Bill O’Reilly Laughs Through On-Air Apology as Maxine Waters Fires Back

The Fox News host got his tepid apology out of the way before continuing to go after the Democratic congresswoman Tuesday night — but Waters fired back on MSNBC.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Bill O’Reilly’s initial apology seemed sincere enough.

“As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs,” the Fox News host said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon after making fun of her “James Brown wig” earlier in the day. “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.”

But then came this tease for tonight’s The O’Reilly Factor on Twitter:

As promised, O’Reilly addressed his “dumb” joke during his 8 p.m. broadcast Tuesday night.

“For years, Maxine Waters, Democrat from California, has been an outspoken left-wing voice highlighting the oppression she believes black Americans experience,” O’Reilly said in his opening “Talking Points Memo” segment, adding that he believes she is “totally sincere in her belief system and although many Americans disagree with her extremism at times, she deserves a hearing and should not be marginalized by political opponents.”

“In fact, I made that mistake this morning on Fox & Friends,” the host continued. “I said in a simple jest that the congressman's hair distracted me. Well, that was stupid and I apologize, it had no place in the conversation,” O’Reilly added, laughing. O’Reilly notably did not repeat his line about what he called her “James Brown wig,” nor did he replay the video.

“It’s not necessary to poke fun at anybody who’s speaking from the heart in the public arena, in my opinion, but it is necessary to analyze what’s being said,” he added, something he was apparently incapable of doing earlier in the day on Fox.

From there, O’Reilly proceeded to address Waters’ argument about what makes a person “patriotic.” He said, “It would be instructive for Ms. Waters to come on The Factor to define her beef, what’s bothering her about President Trump? Of course, she will not do that. Way too risky. She would be challenged by me and she does not want to be challenged.”

“What exactly is Maxine Waters talking about when she says Donald Trump is dangerous for America? I have no idea and I don’t think Ms. Waters has any idea either,” O’Reilly said dismissively. “She’s just spouting the left-wing company line and anyone who disagrees with her — well, she doesn't brook disagreement. That’s not patriotism, madam, that’s demagoguery.”

He ended by saying that “questioning the patriotism of others and bashing a new president isn’t patriotic, it’s useless.”

It’s almost as if O’Reilly wanted us to forget that he and his Fox News colleagues spent their morning laughing at the congresswoman’s appearance.

As O’Reilly was delivering his monologue, Waters was speaking for herself on MSNBC. “I’m a strong, black woman,” she told host Chris Hayes. “I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody.”

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To women watching, she said, “Don’t allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people, to intimidate or scare you. Be who you are and do what you do.” She also called out O’Reilly, along with his former boss Roger Ailes, for settling sexual harassment lawsuits.

“When a woman stands up and speaks truth to power, there will be attempts to put her down,” Waters added. “And so I’m not going to be put down. I’m not going to go anywhere. I’m going to stay on the issues.”