Jesse Watters said that the five-minute segment was "meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek"

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated October 06, 2016 02:22 PM
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Fox News journalist Jesse Watters is in hot water for what many are calling a racist segment set in New York City’s Chinatown.

The nearly five-minute “Watters’ World” bit aired on The O’Reilly Factor Monday night, and featured the correspondent questioning Chinatown locals about who they’re supporting in the 2016 presidential election. Watters seemed to mock the Asian-American interviewees’ answers with cut-away sound bites from movies and television.

After the segment aired, host Bill O’Reilly noted, “It’s gentle fun … I know we’re gonna get letters, it’s inevitable.”

In the days that followed, organizations like the Asian American Journalists Association denounced Watters’ reporting.

“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,” the Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement. “Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.”

The Asian American Journalists Association added that there was “nothing gentle or fun” about the segment, and asserted that it was, instead, “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,” the statement said.

Watters defended the clip on Twitter Wednesday, writing that “As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are.”

“My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense,” he said.

Others still chimed in on social media to criticize Watters’ segment, though, with N.Y.C. mayor Bill De Blasio writing, “The vile, racist behavior of Fox’s Jesse Watters in Chinatown has no place in our city. @FoxNews – keep this guy off TV.”

Politico’s digital editorial director Blake Hounshell tweeted, “This O’Reilly factor segment making fun of Asian-Americans is unreal. It’s 2016.”

Some felt Watters’ explanation was not enough to undo what they assert is damage already done.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund wrote to Watters, “Your non-apology for racist #Chinatown piece not accepted.”

The group wrote that they are holding a rally outside of Fox News’ N.Y.C. headquarters on Thursday at 4 p.m.

O’Reilly has not yet publicly responded to the backlash.