Bill O’Reilly: I Wasn’t Defending Slavery, Just Saying Slaves Weren’t Treated So Bad


In 1800, First Lady Abigail Adams wrote that slaves toiling at the White House were “half fed, and destitute of clothing.” American slavery expert Jesse J. Holland writes that some of the labor involved in constructing the White House was “backbreaking” and told the Washington Post slaves who worked there lived in barns.

Yet on his Fox News show on Tuesday night, Bill O’Reilly asserted that White House slaves “were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802.” His remarks, which came in response to First Lake Michelle Obama’s emotional DNC speech, were widely criticized for minimizing the horrific plight of slaves.

O’Reilly’s Comments On White House Slaves Echo Actual SlaveownersPolitics by CREDIT: Fox News screengrab On Monday night, Michelle Obama brought the house down at the DNC in…thinkprogress.orgTonight, O’Reilly responded to the critics. But instead of trying to clarify his remarks or discuss why he sought to make a case that White House slaves didn’t have it that bad in the first place, he fixated on the media backlash, flatly asserted he’s right, and accused anybody who disagrees with him of “defamation.”

“As any honest historian knows, in order to keep slaves and free laborers strong, the Washington administration provided meat, bread and other staples, also decent lodging on the grounds of the new presidential building,” O’Reilly said. “That is a fact, not a justification, not a defense of slavery, just a fact. Anybody who implies a ‘soft on slavery’ message is beneath contempt.”

Slavery historian Liam Hogan cut through O’Reilly’s new justification for his remarks on Twitter:

Hogan told ThinkProgress on Wednesday that he “can’t see any basis… to justify a claim of [slaves] being ‘treated well.’ It’s kind of oxymoronic in the context of man as chattel property.”