Bill O'Reilly's Remark About Maxine Waters' Hair Isn't Just About Racism

March 28th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently questioned the patriotism of President Donald Trump's supporters, and while on "Fox and Friends" Tuesday Bill O'Reilly shot back by making a controversial comment about Waters' hair.

While people on Twitter where quick to debate if the comment was somehow racist, there's another layer to O'Reilly's remark that many may have missed.

On Tuesday, "Fox and Friends" played a clip of Waters speaking about Trump and his supporters where she said black Americans fighting against the Trump administration were being patriotic. "We’re saying to those who say they’re patriotic but they’ve turned a blind eye to the destruction that he’s about to cause this country, ‘You’re not nearly as patriotic as we are,'” she said.

After the clip, "The O'Reilly Factor" host said that he "didn't hear a word" she said. "I was looking at the James Brown wig," he said. "If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig."

Co-host Brian Kilmeade joined in on the joke commenting that "it's the same one" since Brown isn't using it anymore after they "finally buried him."

"You can't go after a woman's looks," co-host Ainsley Earhardt said as she partially broke up the joke by the men.

"I have to defend her on that," Earhardt said.

"You can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive."

People on Twitter were outraged that O'Reilly would use Waters' hair as a rebuttal to serious political discourse, some even calling his comment racist.

However, other Twitter users pointed out that critics of Trump often poke fun at his hair.

But men's looks aren't generally used to discredit their ability to lead or do their job.

Women often experience more scrutiny on their looks and appearance, and in the U.S. there are less women serving in powerful political positions than men. Currently, there are 104 women serving in Congress, which is less than 20 percent of the whole body, and it doesn't get much better on the state level. There are 1,842 women serving in state legislatures across the country which is just under 25 percent of state lawmakers, according to Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.

Unlike her male opponents, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was repeatedly told to "smile" more during her presidential campaign, and the tone of her voice was often critiqued. In her previous position, as secretary of state in former President Barack Obama's administration, Clinton made news in 2012 because she didn't wear makeup on a trip to Bangladesh. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who produced a documentary about gender discrimination called "Miss Representation" told Today in 2012 that women are held to a double standard that focuses on looks:

“We have an obsession with women’s looks. Unfortunately our culture has bought into this whole double standard that a women’s value is her beauty not her capacity to lead.”


O'Reilly later apologized in a statement Tuesday: “As I have said many time, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.” He is also expected to address the controversy on his show tonight.

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