feed where it is spelled "LeVar." Obviously, this is more authoritative than anything I previously found. So I have corrected it in the text but correcting it in the headline throws off Google and other tracking so I have to leave it. My apologies to Mr. Burton and anyone else who may have been offended by the error.
First we get a bunch of silly Watters interviews with nerdy people dressed in the most outlandish manner possible – clearly intended to portray Trekkies as a bunch of, for lack of a better word, dweebs. Not a bit of footage of anyone NOT wearing a crazy costume and makeup. Not a bit of footage of say, a science fiction author or someone demonstrating any depth to their thinking. Just a bunch of opportunities for Watters, O’Reilly and their viewers to ridicule and laugh at Star Trek fans. The nastiest part of this is that Watters chose to go to a Star Trek convention, which has been viewed as a safe place for sci-fi fans to dress up and enjoy their show. And Watters used that moment, when these people thought they were in a safe place, to ridicule and deride them. I suppose MSNBC could return the favor by showing up at CPAC or at a Rush Limbaugh event, or at a WWE event. But what would that accomplish – just the same cheap shots Watters was enjoying taking here.
And O’Reilly’s feigned ignorance of LeVar Burton’s career was another smarmy touch. O’Reilly is certainly aware that Burton was an actor on Star Trek in the 80s and 90s, appearing in 7 years of one program and then 4 feature films. He knows that Burton wasn’t on the show in the 1960s, so his claim of “I don’t know anything about the show” is nonsense. And it was clearly intended to demean Burton again – here’s the befuddled O’Reilly who just doesn’t understand why this unknown actor is offended by O’Reilly’s crass comments. There’s a point where you wonder if the issue is crossing from being smarmy to being sinister.
But the hardest moment was the key to the whole segment. Watters clearly went to that convention to confront Burton – there was no other reason for him to make this his focus – he was only going to get so far by making fun of Trekkies and William Shatner. But the chance to try to catch Burton off guard on camera? Priceless for Watters. Except that Watters didn’t catch Burton off guard – which is why Watters showed only two quick moments of what was clearly a longer exchange. And even in those two moments, Burton cleaned Watters clock. Burton made very clear to Watters that he was more than offended by O’Reilly’s behavior, and that he wasn’t falling for Watters’ shtick. Burton wasn’t kidding when he said “I’m 56 years old – I know what patronizing is”. He was genuinely angry, and that’s one of the few times I’ve seen him provoked like that. Which was of course the entire reason Watters did this. One has to wonder what justifications Watters provides himself for his behavior. In what book is any of this acceptable?
I like racial profiling! I’m white, an old fart and wealthy!!! An that’s good!!!! I can afford 2 million dollar phone calls!!!!!!!!