The untold truth of Jesse Watters

Described by The Daily Beast as "Fox's racist, sexist frat boy," political commentator Jesse Watters has made a name for himself at the conservative network with his man-on-the-street segments called "Watters' World." The segment was a fixture on the now-defunct The O'Reilly Factor, where Watters was also a longtime producer, and was often a lighting rod of criticism over what he calls his "political humor." Regardless, in the wake of O'Reilly's departure, Watters was elevated to a permanent position on The Five, the panel show Fox moved into the time slot previously occupied by Bill O'Reilly.

But Watters already suffered a major gaffe at the new gig with his comment regarding Ivanka Trump's use of a microphone, which many have suggested was an overt sexual reference. In his defense, Watters tweeted a claim that he was commenting on the quality of the first daughter's voice, and that it was "in no way a joke about anything else." But then he also took an abrupt vacation, just as his mentor O'Reilly did amidst his own scandal. Watters will probably survive the speed bump, as he's done many times in the past since he's made a name for himself as a controversial figure. So, here is a look at Fox's rising star, Jesse Watters, and the untold truth about him.

He's cagey about his own political beliefs

Watters grew up in Philadelphia in a liberal household. He refers to himself as "the Alex P. Keaton" of his family, and also says that his parents were Vietnam war protestors and are still liberal Democrats, according to an interview with HNGN. Of his own beliefs, Watters will only go so far as to declare himself "realistic," declining to define himself as either a republican or even a conservative. "I'm more patriotic than I am political," he said. But in 2002, when he was right out of college, Watters worked on republican Judge Dora Irizarry's campaign for New York Attorney General before taking a job at Fox News in 2003, according to The New York Times.

As for how Watters ended up going from a liberal Philly household to becoming Bill O'Reilly's number one henchman, the answer is money. "I was a history major in college and wanted to make a lot of money on Wall Street. Then I realized you had to do math in order to handle a lot of people's money so that didn't work out. I got a job with Fox because I like politics, but I never had dreams of being on air," Watters told Adweek.

Watters sparked further confusion with a $500 donation to Obama Victory Fund 2012, Obama's re-election campaign PAC, although the blog Addicting Info pointed out that Watters donation fell "on the same day as the deadline for the final 'Dinner With Barack' contest of the campaign," which if he happened to win, would have given him the otherwise unlikely opportunity for a personal encounter with the president. Our conclusion? Watters is a solely card-carrying member of the "Whatever Keeps Jesse Watters Famous" party.

Bill O'Reilly literally created Watters' ambush persona

One of the hallmarks of Watters' controversial career is his willingness to ambush interview subjects, often at their homes or workplaces, and throw them off guard by shouting rapid-fire accusations and questions at them. This style of hijack journalism isn't unique to Watters, but he's become one of its most notable practitioners, and all under the tutelage of his mentor, Bill O'Reilly.

In an interview with CBS Philly, the wannabe muckraker recalls his first field assignment for The O'Reilly Factor. After identifying an Alabama judge who gave a "soft sentence" to a sex offender, Watters is dispatched to go after him. So, he finds the judge, arranges an interview, and calls his boss for further instruction. "Bill says, 'Jesse, when he comes out, yell at him.' I'm such a nice young man. So, the judge comes out and we're rolling it and he comes out in his robe and he starts giving his explanation for the soft sentence and I start just hammering him. 'Judge, don't you believe in justice? What would you like to say to the victim's family?' He gets frazzled and he runs back inside. It's good TV," Watters says. Never mind that he'd actually accosted the wrong person first, who happened to be a state trooper, because a star was born!

A decade after his Alabama origin story, Watters told Business Insider that he was still happy to toil under O'Reilly's micromanagement. "Usually he'll say, like, 'This is kind of how I want you to approach it,' and then he'll give me one line, and then I have to fill in the rest. Bill is very understanding of the backdrop of the segment. I think because he was a field guy for so many years, he's very interested in aesthetics behind the 'Watters' World,' where it's being shot, why it's being shot there," he said. "I think he's either living vicariously through me, or he's reliving things he did back in the day," Watters also said.

His controversial Chinatown segment

By 2016, Watters was a mainstay of both The O'Reilly Factor as well as extended stand-alone editions of his "Watters' World" segments. But outside of Fox News viewership, he was a relative unknown. That all changed when he took "Watters' World" to New York's Chinatown, and put together a segment so full of offensive Asian stereotypes even Ken Jeong was probably like, "Wow, that's crazy." Watters runs the gamut of racial insensitivity, asking unsuspecting Asian passersby things like "Am I supposed to bow?" and "Do you know karate?" He plays with nunchucks, goofs around with a statue of Buddha, and gets a foot massage, all set to Carl Douglas' disco abomination, "Kung Fu Fighting," because of course. Then he and O'Reilly yuck it up back in the studio, with O'Reilly even musing, "I know we're going to get letters, it's inevitable."

But the backlash for this segment was more severe than for anything else Watters had previously done, with even right wing outlets slamming him as "a jerk who conflates being mean with humor." Watters' apology for the segment came via Twitter, and in the form of the "sorry you got offended" variety. "As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are," he tweeted, followed by, "My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense." But the flipside of his supposed light-hearted humor is the litany of questionable, non-humorous statements he's made in his developing career as a conservative commentator.

His long history of making controversial statements

The left-wing blog Media Matters has been keeping tabs on Bill O'Reilly for years, so by extension, they've also logged a healthy list of Watters' antics in the service of his outspoken overlord. Their coverage has included O'Reilly and Watters' callous views of the homeless, immigrants, and the LGBT community, which Watters generalizes as being "into pageantry," and who "like to show off their wares," whatever that means.

On another Fox show, Outnumbered, Watters shared his thoughts on single women, who he's hilariously nicknamed "Beyonce voters," by saying they tend to vote for democrats, because "they depend on government, because they're not depending on their husbands."

And this barely scratches the surface of the trove of offensive remarks Watters has made over the years. Fortunately, Media Matters has also compiled a video titled, Jesse Watters: The Worst of the Worst, in which they capture the Fox's funniest pundit asking African-American people "if their dads are around" and whether they have jobs, as well as casually poking fun at homeless people in Penn Station and repeatedly asking them about their addictions. It's like one of those celebrity roasts, only with the extremely disadvantaged people who don't even know they're in on the joke.

He allegedly stalked and harassed blogger Amanda Terkel

In 2009, blogger Amanda Terkel wrote a short blog post that highlighted Bill O'Reilly's upcoming speech to The Alexa Foundation, which she defined as "a group committed to supporting rape survivors." She then quoted O'Reilly from one of his previous shows in which he inferred that Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old college student who was raped and murdered, was partially responsible for what happened to her because she was drunk.

About two weeks later, Terkel was on vacation two hours away from her home when she was ambushed by Jesse Watters and his camera crew. "Watters immediately began asking me why I was causing 'pain and suffering' to the Alexa Foundation. He never gave me the context for his questions. Confused, I repeatedly asked him what he was talking about and whether he could refresh my memory, but he just continued shouting his question," Terkel wrote in another blog post detailing the incident. So, okay, this is just what Watters does, right? Yes, but there's a bit of a catch.

"My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip," Terkel also wrote. It's creepy enough that Watters sought to attack this woman just for printing a literal quote that came out of O'Reilly's mouth on live television, but to stake out her house and follow her on vacation — if he actually did that — is beyond comprehension.

He got in a fight with Ryan Grim at the White House Correspondents Dinner

In a strange epilogue to the Amanda Terkel "stalking" incident, Jesse Waters got into a scuffle with a Huffington Post reporter at an after-party for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in 2016. Watters was approached by Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim, who was a colleague of Terkel (Who also worked for The Huffington Post at this time), regarding the infamous encounter seven years prior. Grim began recording video of Watters with his cellphone in an attempt to get Watters to apologize to Terkel. Watters refused, and after becoming annoyed that he's being filmed, he slaps the phone out of Grim's hand, then snatches it and puts it in his pocket after Grim retrieves it and returns.

In Grim's recording, Watters can be heard admitting, once again, to being O'Reilly's lackey. "I ambushed her [Terkel] because O'Reilly told me to get her, because she said some really bad s**t… She denigrated some rape victims, so we had to call her out. It's what we do," he said.

The awkward incident ended in some kind of physical altercation, and despite reports that punches were thrown, the only footage of the actual "fight" was this video of the two being held away from each other. Watters later went on The O'Reilly Factor and said, "I was at this party trying to enjoy myself. This guy came up to me. He starts putting it in my face. I was friendly at first, and then he started getting a little obnoxious. Things happened, and I regret it happened, and that's all it is." The irony of Jesse Watters being annoyed by an impromptu interview, like a cop who's irritated he just got pulled over for speeding, is almost too much to handle here.

He helped O'Reilly harass Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller became a controversial figure in the news when he gained notoriety for running one of only three clinics in the country that would provide late-term abortions. Tiller was attacked for years by not only protesters, but also repeated attempts on his life until he was finally gunned down in his church by Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009. By this time, Tiller had also become a focal point of Bill O'Reilly, who according to Rolling Stone, had talked about Tiller 29 times in the four years leading up to his murder. "Tiller the baby killer" was O'Reilly's nickname for the doctor, of whom O'Reilly also once said, "And if I could get my hands on Tiller — well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech. But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No."

As O'Reilly's longtime producer, Watters echoed his boss' disgust for Tiller in a 2006 blog post titled, "Confronting Dr. George Tiller." Watters recounts being dispatched to Topeka to confront Tiller's attorney. "The crew and I arrived at Pedro Irigonegary's office on the afternoon of Nov. 7. He happened to be outside just as our van pulled in… and we sprang out with the cameras rolling. 'Do you believe that late-term babies should be terminated in the womb for "depression"?' I asked after introducing myself," he wrote.

Watters finishes his blog by quoting another O'Reilly call-to-action. "This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China and Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union… If we allow this, America will no longer be a noble nation… If we allow Dr. George Tiller and his acolytes to continue, we can no longer pass judgment on any behavior by anybody," he wrote. Now, we're obviously not saying that one thing directly led to another here, but we wonder if Watters ever even thought about the possibility that it did before continuing his transformation into the unfiltered, anti-PC hero of Fox News.