Moments after smearing the left for merely pretending to respect women, Fox News’ Jesse Watters made a sexual joke about Ivanka Trump.
Watters, who was Bill O’Reilly’s sidekick until O’Reilly lost his job amid a sexual harassment scandal last week, is now on another Fox News show, The Five. On Tuesday night, the show featured a clip of Ivanka being booed and hissed during a women’s panel in Berlin. During a discussion of the clip, Watters offered this grossly inappropriate non sequitur with a smirk on his face: “I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.”
Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle immediately steered the discussion in another direction without so much as acknowledging Watters’ crass remark.
Watters has repeatedly generated controversy during his Fox News tenure. Last year alone, his “man on the street” O’Reilly Factor interviews featured racist jokes about Asians and a segment where he went to Princeton and said the word “ghetto” to dumbfounded black students. Watters once said Hillary Clinton was trying to court “the single lady’s vote… the Beyoncé voters” who “depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands.” Watters’ segments also repeatedly dehumanized homeless people. In 2009, he stalked and harassed a ThinkProgress reporter who highlighted O’Reilly’s track record of victim-blaming rape survivors.
Yet none of that was enough to prevent Watters from being promoted following O’Reilly’s ouster.
Watters’ sexual joke wasn’t the only indication on Tuesday that Fox News is struggling to move past the culture of harassment that began to unravel with the ouster of longtime CEO Roger Ailes last summer. CNN reports that Kelly Wright, a longtime Fox News reporter and anchor, joined a racial discrimination lawsuit against the cable network. That lawsuit now has 13 plaintiffs.
UPDATE: As his gross joke was widely denounced Wednesday morning, Watters tweeted that his comments about enjoying how Ivanka “was speaking into that microphone” were not meant to be interpreted sexually.
On air I was referring to Ivanka's voice and how it resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. This was in no way a joke about anything else.
— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) April 26, 2017
A representative of Watters also sent ThinkProgress this statement on Watters’ behalf:
During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. This was in no way a joke about anything else.
Watters, however, was smirking and gesturing with his hands as commended Ivanka for how she was speaking into her microphone.
This isn’t the first time Watters has refused to apologize for distasteful comments he’s made. After making a string of racist jokes during a segment last October, he tweeted he was sorry not for his comments, but that people didn’t get his bit.
My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense.
— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) October 5, 2016