A Black Lives Matter group called for O’Reilly’s resignation:
Other tweets suggested phone calls to Fox HQ (with a phone number) to encourage his dismissal. By mid afternoon, O’Reilly was offering a statement by way of apology:
As I have said many times, 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.
At the same time that O’Reilly was feverishly attempting unwind these peculiar and offensive comments about a prominent black woman, several hundred miles south in Washington D.C., White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was at the podium, scolding April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks—a black, female journalist who’d drawn Spicer’s ire by pressing him on the Trump administration’s alleged collusion with Russia.
“At some point,” said Spicer, “report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion—Republican, Democrat—so I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head, I appreciate it.”
Though Spicer was spouting demonstrable falsehoods (enough people who have been briefed on the subject of Trump and Russia are concerned about it that there are three separate investigations) it was Ryan he sought to put on the defensive.
“At some point, April,” he lectured the recalcitrant reporter, “you’re going to have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”
It was the type of scolding one might expect for an errant teenager, or a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist. Ryan pushed back.
“April, hold on,” said Spicer. “It seems like you’re hell bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House, stays.”
Ryan again protested, as Spicer talked over her:
“You’re asking me a question and I’m gonna answer it, which is—” Spicer stopped. “I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.”
Even for Spicer, a notoriously combative press secretary, this dressing-down seemed unusually inappropriate.
Olivia Nuzzi, the Washington correspondent for New York, tweeted:
Maggie Haberman of the New York Times offered:
And then, a few hours later:
The confluence of these two attempts to humiliate prominent women of color did not go unnoticed even by those well outside of the spin room. Speaking in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon, Hillary Clinton weighed in:
Just look at all that’s happened in the last few days to women who were simply doing their jobs: April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question. One of your own California congresswomen, Maxine Waters, was taunted with a racist joke about her hair. Now too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride. But why should we have to? And any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.
I asked MSNBC’s Joy Reid—one of the few black, female television hosts on the air—about these parallel incidents. Reid was incensed, but not, it seemed, particularly surprised: “What both of them said, and this is something that women of color have been dealing with for a long time, is this idea that, ‘We don’t even have to listen to you. What you’re saying doesn’t even matter.’ Maxine Waters was making quite serious commentary. She is an elected official, but [O’Reilly] doesn’t respect her enough to even comment?”