Fox News mainstay Bill O’Reilly generated a torrent of backlash with comments he made after Michelle Obama mentioned at the Democratic National Convention that the White House was built by slaves.
The New York Times reports that O’Reilly said on the air Tuesday that those slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”
“In a 90-second segment near the end of his show, Mr. O’Reilly delved into the history of the White House dating to George Washington’s selecting the site for it in 1791,” The Times reports. “Mr. O’Reilly, a conservative pundit and the author of historical books like ‘Killing Kennedy,’ appeared to be attempting to fact-check a statement the first lady made on Monday at the Democratic National Convention, calling her words ‘a positive comment’ and adding that ‘the history behind her remark is fascinating.’”
O’Reilly then said: “Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working, as well.”
“Twitter users seized on his comments, which were criticized as making light of the slaves’ treatment and regurgitating the antebellum view of the ‘happy’ or ‘content’ slave,” The Times reports.
Among the messages posted on Twitter, Shonda Rhimes wrote: “The idiocy never ceases to amaze me. Try slavery, Bill. Let us know how good the food is while you wear chains.”