by Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly had some harsh words for Congressional Black Caucus members this week in response to CBC members’ recent attack on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
In his March 24 “The O’Reilly Factor” broadcast, O’Reilly supported Ryan’s latest apparent put-down of Blacks and came out firing against Ryan detractors, calling Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) a “notorious race hustler.”
“There is a cultural problem…. And that problem holds certain Americans back from competing in the marketplace.
“But as you may know, if you say that, you become a target. You are called a racist, as I have been many, many times,” O’Reilly said.
George Will, author and Fox News contributor who was a guest on O’Reilly’s show, added, “It’s a reflex on their part to call people racist, just as it was for Joe McCarthy to call people communist in 1954. People stopped listening to him. People stopped listening to these people.”
Ryan has been vilified for statements he made about poverty and the culture of inner cities in an interview on Bill Bennett’s “Morning In America” radio show on March 12.
“We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work. And so, there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said, according to a recording of the show.
CBC members immediately fired back, saying Ryan’s comments were uninformed and repugnant.
Lee characterized Ryan’s comments as “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated.
“His assertions about the racial dynamics of poverty are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive,” she added in the statement.
The next day, Ryan denied any racial insinuation, saying only that his wording was “inarticulate.”
“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” he said in a statement. “I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities [and] the predictable result has been multi-generational poverty and little opportunity.”
Still, CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), another CBC member, sent Ryan a letter assailing him about his assessments.
“The problem many people in poverty face is not isolation, but rather the lack of resources to help ensure all people have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, such as adequate transportation, infrastructure, job training programs and other resources to search for jobs and become gainfully employed,” the letter read.
“A serious policy conversation on poverty should not begin with assumptions or stereotypes. Poverty in our nation is a critical problem that must be approached with diligence and the utmost respect for those who are trapped by poverty’s grasp,” the Black lawmakers said.