Bill O'Reilly Harlem Restaurant Flap, Juan Williams, Radio Factor
Hoping To Create The Next Imus, Enemies Clobber O'Reilly
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If your opinion is based only on reports from the mainstream media, by now you are probably waiting for Bill O'Reilly to emerge wearing white sheets and holding a bottle of lighter fluid, ready for the next Klan meeting. Is the FOX News Channel ratings king a rabid racist?
Those willing to listen to the radio program in question, however, are in for a surprise: this is nothing more than a sleazy attempt to turn O'Reilly into the next Imus by his well- funded enemies at Media Matters. One network has even made the comparison.
In fact, this is by far the most disgusting attempt at taking words out of context we've seen in a long time.
Until hearing the show itself, your Radio Equalizer wasn't sure to think. With so much media attention, now including CNN and the New York Times, this site was bracing for the worst. After listening to Bill's 19 September Radio Factor broadcast, however, it's clear he was actually in the middle of a lengthy and constructive conversation about our perceptions of race.
First, let's take a look at the smear machine at work, beginning with the first Media Matters report:
O'Reilly surprised "there was no difference" between Harlem restaurant and other New York restaurants
Summary: Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia's, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." O'Reilly added: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' "
During the September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, discussing his recent trip to have dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship."
Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all." O'Reilly also stated: "I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the [Rev. Jesse] Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out. 'Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it."
Next, the story successfully spread to a number of mainstream media outlets, even getting CNN coverage as a "news" story. It has since been incorporated into the restaurant review section of the New York Times.
Here's one of the NYT's bloggers picking and choosing O'Reilly words the same way it was done by Media Matters, but with an attempt at honesty in one later paragraph:
Apparently, he was working his way through a tribute to the American Dream and the Melting Pot, familiar points for the talk show host who often touts his working-class Irish American roots. More from Mr. O’Reilly:
And that’s really what this society’s all about now here in the U.S.A. There’s no difference. There’s no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment — people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you’re gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody’s skin.
By then, it’s too late. While trying to dramatically prove a point about equality on his radio show by retelling how he himself was convinced, Mr. O’Reilly admitted that he once believed that not all restaurant managers and patrons were created equal.
The transcript then jumps to a later point in the show, when Mr. O’Reilly sounds some more foul notes. The conversation now includes Juan Williams, an NPR correspondent, and is focused on comparing hip-hop’s image and the reality of black America. In that context, he was surprised once again, this time by what he saw at an Anita Baker concert at Radio City Music Hall:
The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn’t know, particularly people who don’t have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.
Mr. Williams heartily agrees, and Mr. O’Reilly flashes back to the first scene to provide yet another sound bite that sounds so much worse when served without the background that he’s comparing rap and reality.
Never one to miss a chance to slam conservatives, the New York Daily News dishonestly jumped in next:
Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly really, really needs to get out more.
After sitting down to eat coconut shrimp at Harlem's most famous soul food restaurant with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the talk show host told his radio listeners he was surprised that Sylvia's was a perfectly normal, civilized restaurant.
"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. It was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks [and has a] primarily black patronship," O'Reilly said. "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea!'"
"It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people [who] were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all," he said.
O'Reilly was apparently trying to say that not all black people are into profane gangsta rap culture.
The comments, made in an hour-long show about race last Wednesday and then publicized by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, prompted jeers, outrage and guffaws yesterday.
"It is very insulting," said restaurant manager Trenness Woods-Black, granddaughter of the famous Sylvia Woods.
Under scrutiny, none of the allegations against O'Reilly hold up. Where to begin?
First, placed in their proper context, his comments simply don't come across as inflammatory. O'Reilly's overall theme is that many whites have very little real experience with black people. As a result, their views of African- Americans are clouded by negative perceptions that come from mainstream media consumption.
Are all black people gangsta rappers or convicts? Of course not, but without a lot of personal interaction, many white people may not recognize that.
Does O'Reilly share some of that ignorance? Perhaps, especially when his words are improperly isolated.
Even if he does, so what? Obviously, this a common problem in our society. That should not seem newsworthy to CNN.
Another gaping hole in the Media Matters smear campaign is the fact that the comments in question were made during an interview with liberal African- American pundit Juan Williams. And if you listen to the audio, Williams agrees with O'Reilly on these very points!
In fact, Williams has actually come out swinging in order to defend O'Reilly, which Johnny Dollar has captured and placed on YouTube:
Williams makes it clear that their discussion has been turned on its head by O'Reilly's enemies. Now, however, it's Williams that's on the firing line. How dare you get in the way of Imus II!
Between O'Reilly and Imus, there's no comparison. While the latter was guilty of uttering some outrageous slurs, Bill O'Reilly was doing nothing more than attempting to carry on an intelligent discussion about race relations in America. CNN, CBS and the New York Times are guilty of perpetuating this Soros- funded smear campaign and should truly be ashamed of themselves.
What's more disturbing is that CNN is beholden to Media Matters in the same way Hillary Clinton and other Democrats can't risk denouncing MoveOn.org, no matter how outrageous its antics might become.
UPDATE: Media Matters digs its hole even deeper
UPDATES: "Sharpton will decide" - is he still in charge of talk radio programming? Also: more lefty grandstanding. Hip Hop trashmeisters weigh in. FOX has a "race" problem. The left has packed a year's worth of lying into one week! The AP jumps in on the fun.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson has written a well- reasoned defense of O'Reilly here. Media Matters still pushing the envelope.
CYBERALERT: Clintons kill negative story
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Some images: AP, NYT