Bill O’Reilly, Big Government and Racism

oreilly-govt-sizeThe other night (2/26/13) Fox host Bill O’Reilly tried to explain why Barack Obama keeps spending all that money. He came up with a theory: People of color want handouts from the government, and Obama is happy to oblige.

As he told viewers:

So why are we spending all the money? For what reason? I’ll tell you why. Take a look at this chart put out by the Pew Research Center. It says 48 percent of Americans want smaller government and fewer services. But among Hispanics, only 19 percent want smaller government and fewer services. A whopping 75 percent of Latinos surveyed approve of bigger government and more entitlements. That’s why President Obama is spending the money, because he knows that a coalition of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, organized labor and committed liberals will overwhelm the Republican Party.

So in essence, the president is putting party politics above the good of the nation.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because O’Reilly said something very similar on election night. As reported by Politico (11/6/12):

“The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly said. “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

“The demographics are changing,” he said. “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

O’Reilly said 50 percent of the voting public are people who “want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it, and he ran on it.”

Coincidentally or not, that was very similar to Mitt Romney’s explanation for his loss–Obama had promised “gifts” to people of color.

Of course, there are plenty of people who think the government should do more to battle poverty or invest in schools–for the “good of the nation.” But O’Reilly tacks on a reference to “committed liberals” and unions to gloss over what is obviously his real concern–that people of color are “overwhelming” what he calls “traditional America.”

The fact that O’Reilly has such a racialized view of all of this is what makes it especially interesting (or disturbing, perhaps). And it turns out he’s not alone; in fact, many Republicans apparently see the world this way, according to a recent Washington Post poll (8/29/12):

A new Post poll put the difference between the two parties’ perception of minority voters on stark display. Respondents were asked an open-ended question: Why do most black voters so consistently support Democrats?

Though “don’t know” was the top answer for members of both parties, a close second among Republicans was that black voters are dependent on government or seeking a government handout. Democrats more often said that their party addresses issues of poverty.

It’s not as if Bill O’Reilly has never uttered things reasonable people might consider racist: He wondered when African-Americans would “reject immorality,” compared Al Sharpton to David Duke, used the term “wetbacks” on his show, explained that Africa and “fundamental Islam” were antithetical to “Western reasoning,” joked that “the most unattractive women in the world are probably in the Muslim countries.”

But the fact that he seems to believe that the White House is destroying the economy in order to provide free stuff to people of color is taking things to an entirely different level.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.