April V. Taylor
FOX News Bill O’Reilly is known to make comments that stir up controversy, and in a recent interview with PBS radio host Tavis Smiley, he left Smiley baffled as he alleged that Black people are to blame for their economic problems and admitted that Republicans are scared of Black people. The conversation took place on an episode of “The O’Reilly Factor,” where the two discussed the Black vote and how Republicans and Democrats approach Black voters.
The exchange began when Smiley questioned O’Reilly over why Republicans would not want to more fully engage with Black voters to understand their points of view. O’Reilly responded by saying that Republicans were “more intimidated than uncaring,” when it comes to Black voters. Smiley seemed perplexed and flabbergasted by what O’Reilly said, asking him “Why? Are black folks scary?” O’Reilly answered by saying, “No, no, the white Republican power structure is afraid of Black Americans. They don’t know how to treat them; they don’t know how to speak to them…They don’t know anything about the culture, and they don’t want to be called a racist bigot, so they stay away.”
Smiley attempted to dig deeper into O’Reilly’s reasoning by asking him why that would make someone scared instead of making them want to try to understand. O’Reilly answered by stating, “Because they [Republicans] feel it’s not worth the trouble, the few votes they might siphon off, to get involved with it. That’s how they feel. I know that for a fact.”
Smiley responded by pointing out that many Black voters feel that neither political party looks out for their best interest because in addition to the Republican party’s apathy, Democrats consistently take Black voters for granted. The two seemed to have found common ground on this point with O’Reilly stating, “The reality is that neither party is truly interested, I believe in the economic opportunity and social mobility of African-American voters.”
The two didn’t stay on common ground for long as O’Reilly advocated his controversial opinion about the “disintegration” of the Black family being more responsible for the economic struggle faced by Blacks than white privilege. In an attempt to refute O’Reilly’s argument that the Black family is the cause of Black people being poor, Smiley pointed out that, “There are more white folk in poverty in this country than there are African-Americans. The new poor in this country are the former middle class.” Smiley also cited a statistic from the Census Bureau that shows that one out of every two Americans is either living in or close to poverty, stating, “That ain’t a Black or brown problem. That’s an American catastrophe.”