Fox News host Bill O’Reilly waded into controversial waters on Tuesday by cracking a joke about the appearance of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
When asked his thoughts on an anti-Trump tirade Waters delivered on Monday night, O’Reilly said, “I didn’t hear a word she said” because “I was looking at the James Brown wig.”
The backlash was swift and fierce, and before the day’s end O’Reilly capitulated and apologized for the quip.
While O’Reilly’s joke was no doubt ill-advised, the affair begs a look at the potential double standard over what the media finds is acceptable public commentary.
Waters has a long history of making outlandish and nasty attacks on conservatives — none of which have been followed by massive media backlash or apologies.
“I oppose this president. I do not honor this president. I do not respect this president,” Waters said during her speech Tuesday in which she bashed President Donald Trump. “And my mission and my goal is to make sure that he does not remain president of the United States of America,” she continued.
Waters also called into question the patriotism of the administration and those who support it.
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“We’re fighting for America. We’re saying to those who say they’re patriotic but they’ve turned a blind eye to the destruction that he’s about to cause this country, ‘You’re not nearly as patriotic as we are.’”
There was little demand from the mainstream media or fellow Democrats for Waters to apologize for impugning the patriotism of so many Americans.
There was similarly little outrage over how Waters repeated as fact the now widely discredited “intelligence report” that linked Trump to prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
“We already know that the part about the coverage that they have on him, with sex actions, is supposed to be true. They have said that that’s absolutely true,” she insisted.
The controversial, heated and often factually dubious rhetoric from Waters is not new for the California congresswoman.
Barely two years into her congressional career, Waters defended and tried to justify bloody and violent race riots in Los Angeles. “If you call it a riot, it sounds like it was just a bunch of crazy people who went out and did bad things for no reason. I maintain it was somewhat understandable, if not acceptable. So I call it a rebellion,” Waters said in a 1993 interview with The Los Angeles Times.
A year later, Waters was calling for black Americans to “fight back” against white people.
“Policy, for the most part, has been made by white people in America, not by people of color,” she said. “They have tended to take care of those things that they think are important … so we have to band together and keep fighting back,” Waters said.
In 2010, Waters seemed to imply that flying the American flag proudly was “outrageous” behavior.
“I was amazed — I really was,” said Waters in reference to a Tea Party rally she witnessed during a discussion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I didn’t say anything to anybody. I just watched — the Republicans were out there — they were having a great time. They were laughing, they were waving the American flag, they were egging them on, and I thought that was outrageous behavior,” she said. “I really did.”
Waters has yet to issue an apology for questioning the patriotism of Americans who support the president.