Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday seemed to disparage a senior African American congresswoman because of the lawmaker’s appearance — comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig.”
Hours later, O’Reilly apologized for his comments, calling them “dumb.”
In a “Fox & Friends” segment Tuesday morning, O’Reilly replayed a speech Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) had delivered on the House floor the night before. In it, Waters defended those who were critical of President Trump, saying that that criticism arose from a love of country.
“We have suffered discrimination. We have suffered isolation and undermining,” Waters said. “But we stand up for America, often times when others who think they are more patriotic, who say they are more patriotic, do not.”
Throughout her speech, O’Reilly’s face appeared in a smaller window on the screen, where he was shown smiling, pumping his fist and mouthing silent responses to Waters.
“When we fight against this president and we point out how dangerous he is for this society and for this country, we’re fighting for the democracy. We’re fighting for America,” Waters continued. “We’re saying to those who say they’re patriotic, but they turned a blind eye to the destruction he’s about to cause this country: ‘You’re not nearly as patriotic as we are.’ ”
After watching the clip, O’Reilly’s colleagues asked him what he made of Waters’s speech.
“I — I didn’t hear a word she said,” O’Reilly told them. “I was looking at the James Brown wig.”
One of the co-hosts laughed loudly.
“It’s the same one,” co-host Brian Kilmeade replied, before referring to the late soul singer, who died in 2006. “And he’s not using it anymore. They just — they finally buried him.”
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt tried to defend Waters, but it only caused O’Reilly to double down on his remarks.
“No. Okay, I’ve got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that,” Earhardt said. “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 said.
“Her hair is pretty,” Earhardt insisted.
“I love James Brown, but it’s the same hair, James Brown — all right, the godfather of soul — had,” O’Reilly replied.
“So he had girl hair,” Earhardt said.
“Whatever it is,” O’Reilly said, “I just couldn’t get by it.”