Fox News host Bill O’Reilly clashed with radio host Tavis Smiley on the air Wednesday over the controversial police officer-involved killing of Eric Garner in New York City. While both men agreed the killing is concerning, they took opposing positions regarding claims that police officers are killing black men at an alarming rate.
A grand jury declined to indict the police officer who was caught on video putting Garner in an ultimately fatal chokehold.
“I think this would’ve happened to a white guy doing the same thing,” O’Reilly said. “I don’t think it had to do with skin color. I think it had to do with poor judgments made by the group of police officers.”
Smiley rejected O’Reilly’s comments as “speculation” and then listed off several black victims who have been killed, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Sean Bell.
“There is no respect for the humanity and the dignity for black life in this country,” he added.
O’Reilly then pulled out two statistics that seemingly hurt Smiley’s allegations that police officers are indiscriminately targeting black people.
“Do you know how many blacks were killed by police by gunfire last year?” O’Reilly asked.
“Off the top of my head, I don’t,” Smiley replied.
“The number is 123,” O’Reilly said. “Do you know how many whites were killed? 326.”
“There are 43 million-plus black Americans — 123 were killed by police gunfire,” he continued. “There isn’t an epidemic of this. … But when it happens it’s extremely troubling.”
When a stunned Smiley asked O’Reilly if he really doesn’t see a “pattern” on the issue, the Fox News host replied, “I don’t because the statistics don’t say there’s a pattern.”
“Again, 123 deaths out of 43 million-plus is minuscule — every death is a tragedy, I’m with you,” he added. “Three times as many whites are shot by police than blacks. I don’t think it’s hunting down blacks.”
Smiley correctly noted that there are more white than black people in the United States and reiterated that it is “open season, hunting season” on blacks.
Watch the full segment via Fox News below (relevant portion starts at around 6:45):