Bill O’Reilly reacts to clip of Rep. Maxine Waters with racist joke about her hair

“I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”

CREDIT: Fox News screengrab
CREDIT: Fox News screengrab

During Tuesday’s Fox & Friends, Bill O’Reilly was asked to respond to a clip of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) speaking on the House floor. He responded by mocking her “James Brown wig.”

While the hosts introduced the clip, O’Reilly, who was on the show as a guest, sarcastically said, “I love her… Maxine Waters should have her own sit-com.”

The show then cut to a clip of Waters saying, “We have suffered discrimination, we have suffered isolation and undermining. But we stand up for America, oftentimes when others who think they are more patriotic, who say they are more patriotic, do not.”

“When we fight against this president, and we point out how dangerous he is for this society and for this country, we are fighting for the Democracy. We are fighting for America,” Waters continued. “We are saying to those who say they are patriotic but they turned a blind eye to the destruction [Trump] is about to cause this country, you’re not nearly as patriotic as we are.”

After the clip played, O’Reilly was asked to respond.

“I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig,” O’Reilly said, as the hosts burst out in laughter.


Host Ainsley Earhardt chided O’Reilly, saying, “I have to defend her on that. You can’t go after a woman’s looks. I think she’s very attractive.”

“I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive,” O’Reilly clarified. “I love James Brown, but it’s the same hair.”

O’Reilly has a troubling history with women and minorities. Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros accused him of sexual harassment last summer. During a show in late December, O’Reilly criticized minorities and liberals for trying to strip power from “the white establishment.”

That wasn’t the first time O’Reilly openly championed white privilege. On election night 2012, O’Reilly explained Mitt Romney’s loss by citing changing racial demographics he characterized as resulting in “50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things.” He made a case that white men are the only group of people who don’t feel entitled to government handouts.


During a discussion with Megyn Kelly about the killing of Michael Brown two years later, O’Reilly blamed black people for the fact that they experience more poverty and higher incarceration rates, among other disparities. “It all comes down to families, culture, personal responsibility, all of these things, which we don’t hear much about,” O’Reilly said. “And this is what drives the poverty.”

Tuesday morning wasn’t the first time a Fox News host has smeared Waters by comparing her with an African American musical icon. In 2012, Fox News host Eric Bolling advised Waters to “step away from the crack pipe” because “you saw what happened to Whitney Houston.”

It also wasn’t the first time O’Reilly has said he couldn’t listen to Waters because of her hair. In 2011, O’Reilly said of Waters, “is that congresswoman’s real hair? I’m watching her and I’m going, is that her real hair? I should be listening to her but it’s a distraction.”

UPDATE: O’Reilly has apologized.

From CNN:

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, O’Reilly expressed regret for the remarks.

“As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs,” he said. “I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”

Waters’ office hasn’t responded to an email seeking comment.