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Bill O'Reilly Claims Irish Suffered as Much Under British Rule as Africans Suffered Under Colonialism and Slavery

July 31, 2001

Bill O'Reilly, host of the top-rated Fox News talk show "The O'Reilly Factor," has not been averse to making statements of dubious accuracy.  There is, for example, his assertion that he comes from a "working class" background, a claim which has been debunked here and elsewhere.

Yesterday, O'Reilly was interviewing Malik Shabazz, National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party.  (O'Reilly should be given credit for having Mr. Shabazz on his program and not limiting his guest list to the slightly-left-of-center to far-right spectrum of other news outlets.) Here is an exchange between O'Reilly and Shabazz:

O'REILLY: All right. Now, you're the history guy, OK?

SHABAZZ: That's correct.

O'REILLY: And this is a little bit off the track. But -- or I was looking at the countries that are ranked by the U.N., and the last 26 countries are black African countries in the lowest form of all services.

The whites are out of there, they're gone. These are black-controlled countries now. But these countries in decades have not been able to improve themselves.

SHABAZZ: But the stench and the legacy of racism and colonialism still reigns in Africa and in the ghettos...

O'REILLY: All right, let me ask you something...

SHABAZZ: ... of America today.

O'REILLY: ... like that. My people come from Ireland, which was colonized by the British and brutally, brutally controlled by them.

They've been able to throw that off in 200 years, the blacks haven't. How come?

SHABAZZ: You have not suffered as Irish under the British nowhere near the Africans...

O'REILLY: Oh, you're going to get a debate on that, man. You...

SHABAZZ: ... have suffered under the British or under the Americans.

O'REILLY: Listen, that famine killed millions of people... argument on that.

SHABAZZ: ... suffering cannot compare to the black holocaust, no way, no how, Mr. O'Reilly.

O'REILLY: All right, OK...


O'REILLY: ... as always, we appreciate your point of view, and we'll have you back on, and it's nice to see you.

[The video makes clear that O'Reilly's "All right, OK..." was not agreement, but a "Let's wrap it up"-type prelude to his "we'll have you back on" immediately following].

So O'Reilly is claiming that the Irish under British rule suffered as much as the Africans under colonialism.  While it's not perfectly clear from the rapid-fire nature of the exchange, O'Reilly also seems to be claiming that the Irish experience under the British was as bad as what Africans endured in hundreds of years of slavery in the United States.

Either way, what O'Reilly is saying is absurd.  I was going to start pointing out how, but why bother?  The most rudimentary knowledge of history reveals the unsupportable nature of O'Reilly's assertion. 

Arguments about which oppressed people suffered more are not useful. I'm writing about this only because O'Reilly was making the comparison of the Irish and African experiences in order to make an invidious point.

I don't know whether O'Reilly is really this stupid, or just trying to be provocative. 

O'Reilly has a segment on his show called "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day."  Yesterday he so outdid himself in making a patently false statement that he should have put himself in that segment.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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