Bill O'Reilly courts controversy with comments on slavery; Hollywood hits back
By Libby Hill
Jul 28, 2016 | 12:30 PM
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has been under fire all week for his comments on slavery made in response to Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech at the Democratic National Convention.
At one point during her speech in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Obama spoke about the generations, some who lived in bondage, that had lead to her standing on the stage that night.
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn,” Obama said in testament to the growth and change of a nation.
Not everyone was taken with Obama’s imagery, however, with some questioning the accuracy of Obama’s White House history, though the White House Historical Assn. confirms that while the intent was to build the structure with imported labor from Europe, builders eventually turned to enslaved and free African Americans to serve as the majority of the workforce in the construction.
Enter Bill O’Reilly.
In Tuesday’s “Tip of the Day” segment on his long-running show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” the host did acknowledge that slave labor was utilized in the building of the White House, but in the process, emphasized the fact that those slaves were well-fed and had “decent lodgings.”
His comments were not received well.
Questlove, drummer and co-frontman for the Roots, posted a takedown of the Fox News personality accompanied by a photo of a man bearing the physical scars of a life of slavery.
“There is nothing more dangerous than a man in a suit pretending to be a journalist giving revisionist history on the ugliness that was slavery,” Questlove wrote.
Television super-producer and “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter to register her disgust at O’Reilly’s words, suggesting he try slavery for himself and to “let us know how good the food is while you wear chains.”
Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (and star of Rhimes’ “Private Practice”) had similarly pointed words for O’Reilly, tweeting images that represented the reality of slave life and suggesting that O’Reilly try them.
Social media wasn’t the only place the Fox News host drew fire, with several late-night hosts taking aim at the longtime political commentator.
On his show Wednesday night, Conan O’Brien spoke of O’Reilly’s comments and quipped, “Leave it to Fox News to provide a fair and balanced view of slavery.”
In the face of criticism, O’Reilly remains resolute, taking to his show Wednesday to decry “smear merchants” and using the criticisms lodged against him as proof that “propaganda and hate now dominate the media landscape.”
But not everyone was purely critical of O’Reilly’s comments. James Corden took time out of his Wednesday night show to give O’Reilly his own “Tip of the Day.”
“If you’re an older, privileged white man, maybe you should not be pointing out the positive aspects of slavery,” Corden advised O’Reilly.