Bill O’Reilly, ever the expert on the black experience, made a bold claim about the topic, pontificating that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not support the Black Lives Matter movement and insisting the current racial tension between black Americans and the police is “cause and effect because black Americans commit far more crimes proportionately than whites or other ethnic groups.”
While this may seem like the incoherent ramblings of a right-wing nutjob with no real grasp on the problems facing the black community, rest assured that O’Reilly emphatically refutes any suggestion—overt or otherwise—that he may be a racist. So, to bolster his claim, we culled five examples (among thousands) where O’Reilly was definitely not racist. Nope, not at all.
1. When he said Donald Trump will have a hard time helping black people get jobs because most of them are “ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads.”
In an interview with the presumptive Republican nominee in April, O’Reilly pressed Trump on why he performs poorly among minority voters. Now that may seem like an obvious answer: Trump’s rampant racism has become a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. But it was O’Reilly’s bigotry that was on full display, when he wondered how Trump’s promise to get black people jobs would work, exactly.
“But how are you going to get jobs for them?" O'Reilly asked. "Many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads, and I hate to be generalized about it, but it's true. If you look at all the educational statistics, how are you going to get jobs for people who aren't qualified for jobs?”
In O’Reilly’s totally-not-racist world, the vast majority of black people are dumb and tatted and really not primed for the corporate world. Yep, no racism here. O’Reilly eventually addressed his comments after receiving scores of criticism from people with a clear understanding of what racism is. Unfortunately, he used the opportunity to cement his status as a racist nitwit:
“Now, the race hustlers who apparently have not walked the streets of poor neighborhoods lately, immediately accused me of racism. And that is why the acute problem of cultural deprivation among underclassed children of all colors is never addressed. The smear merchants hammer anyone who does so. It's beyond disgraceful that powerful people look away from the real problem.”
Right, "the real problem.” Which, in O’Reilly’s world, isn’t institutionalized racism, but the fact that black people are “ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads.” Okay then.
2. When he suggested “Black Lives Matter is killing Americans.”
This Talking Points Memo took the form of an anti-BLM tirade. Citing the largely debunked Ferguson effect (wherein right-wingers hypothesize that since protests against police erupted over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, cops are less inclined to do their jobs and the crime rate, as a result, has skyrocketed), O’Reilly came to this inane conclusion:
“There is a violent subculture in the African-American community that should be exposed and confronted. Enter the Black Lives Matter crew which roams around the country promoting a false narrative that police officers are actively hunting down and killing blacks. Here's the truth. Police shot whites at a rate of 50 percent in 2015. Police shot blacks at a rate of 26 percent.”
The Ferguson effect has been challenged by leading academics since it was first proposed in 2015. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice tried to understand what is behind the rise of crime in some communities; it found no correlation between the "Ferguson effect" and rising crime, but instead noted that the “only shared circumstance that researchers said they could find was evidence of ‘profound economic decline’: lower incomes, high poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment.”
If you ask O’Reilly, the profound economic decline has to do with bad education and tattooed faces, not systemic oppression that overwhelmingly targets poor black communities. Got it.
3. When he blamed Freddie Gray’s death on his “lifestyle.”
“I think all Americans, no matter when a citizen dies like Freddie Gray did, it's never the citizen's fault in the sense that Freddie Gray didn't get up in the morning and say I'm going to do something and I'm going to die,” O’Reilly said in May. “But Freddie Gray's lifestyle for many years, led him to this terrible thing which is not only impacted him and his family but all the police officers and that lifestyle should be condemned. I mean, this narcotics trafficking is awful. It is devastating.”
It’s unclear what O’Reilly considers the role of the six Baltimore police officers who used unnecessary force against Gray during his arrest played in his death. Or if Gray’s “lifestyle” was to blame for 25-year-old’s spinal cord injury suffered in police custody. It’s also unclear why O’Reilly finds it acceptable to adjudicate Gray’s alleged narcotics trafficking extrajudciously. But hey, what Gray did was “awful,” right? And to O’Reilly, he had it coming.
4. When he told Martin Luther King III that the African-American community should wear ‘Don’t Get Pregnant at 14’ T-shirts.
Ah, yes. O’Reilly’s “pathway to success” for black people, which he so eloquently shared with the oldest living son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Don't abandon your children,” O’Reilly said. “Don't get pregnant at 14. Don't allow your neighborhoods to deteriorate into free-fire zones. That's what the African-American community should have on their T-shirts.”
Thanks, O’Reilly. I’m sure the descendant of the most prolific voice of the civil rights era really needs your input on what black people should wear on their T-shirts. Because only African-American women get pregnant at 14.
5. When he used the “I’m not racist, I know black people” line.
Calling his world “a fairly expansive one,” O’Reilly deployed the oldest “I swear I’m not racist” line in the book:
“I don't know any racists. I don't know anybody, on either black or white people, who don't like, like our staff here is integrated, and my assistant is black, she's been with me for 25 years. I just never see this.”
Just…yeah. O'Reilly: definitely not racist. Unless, of course, you know what racism is.