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Civil rights organizations and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) have publicly criticized Fox News for a recent segment filmed in New York City's Chinatown that they say perpetuates "racist and offensive stereotypes of Chinese Americans."
In the "Watters' World" segment on "The O'Reilly Factor," posted online on Monday, correspondent Jesse Watters went to Chinatown to ask people their thoughts on the 2016 election and China-U.S. relations. Among the questions Watters asked people were, "Do you know karate?" and "Can you guys take care of North Korea for us?" Watters also approached elderly individuals who gave limited or no responses to his questions.
After the segment, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly and Watters discussed the interviews, and O'Reilly noted that the majority of the interviewees seemed "patient," to which Watters said, "They're such a polite people, they won't walk away and tell me to get out of here, so they just sit there and say nothing."
"They want you to walk away because they don't have anything else to do," O'Reilly said. He also acknowledged that "we're going to get letters" but insisted the segment was "gentle fun."
"It was all in good fun," Watters responded.
In a statement released Wednesday by four organizations of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation, the groups expressed their outrage, writing, "It is unconscionable that a news organization would sanction a segment that laughs at a community of people, including Watters ridiculing elderly Chinese Americans who were limited English proficient. Although The O’Reilly Factor may believe this was “all in good fun,” the segment does nothing more than play up every offensive stereotype of Asian Americans that the community has fought against for decades. What they should have done is to talk about the important role that Asian Americans can play in this upcoming election."
Christopher Kang, National Director for the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), issued a statement Wednesday condemning the segment for its "shocking level of callousness and lack of decency."
"It is not ‘all in good fun’ to perpetuate racist stereotypes about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and it certainly is not ‘gentle fun’ to target or mock people who are not fluent in English. No person should be used as a prop in such a heartless manner," Kang said.
AAJA also released a statement Wednesday demanding an apology from Fox News. "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. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner," wrote AAJA President Paul Cheung.
When reached for comment, a representative from Fox News referenced two tweets sent by Watters Wednesday evening: "My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense," Watters tweeted, adding in a second message: "As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are."
This article has been updated to include Watters' response.