Last February, on a Tuesday-evening television broadcast, the conservative political commentator Jesse Watters opined on several topics that reliably hold his attention and that of the other four panelists on the Fox News roundtable talk show The Five. He challenged a co-host who was questioning the usefulness of a border wall, called Brett Kavanaugh’s alibis when faced with sexual-assault allegations “airtight,” and belittled Democratic presidential hopefuls.
As the episode aired, Watters’s phone lit up with a series of text messages from an apparently incensed viewer: “I’m offended by a great many of your comments!” read one. “STOP YELLING AT JUAN,” read another, referring to Juan Williams, who is on the left side of the show’s political spectrum.
The sender was Watters’s mother, and it turned out that she had more feedback. After Watters referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” (something Donald Trump has often done), his mom admonished, “Do not name call and parrot Trump’s insults. That is beneath you.” The barrage of criticism ultimately took a loving turn, though: “One positive! Your tie knot looks better and you are buttoning your top button!”
Anne Bailey Watters’s motherly blend of reprimand and encouragement has inspired a sporadically recurring segment on The Five called “Mom Texts,” in which Jesse gleefully reads aloud (mostly critical) text messages from his very liberal mom. The segment, which first appeared two years ago, is hardly a model of measured political discourse, but it has provided a glimpse into how one man and his mother have navigated the ideological rift that has opened up in so many American families during the Trump era.