Bill Maher: Bill O’Reilly, Republicans, Don’t Hear What Obama Says

On Friday’s Real Time on HBO, host Bill Maher compared President Obama’s statement on African-American men and crime with Bill O’Reilly’s statement about statistical evidence on blacks and homicide. One Friday earlier, President Obama said, “Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system.” Obama said this during his much talked about and unscripted remarks on Trayvon Martin, the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict, and race relations in America.

This past week, Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly, while on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, said, “The fact is that black Americans commit homicides at ten times greater in the United States than whites and Hispanics combined. Until you address those kinds of statistics — you’re always going to have fear, and you’ll always have mistrust, and that’s the lesson.”

Bill Maher’s response is that “they’re saying the same thing,” and he’s right. The difference of course, is that Obama said it with compassion and understanding while O’Reilly is just a dick. Address the statistics? That’s the lesson? The statistics aren’t the problem, they are the result of a problem. And the only lesson I see, is that we can count on people like O’Reilly to find that “statistics” necessarily to bail out of any responsibility. Because, according to O’Reilly, until black men no longer commit homicides at higher rates, white America is absolved of it’s prejudice out of fear.

And to make it clear that I’m not out to get Bill O’Reilly any chance I get, he did say, “I don’t want white people to be suspicious of young black men,” just before his statement on “statistics.” And I’ll take him at his word on that. Maybe that is how he truly feels. But O’Reilly seems wholly unmoved by the conditions, historical and contemporary. that produce the statistics that he cited, which I’m also taking his word on, because I have not independently verified it. O’Reilly is citing those statistics, not because he cares about addressing the underlying problem of poverty and lack of economic opportunity, but instead as cover. Those statistics give people cover. If you fear a black man on the street, those statistics are used as a defense for that fear. And maybe those statistics might even be used as defense for taking an action, an action that leads to the death of an innocent black child. After all, the black man (kid) made you fear for your life.

Getting back to Bill Maher’s point, Republicans and conservatives simply hear what they want to hear. “They’re saying the same thing,” said Maher. “As if they don’t hear what Obama says because they know what he’s thinking. They know he’s thinking ‘kill whitey.'” Obama and O’Reilly were essentially making the same point, although for different purposes, and so I guess we can excuse O’Reilly for not realizing that.

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