Last week, before the vice presidential debate, the first general-election debate moderated by an Asian-American journalist, Fox News aired a segment on The O’Reilly Factor filled with every Asian stereotype you could think of.
I remember secretly watching it during one my classes, after scrolling through Facebook and seeing posts of outrage and disgust from my peers as well as dozens of shares on articles by Asian media outlets demanding an apology.
While reporter Jesse Watters intended for his segment to be hilarious and satirical, mentioning that it was supposed to be “tongue-in-cheek” on his personal Twitter, it was offensive and unabashedly racist.
Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly sent Watters to do this segment in New York City’s Chinatown to sample the political opinion of Asian Americans on the election. But instead of a segment actually sampling political opinion, it became a mockery of an entire race.
He poked fun of Chinese people who clearly did not speak English, asking them in a Tae Kwon Do studio, which is Korean, if they knew karate, which is Japanese. The segment also zoomed in onelderly Chinese people who didn’t respond because they didn’t know English.
He went on to ask if Chinese food in China was just called food, if he had to bow to say hello and how they felt about everything being “made in China.” I thought of somebody interrogating my grandmother in English and then zooming in on her face on national television for humor and felt immediately hurt and disgusted.
Disguised as light-hearted humor, the segment was dehumanizing and openly racist. How is harassing elderly first-generation immigrants and perpetuating stereotypes funny? Especially when it’s so rare that a major news station actually samples the opinions of Asian Americans.
I shared the video on Facebook and a friend of mine, who saw my post, messaged me and asked me if it would have been different if an Asian hosted the segment and if it is different than other Asian people who sometimes poke fun at themselves too.
The difference is that when Asian comedians poke fun at their own stereotypes, they use it as as satire effectively to raise awareness, so everyone can know how disgusting it is that they are being treated that way — not the way that Jesse Watters did in The O’Reilly Factor.
While the reaction from most media outlets (even right-wing websites) was of anger and disgust, everyone knows Fox News is just going to get a slap on the wrist. Just like how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump always says outrageous things and gets by — even getting applauded for transparency, — Bill O’Reilly continues to stand by Jesse Watters and Fox News is still going to air shamelessly horrible segments.
The best thing that came out of this however, if we’re trying to be positive, is the humorous segment that The Daily Show ran after the incident.
“If you wanna come at Chinese people, make fun of China’s high pollution, or the fact they censor most of the internet, which in this case might actually be a good thing since no person in China will ever have to watch your garbage attempt at comedy,” Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng said.
Erika Lee is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “Asian Amerikan Heroine,” runs every other Monday. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan.