On 26 April 2017, Fox News host Jesse Watters announced he was taking a vacation with his family. Normally, this wouldn’t be remarkable; this time, however, its timing prompted speculation that it was because of a comment he made a day earlier about Ivanka Trump, which many interpreted as lewd.
Watters, who is often considered a protégé of fired Fox personality Bill O’Reilly, was hosting “The Five” at 9 p.m. on 25 April 2017 when the topic turned to Ivanka Trump being booed by an audience in Berlin, Germany, who didn’t approve of her comments about President Trump’s respect for women. With a grin and a hand gesture, Watters said:
It’s funny, the left says they really respect women, and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss. So I don’t really get what’s going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.
Watters later explained the comment was absolutely not a sexual innuendo:
During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. This was in no way a joke about anything else.
We reached out to Fox News, but a network spokesperson directed us to comments made by Watters on-air the following day, when he said:
I’m going to be taking a vacation with my family so I’m not going to be here tomorrow and Friday, but I’ll be back on Monday, so try not to miss me too much.
His absence means he will miss two nights hosting “The Five” and his weekend program “Watters World.”
Although his vacation may have been chance timing, the comment drew criticism from other high-profile media personalities. Conservative columnist John Podhoretz called Watters a “disgusting pig as well as being a racist moron” while MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski called on Fox to “clean it up.”
— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) April 26, 2017
The New York Times noted Watters’s comment and absence came close, time-wise, to scandals at Fox News over sexual harassment, reporting:
Mr. O’Reilly, one of Fox’s biggest stars, was forced out last week after the revelation that the network and Mr. O’Reilly had spent $13 million on settlements with five women who accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.
Its former chairman, Roger Ailes, was ousted last year two weeks after several women, including Gretchen Carlson, a former anchor, accused him of sexual harassment.
This month, two more women accused Mr. Ailes of harassment: Julie Roginsky, a current contributor, asserted that she faced retaliation for rebuffing Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances, and Alisyn Camerota, a former anchor, accused him of saying “grossly inappropriate” things to her when she asked for new opportunities at work.
Watters previously garnered negative headlines for a October 2016 segment, in which he went to New York City’s Chinatown, employed a number of racial stereotypes and mocked elderly residents who didn’t speak English. He responded to that controversy by referring to himself as a political humorist and saying it was meant to be a “light piece.”
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