Sorry if you were offended, mockable Chinese people

Making fun of people who do not speak English! Plinky plinky music! Kara-TAY! Kooky-nutty reaction shots from vintage kung-fu movies! Lady-given foot massages! “Do they call Chinese food in China just food?” Nunchucks! Chinese herbs for “performance”! OH HO HO HO HO HO HA HA HA that’s not racist (or hack-y) at all. Oh wait, yes it is.

Honest, you don’t have to watch the video, which aired Monday night, but we present it as an option for your distaste and horror needs because we are JOURNALISTS. The self-satisfied Bret Easton Ellis character with the mic is Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor correspondent Jesse Watters. Watters chuckled racistly to Bill O’Reilly at the end of the piece, “They’re such a polite people, they won’t walk away or tell me to get out of here!” which is totally not offensive at all. “It was gentle fun,” observed O’Reilly. “I know we’re going to get letters, but it was gentle.”

Reaction was swift. State Senator Daniel Squadron (whose district includes both Chinatown and snarly’s apartment) issued a statement:

Jesse Watters brought the kind of disrespect to my constituents that has been all too common this election cycle: stereotyping, mockery and a thinly veiled disdain for immigrants.

Unfortunately, one of the real costs of Trump’s divisiveness is the climate of racism and disrespect it’s made commonplace in our national discourse. That’s unacceptable in Chinatown, unacceptable in New York, and must be unacceptable on Fox News.

And to Jesse Watters: welcome to my district — hope you don’t come back.

City Council member Margaret Chin (who also serves District 1, my district) was born in Chinatown; her elderly mother still lives there. She was quoted in The Lo-Down, a blog that serves the Lower East Side:

…the moment when [the] correspondent mocked a senior citizen who seemingly did not know English stood out as a particularly mean-spirited act of disrespect. Would Bill O’Reilly or his correspondent treat an elderly Irish grandmother in the same manner? I suspect the answer to that question is emblematic of the persistent racism that still exists against Chinese Americans, who more than a century ago worked alongside Irish Americans to build the railroads that connected this continent. It is a legacy of hate that has been given new life and a national platform by the candidacy of Donald Trump and his allies at Fox News.

The mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, and the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, both tweeted their disgust.


The Asian-American Legal Defense Fund was not psyched either.


(As the Vox piece points out, nunchucks and karate are Japanese, darling.)

The Asian American Journalists Association released a statement: 

AAJA STATEMENT (Oct. 5th 2:30 pm EST)

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is outraged and shocked by the Oct. 3rd segment of “Watters’ World” on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” The segment was billed as a report on Chinese Americans’ views on the U.S. presidential election but it was rife with racist stereotypes, drew on thoughtless tropes and openly ridiculed Asian Americans.

Jesse Watters, O’Reilly Factor Correspondent and Host of Watters World, committed a litany of offenses, from asking Asian American women, “Do I bow to say hello?” to asking an Asian American man if he knew karate. He mixed in stereotypes of various Asian groups, conflating Koreans with Chinese and Japanese communities. The segment used clips of martial arts movies and interviewed Asian Americans whose primary language isn’t English in order to mock them.

It’s 2016. We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.

Host Bill O’Reilly called the segment “gentle fun.” There was nothing gentle or fun about it. It was rude, offensive, mocking, derogatory and damaging.

Fox missed a real opportunity to investigate the Asian American vote, a topic not often covered in mainstream news.

With a population of 15 million, Asian Americans remain the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. Between 2000-2010, our community grew by 45 percent, compared to 10 percent for the overall U.S. population.

While the largest Asian American communities continue to be in states like New York, California, and Hawaii, the fastest growing populations of Asian Americans include potential swing states like Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina.

There has been tremendous growth of Asian American representation throughout government. There are now over 600 elected officials at all levels, according to the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac.

We deserve far better treatment and coverage than we’ve been given by this Fox News report.

AAJA MediaWatch demands an apology from Fox News to our community and a meeting with the show’s producers to understand how this segment was conceived and greenlit to air. More importantly,  we want an explanation for how this type of coverage will be prevented in the future.

Watters eventually apologized on Twitter. Not well.


Sigh. We gotta do this again? Fine.

  1. “Meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek” = JEEZ YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR
  2. “I regret if” (The word “if” does not belong in an apology; you regret “that”)
  3. “if anyone took offense”  (People clearly DID take offense; there is no “if”)
  5. “As a political humorist” = GOD, LIGHTEN UP, YOU GUYS ARE SO SENSITIVE
  6. “As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment” (Misplaced modifier; please take a remedial English class)
  8. “all Watters [sic] World segments” (FYI, your segment is officially spelled Watters’ World! Not Watters World! HA HA YOU LIVE IN AMERICA; SPEAK ENGLISH! My 11-year-old has found Spelling City very helpful! Check it out!)

The Asian-American Journalists Association also has notes for you, Jesse.

It’s one thing to be “tongue-in-cheek.” It is something entirely different to hide behind the guise of political humor while using racial stereotypes….

Watters interviewed people for whom English is obviously not their primary language, raising ethical concerns of whether they were aware of how they would be portrayed.

We are interested in ensuring that Fox News and “The O’Reilly Factor” do not repeat this type of objectionable segment.

What type of diversity and sensitivity training is being undertaken in the newsroom to broaden the understanding of the diverse audience of 2016?

Exactly. “Here are the steps I’m taking to prevent this from happening again” is an essential element of a good apology. As a reminder, the others are: 1. Use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” not “I regret.” Regret is about your own emotional state; an apology is about the listener. 2. Say precisely what you did wrong. (The phrase “the Chinatown segment” is not specific enough.) 3. Acknowledge the impact of what you did. (By making fun of folks who did not sign up to look stupid on television, you hurt many people, contributed to a racist, lazy cartoon picture of Chinese-Americans, and revealed a profound lack of understanding of Chinese culture, which BEE TEE DUBS is not Korean or Japanese culture, as you elided.) 4. Offer a short explanation if there is one. (In this case, “I was trying to be funny but I failed, and my jokes were the same kind of dated, bad brick-wall-backed comedy that’s been done since the 1950s because as I said to Bill, I am paid to chase people with a microphone and mock them. I am not paid to be creative or thoughtful so I saw no point in trying.”) Finally, you say why it won’t happen again (missing) and how you’re going to make it up to the person or people you hurt (also missing).

No. Take your played-out tuft-y dated high-fade haircut and go home. If you want to think about how to atone, you’re welcome to come to Yom Kippur services with me. Maybe you’ll  come up with awesome material on Those Clannish Jews!

This entry was posted in Bad Apologies, Media Apologies, Political Apologies, Social Media Apologies, Twitpologies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Sorry if you were offended, mockable Chinese people

  1. Jon Carroll says:

    I like the Jews idea. Maybe he could ask about tips for hoarding money.

  2. tanita says:

    I’m on that line of laughing and weeping. I… honestly, I’m beginning to feel that the dementia is catching (releasing? revealing?). Racists are feeling OH, so comfy right now. And it’s both sickening, and really, really scary.

    I just wish I could say it was shocking.

    • :paula says:

      The public library where I work feels like ground zero. A lot of our customers are first or second generation immigrants from West Africa, and a lot are old-school white working-class. These old white guys have been feeling very free lately with their resentful comments. After asking one gentleman to take his phone conversation to an area where people weren’t working quietly, he accused me of racism: “You don’t tell black people to be quiet!”

      Proud to say I laughed in his face.

  3. Arturo Magidin says:

    Did you catch the Daily Show’s response to the piece?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam Control *