Immigration Reform 2013: O'Reilly Factor Segment Mocks Immigrant Cab Drivers
Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor has been known to cause controversy in the past due to O'Reilly's strong right-wing agenda, but this time he's crossed the line from contentious to simply disrespectful. On a segment last night on the show, contributor and producer Jesse Watters, known for his on-the-street interviews called Watters' World, interviewed many cab drivers in New York City, supposedly to get their opinions on immigration reform and learn about them as people. Instead of validly discussing the drivers' views on the topic, though, Watters mocked their accents and difficulties speaking English first in person, then by interspersing the video with clips of famous comedy scenes with funny voices.
O'Reilly opened the video with a vague mission statement, "Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, drive taxi cabs. So we sent Watters out to check out that situation," speaking as though cab drivers were ultimately another species. In many cases, Watters not only ridiculed the drivers' accents in his brief interviews, but went on to make stereotypical comments of their countries of origin and their race. At one absurd point, Watters demanded he see a driver's papers, and the man began to pull out his wallet and driver's license until Watters jokingly added, "I'm kidding around. I believe you."
Watters also mistakenly judged these men and women to be unintelligent and fairly stupid. One driver tells Watters that he has a master's degree back in India in political science and Watters seems shocked to the point of denial. As one tiny documentary has noted, it's not uncommon for immigrants to abandon more successful and professional careers behind in their native countries in favor of a more stable job in America like cab driving. While Watters compares some of these immigrants to characters like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat and Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber, many of these drivers actually have degrees of higher education that Watters couldn't possibly fathom. As the Migration Policy Institute has hypothesized, more than 1.6 million college-educated immigrants in the United States are underemployed or unemployed.
O'Reilly stated after the clip was shown that cab drivers actually "make a pretty good buck," while Watters insisted that they usually make around $13 an hour or around $27,000 a year including tips. O'Reilly ignorantly insisted, though, that from his own experience as a part-time cab driver in Miami, "The more you work in a cab, the more money you make. You don't top out at 27. You can make $50, 60 grand."
Not only is O'Reilly dead wrong, he's not even close. As outlined in an interview for his documentary Taxi Dreams, producer Gianfranco Norelli stated that out of $200 that a taxi driver may make a day, $120 must go to payments for the taxi, which they are renting from the company, and gas, leaving just $80 for a 12-hour work day. This translates to less than $7 an hour, around half of what Watters initially reported.
Watters has been known for controversial moments in the past, given his assertions that the Bush administration never had a "credibility crisis" on Fox & Friends and a similar Watters' World clip that derides foreign-born New Yorkers.
The fact that Fox News can sell this as "journalism" or "reporting" is frankly ridiculous. Not only are all of Watters' and O'Reilly's facts ignorant and incorrect, but the segment at no point teaches the viewer anything relevant about immigration. The video solely serves as a way for the two to treat immigrants as an inferior species: bumbling idiots who can't properly speak English and therefore have been reduced to nothing more than cab drivers.