Panel tackles controversial Fox News skit on Chinatown

Updated: 2016-10-10 09:08


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A panel discussing a recent Fox News segment filmed in Chinatown, which sparked outrage for its use of Asian stereotypes, debated ways to counter such content in the future.

The Oct 3 "Watters' World" segment that aired during "The O'Reilly Factor" was, according to host Bill O'Reilly, "to sample political opinion" about next month's presidential election.

About 60 people, including public officials and journalists, gathered at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in Chinatown on Sunday to discuss the episode that has many calling for an apology from the network. The event was co-sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).

Journalist Ti-Hua Chang said much of the "Watters' World" program, which features Jesse Watters interviewing people on the street about various topics, resorts to "dehumanizing humor".

In the four-minute episode, Watters asks various Chinese people if he should bow when greeting them; if they know karate (a Japanese martial art); he then is shown trying a kick at a tae kwon do (Korean martial art) studio. Watters is also shown awkwardly swinging nunchaku, a martial arts weapon, in a Chinatown novelty store.

He asks another man if it is the Year of the Dragon and asks other interviewees to "take care of North Korea for us".

O'Reilly, speaking about the show to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, said he "would have edited it a little bit differently th it was edited".

"But, no, it wasn't over the line," O'Reilly said. "We ran that piece on Monday of last week. Five million people, plus, saw it live-time. You know how many negative letters we got? Less than 10."

Watters went on Twitter on Oct 5 to issue what some on social media criticized as an insincere apology.

"As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are," he wrote. "My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense."

June Jee, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans-New York, said that the Chinese-American community was "attacked by stereotypes".

"We want an apology. We want, definitely, a meeting with the executives. ... We want to sit down to see how we can come up with, whether a program that involves cultural diversity or something that would engage the community in that process."

Jee also suggested minority groups work together to see "how can we take something so bad and turn it into something positive".

Warning that "we're living in an era where hatred is trying to become normalized", Walter T. Mosley, a New York state assemblyman, appealed to minorities to work together. Motioning to New York state Assemblyman Ron Kim, Mosley said that "his plight is linked to my plight".

According to Jenn Fang, founder of the politics website Reappropriate, "it [the segment] invokes so many stereotypes against Chinese Americans and Asian Americans ... it was completely unilluminating as a journalistic piece".

"We really need to talk a little bit about all of the missed opportunities that occurred by Fox News choosing five minutes of prime time airtime to air this segment, rather than a segment that talked actually about the Asian-American electorate," Fang said.

AAJA President Paul Cheung invited Fox representatives as well as Watters to attend what was billed by MOCA as a town hall meeting.

No one from the network attended, and there was an empty chair on the panel labeled "FOX NEWS".