Fox News host Bill O'Reilly insisted on Wednesday that the Baltimore woman who has gained attention for disciplining her son amid a riot in the city on Monday was not giving her children a chance to succeed in life.
"I was fascinated by that," O'Reilly said of Toya Graham. "But I was also fascinated by the fact that this African-American woman -- who obviously loves and cares about her son -- has six children by a number of different men. How does she think that these six children are gonna compete in that kind of a structure."
O'Reilly was immediately challenged by contributor and former Georgia state legislator Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr.
"Bill, I have six children -- one by one father and five by another father," King said. "I raised them as a single mother. I had a similar encounter with my youngest son; I said, 'Are you trying to be a thug?' I said, 'You're not a thug.'"
"But you're an educated woman," O'Reilly responded. "She's not an educated woman."
"I was an educated woman," King said. "But that lady spoke very well."
Graham garnered media attention after she was filmed slapping her 16-year-old son, Michael Singleton, and pushing him away from the scene during the early stages of what became a riot in the city on Monday night. Graham later told CBS News she was "shocked" to see Singleton wearing a mask as people threw rocks at police.
"That's my only son, and at the end of the day, I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray," she said on Tuesday. "But to stand up there and vandalize police officers, that's not justice. I'm a single mom, and I have six children, and I just choose not to live like that no more, and I don't want that for him."
On Wednesday, O'Reilly cited a 2010 study arguing that 72 percent of black Americans were born out of wedlock. That statistic was given more context by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic in 2013. Coates pointed out that, while there were more unmarried women in the black community at the time, the actual birthrate among both married and unmarried black women was on the decline.
"Indeed, whereas at one point married black women were having more kids than married white women, they are now having less," he wrote. "I point this out to show that the idea that the idea that, somehow, the black community has fallen into a morass of cultural pathology is convenient nostalgia. There is nothing 'immoral' or 'pathological' about deciding not to marry."
Similarly, civil rights activist Connie Rice refuted O'Reilly's notion that children raised under single mothers represented a "disintegration" of traditional families.
"The factors that you're citing are marginal," said Rice, co-founder of The Advancement Project. "The biggest factors are mass incarceration, the impact of technology on the labor force, the lack of jobs, and the absolute focus -- zero focus -- on eliminating poverty."
O'Reilly interrupted, saying, "In any ghetto, in any world, if you get an education, you'll get a job."
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Wednesday, below.