The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, says ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly acted as a “spokesman” for “white nationalism” during his more than 20 years on the cable outlet.
During a discussion with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Sharpton, who also has a weekly program on the liberal news outlet, talked about his past experiences with O’Reilly and President Donald Trump.
Hayes reminded Sharpton of a moment in 2013 when O’Reilly referred to him as a “race hustler.”
“Talking Points believes the day of the race hustlers is coming to an end,” the former Fox host said at the time. “This ‘we’ and ‘them’ business gets the country nowhere. Fair-minded Americans well understand there are severe problems in the black community that have to be solved.”
Hayes then asked Sharpton if he believed O’Reilly was a “race hustler.”
The reverend said he didn’t want to get into name-calling but asserted that the former broadcaster “certainly promoted a very clear and in-no-way-nuanced white nationalism, and saying he said the white establishment, like he was a spokesman for it.”
Sharpton was referring to election night 2012, when O’Reilly claimed that “white establishment is now the minority.”
“And whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney,” O’Reilly explained at the time. “The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.”
Sharpton said that comment was “in its own essence race-based and he, I think, really felt that way in all that he expressed.”
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) April 20, 2017
After that remark from Sharpton, Hayes said there is “such a similarity” between O’Reilly and Trump.
“There’s a kind of continuity there of the cauldron of that kind of era of racial strife in [New York City] that I think defines the worldview of both those men,” Hayes said.
Sharpton agreed with Hayes. “We get called the ‘hustlers,’ we get called the names, we get called all kinds of non-complimentary terms for fighting against people who say that they are trying to preserve something based on their race and based on their privilege,” Sharpton said.
“When you have an institution that seems to create an environment where that’s allowed based on race or gender — soon, that institution has to be corrected,” he said.
Sharpton’s comments came just hours after 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, announced it was cutting ties with O’Reilly, who was facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
“After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Mr. O’Reilly will not return to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox’s statement read.
In addition to the accusations against O’Reilly, a mounting number of advertisers were pulling their commercials from “The O’Reilly Factor” time slot, a campaign apparently led by the progressive media watchdog group Media Matters, forcing the network to address the issue sooner rather than later.
O’Reilly joined Fox in 1996 and, according to Adweek, his program was the No. 1 cable news show on television in 2016.