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Black radio host slams O'Reilly 's Harlem dinner comments
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Published: Tuesday September 25, 2007

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CNN contributor and radio show host Roland Martin slammed recent comments from Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who said he was surprised that a recent dinner at Sylvia's, a famous Harlem restaurant owned and patronized by blacks, was not dramatically different than eating anywhere else.

"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City," O'Reilly said on his syndicated Radio Factor program broadcast Sept. 19. "I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship, it was the same."

"I don't go to a Mexican restaurant and somehow think there's a van in the back stuffed with 20 folks who just crossed the border," Martin told CNN's American Morning. "I don't operate on stereotypes."

"I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves," O'Reilly had said on the radio last week. "They're getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out."

"My problem," Martin fired back on CNN, "is this notion that somehow African Americans are starting to think for themselves. As if we haven't been thinking beforehand. I mean, last I checked I didn't hand over my brain to Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson. It's nuts."

O'Reilly's company for the dinner in question had been none other than Rev. Al Shartpon, a "very, very interesting guy," according to the host, who said he "treated" Sharpton to dinner because he had made himself available to Fox's O'Reilly Factor.

Later in the show, during a discussion with NPR's Juan Williams about the differences between white and black Americans, O'Reilly complimented blacks on their attire during a recent Radio City Music Hall performance by Anita Baker.

"The crowd was fifty-fifty, black-white," he said, adding that "the blacks were well dressed."

Going on to praise blacks in the band for their tuxedos, O'Reilly said that the event was "what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans," who may be basing their perceptions on rap stars.

"There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea," he noted.

"I still don't buy it. I just don't buy it," Martin said in response to question asking if O'Reilly's comments had been taken out of context from his discussion public perception of race. "Because even if you may have a view of African Americans based upon a particular rap artist or a song, you need to live in a different world as opposed to thinking somehow 'that's just it."

"Maybe Bill ought to talk to some more African Americans to get a better view than his hang-up with Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson," Martin continued, adding that people should "get out of their own little worlds and realize there are other people out here, and it's not all based on just a couple African American who are very prominent..."

"So wake up, Bill O'Reilly,"said Martin."And wake up anybody else who thinks like that."

The following video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast on September 25.