Friday, February 22, 2008

Bill O'Reilly aims to Lynch Michelle Obama: How Nice

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Call me a crazy black man, but why do I keep hearing commentators on major media outlets discussing the idea of lynching African-Americans? A golf channel analyst used the word to describe suggested treatment of Tiger Woods, and now Bill O’Reilly from Fox News has used it as a way to describe his feelings toward Michelle Obama. In fact, O’Reilly even said that he may have a “lynching party”, bringing back images of people gathered for family picnics to watch a charred black body hang from a tree.

In response to Michelle Obama’s recent comment about being proud of America for the first time, O’Reilly had this to say: "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts that say this is how the woman really feels.”

At least he’s going to make sure Michelle Obama did something wrong before he lynches her, that’s awfully nice of him. O’Reilly’s comment takes you back 100 years to a time in which community Klansmen felt they were being “good people” by waiting to hear the evidence before going to the black man or woman’s home to have them shot, burned, maimed, stabbed or castrated.

Fortunately, Michelle Obama has taken the classy route and is only taking Bill O’Reilly as seriously as the rest of us do. He may as well be called “Irrelevant O’Reilly”, as both he and Sean Hannity gained their popularity in a post-911 world, built on fear, anger and negativity. The “Post-Post-911” period in America appears to be one of bringing people together and moving forward, not allowing the extremists such as Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and O’Reilly to dictate the dialogue. The War on Terror has been as successful as the War on Drugs and we are finding that working together achieves far more than bullying our way through foreign and domestic policy.

I have dealt with Bill O’Reilly up close on many occasions. Three months ago, he had my picture slapped up on his show for 5 days in a row, calling for me to be fired from Syracuse University for insulting him and his Bojangled Caricature of a sidekick, Juan Williams. My refusal to appear on his show earned me an entire episode of anger and nasty attacks by both he and his conservative guests. Perhaps this too qualifies as the type of “lynching party” he plans to give Michelle Obama, I’m not sure. I consider myself lucky, for a “lynching party” 100 years ago would not have consisted of meaningless words, it would have put my black butt in a casket.

I am sure Bill doesn’t truly want to physically lynch Michelle Obama, but there are many ways he could have expressed his frustration. Mrs. Obama could have been challenged on her remarks, criticized for them, and even taken to task on O’Reilly’s show. But the fact that Bill O’Reilly, a man whose racism exceeds both Don Imus and David Duke, would choose the word “lynch” to describe Michelle Obama is not only disturbing, it’s downright revealing. What’s more revealing is the fact that Fox News has not felt the need to punish O’Reilly for his remarks, implying that it is ok to talk about lynching a woman who might be the First Lady of the United States. I am not sure he would have gotten away with offering to send a prominent Jewish woman to “the concentration camp”, no matter what she had to say.

Bill O’Reilly is not only racist, he is unpatriotic. How can you love your country when you want to have a “lynching party” against the wife of a Presidential candidate? While he is quick to jump on the anti-Muslim bandwagon in the War on Terror, O’Reilly is the first to use terroristic words to describe his reaction to the potential First Lady. This should alarm all of us, whether we agree with Michelle Obama or not.

America has many enemies, both foreign and domestic. Overzealous commentators, draped with the American flag, making terroristic threats toward our leaders are first and foremost among them.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit

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