The Shady Side Of Jesse Watters

Jesse Watters is one of the most divisive personalities on television, thanks to his confrontational style and deliberately provocative reports. During his early years at Fox, Watters garnered a reputation for being Bill O'Reilly's man on the street where he'd interrupt unsuspecting targets for interviews. As he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, his aim was always to avoid being boring. "I try to make it enjoyable for the person I'm interviewing. We always come away from the interview all smiles, for the most part," Watters insisted. "And it's always fun to come back and look at the footage and say, 'Oh my gosh, what just happened?"

In 2009, O'Reilly gave his attack dog the credit when Bill Moyers retired from television, claiming that an ambush from Watters led to the acclaimed PBS journalist's decision to step down. " Jesse Watters drove him out of PBS," O'Reilly declared, according to Think Progress. As a clip of the host trying to confront Moyers about calling for George Bush's impeachment played, O'Reilly continued, "I think Jesse Watters is responsible for Bill Moyers leaving." The journalist himself said it actually had to do with his age, per The New York Times. "I feel it's time," Moyers said.

Keep reading to find out more about Watters and his most controversial moments, on camera and off.

A journalist accused him of harrassing her

After ThinkProgress journalist Amanda Terkel criticized Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in 2009 for remarks he made about rape survivors, O'Reilly evidently encouraged his protege Jesse Watters to track Terkel down while she was trying to enjoy some time off out of town. Watters did just that. As she later wrote for HuffPost, "He never introduced himself and didn't give any context for what he was saying — he simply shouted questions as I tried to switch out of vacation mode and remember the short post I had written weeks earlier." Terkel said she believed Watters followed her from her home to her vacation location. 

In 2016, fellow journalist Ryan Grim tried to hold Watters accountable for his treatment of Terkel. As the Washington Post reported, Grim went up to the Fox News pundit at an MSNBC party and asked him to apologize, while filming him with his phone. When Watters grabbed the phone, it turned into a physical fight that O'Reilly later claimed was another example of the far left attempting to stoke the flame. "I ambushed her because O'Reilly told me to get her, because she said some really bad sh**," Watters reportedly explained at the party, according to Terkel. "I love Amanda Terkel... I'm not gonna apologize, but she's a good girl."

"Ambush guy can't take getting ambushed," Grim unapologetically told the Washington Post. "Maybe he should think about his life choices."

He went after Dr. George Tiller

In 2008, Jesse Watters crashed a governor's conference in Philadelphia to ambush Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius about Dr. George Tiller, the medical director of Women's Health Care Services who had become a target for Fox News and Bill O'Reilly for providing late-term abortions. Per The New York Times, O'Reilly regularly referred to the doctor as "Tiller the baby killer."

"You know, there was a lot of evidence there that he was performing illegal late-term abortions and covering up instances of child rape," Watters claimed during the aforementioned 2008 Fox News segment. Despite the fact that a grand jury had recently found him innocent of all charges brought against him, as Sebelius pointed out, Watters continued to slander the doctor. "Well, Tiller himself donated money to her campaign," the anchor declared. "She doesn't seem to be real upset about this guy operating a death mill, which is exactly what it is in her state, does she?" As Media Matters recalled, Watters also confronted Tiller's attorney with an impromptu interview. 

In 2009, Tiller was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist.

Wait, did he give money to Obama's campaign?

Although Jesse Watters made his name by publicly tearing down the Democratic Party, his donation records strangely seem to tell a different story.

After the 2012 presidential election was over, Watters dismissed the campaign that Barack Obama had successfully run. On one episode of "The O'Reilly Factor," he called Obama's supporters "zombies" and declared, "As long as there was Obamacare, gay marriage and abortion on demand, they're going to support them no matter what." And on a 2015 episode of "The Five," he had some more comments to make about Obama's administration. "He's imported socialism here," he stated. "He's imported Ebola into America. He's imported illegal aliens. Remember he brought all of the Ebola victims into this country?"

However, Politico reported that he had apparently donated $500 of his own money to the president's campaign before the election. The reported donation, in which Watters cited News Corp. as his employer, went to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 in late September. At that point, Romney had already received backlash over footage where he claimed Obama would always receive support from "the 47%" who were dependent on the government for financial aid. In the end, the Republican ironically received 47% of the vote compared to Obama, who achieved a definitive win with 51% and began his second term.

He filmed a racist segment in Chinatown

In 2015, Jesse Watters took to the streets in New York's Chinatown to interview pedestrians. He introduced the segment by talking about Donald Trump's criticism of China in the presidential elections, but his interview questions soon turned to stale jokes about Chinese food and karate, despite the fact that karate is actually Japanese. Fox News also played the song "Kung Fu Fighting" in the background and inserted mocking clips after some older passers-by didn't seem to speak English fluently.

Back in the studio, O'Reilly expressed shock that anyone living in Chinatown would know anything about American politics. "They're such a polite people, they won't walk away or tell me to get out of here," Watters said, to which O'Reilly replied, "They're patient. They want you to walk away, because they don't have anything else to do." They both claimed they meant no harm by the segment, perhaps foreseeing that the network would receive some backlash.

Following the segment, Eric Adams took Watters to task on Twitter. "The vile, racist behavior of Fox's Jesse Watters in Chinatown has no place in our city," the future mayor of New York City wrote. "@FoxNews — keep this guy off TV." Watters later apologized to viewers who were offended by the lazy stereotypes in his broadcast. "My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek," Watters tweeted, defending his style of presenting. "And I regret if anyone found offense."

His insulting statements about unhoused people

Jesse Watters has used his platform on Fox News to discuss all kinds of topics, but one of his favorite targets seems to be the unhoused population. In 2015, he drew criticism following a "Watters World" feature where he spoke to unhoused individuals at Penn Station. Throughout the segment, which took aim at Mayor Bill de Blasio, he asked unhoused citizens about their substance use. He also asked housed people to share why they are scared of unhoused people. 

On a 2019 episode of "The Five," he turned his attention to California and suggested that authorities should destroy the encampments where unhoused people were living. "We saw drugged-out zombies chasing barefooted babies through piles of garbage with hypodermic needles and fire everywhere," Watters declared, per Media Matters. "You only have one solution. You bulldoze the 50-block radius, and you institutionalize everybody and detoxify them."

And as the Independent recounted in February 2022, he made another sweeping claim when Fox News aired clips of various unhoused individuals discussing their reluctance about entering shelters. "Now I think it's clear that homeless people, from the people who have spoken, want to be homeless," Watters asserted, blaming unhoused people for their circumstances.

He's made Islamophobic remarks

Jesse Watters has also vilified the Muslim community over the years, particularly after Donald Trump introduced a controversial travel ban that completely prevented immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

In a 2017 "The O'Reilly Factor" interview with an imam, Watters defended the ban by insisting, "You have to admit there is a Muslim problem in the world. A majority of the terrorist attacks are perpetrated by Muslims, you'd have to admit that." Although the religious leader pointed out that crimes are committed by people of all religions and that scapegoating was wrong, Watters interjected, "I would say is that this temporary travel ban, not a Muslim ban, the travel ban, is actually compassionate, because it's not discriminatory, because you are protecting all Americans, Muslims included, from Muslim extremist attacks."

Although Watters has been criticized for his attitude towards Muslims, it hasn't stopped him from doubling down on the divisive rhetoric. On "The Five," he argued that discrimination could be necessary, comparing Muslim people to bad wine in the American melting pot. "Let's not throw it in the mix and ruin the whole dish," he suggested, arguing that the US borders needed to be reinforced.

He made a controversial comment about Ivanka Trump

In a 2017 Fox News segment, Jesse Watters made a seemingly lewd quip about Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump that sparked outrage online. After showing a clip of the president's daughter speaking, he observed, "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." Watters then immediately followed up his comment about respecting women by joking, "I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone."

After he faced accusations of misogyny, the Fox News anchor insisted that the comment wasn't supposed to be sexual. "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," he told Mediaite in an official statement. "This was in no way a joke about anything else." Watters still took a short break from appearing on Fox News, however, as The New York Times reported. "Try not to miss me too much," he told his audience, announcing that Kimberly Guilfoyle would be his temporary stand-in.

He had an affair with a young Fox News coworker

Jesse Watters may be known for stirring up controversy through his job at Fox News, but his personal life is equally messy. He was still married to Noelle Watters when he started having an affair with his young coworker Emma DiGiovine, who was transferred to another show after their network found out. As the Daily Mail reported, the cheating scandal led to the end of his ten-year marriage to Noelle, who filed for divorce from Jesse Watters in 2017. They share two daughters.

When the story hit the media, Fox News was quick to insist that there had been no serious HR violations. "Within 24 hours of Jesse Watters voluntarily reporting to the Chief of Human Resources in November 2017 that he was in a consensual relationship with a woman on his staff, management met with both parties and a decision was made for the woman to be transferred to work on another program on the network where she currently remains," a spokesperson clarified to the New York Daily News.

After DiGiovine and Jesse came forward about their relationship, they got married and became parents to a baby boy

He seemed to praise QAnon

One of the most alarming fringe groups currently gaining popularity in the United States is QAnon, a conspiracy-based movement that the FBI has called a domestic threat. In a 2020 Fox News segment, Jesse Watters gave them some airtime. The presenter emphasized the far-right group's allegations child sex trafficking, despite their theories being proven false. "Q can do some crazy stuff, with the pizza stuff, and the Wayfair stuff, but they've also uncovered a lot of great stuff when it comes to Epstein and it comes to the deep state," the anchor claimed, per CNN. "I never saw Q as dangerous as antifa."

After receiving online backlash for endorsing the conspiracy group, Watters told Insider that he isn't actually that into QAnon and denied that he had legitimized them with his praise. "While discussing the double standard of big tech censorship, I mentioned the conspiracy group QAnon, which I don't support or believe in," Watters clarified. "My comments should not be mistaken for giving credence to this fringe platform."

He told people to 'ambush' Dr. Fauci

At a 2021 Turning Point event, Jesse Watters zeroed in on Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of assisting a laboratory that supposedly created Covid-19. He urged members of the crowd to sneak attack Fauci with questions — or as he put it, "Go in for the kill shot." Watters continued, "This is when you say, 'Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world. You know why people don't trust you, don't you?' Boom, he is dead. He is dead. He's done."

After this made the rounds, Fauci went on CNN where he urged Fox to give Watters the axe. Fauci said, "You have some guy out there saying that people should be giving me a kill shot to ambush me? I mean, what kind of craziness is there in society these days?" The infectious diseases expert defended himself, arguing that his only offense was trying to encourage people to get vaccinations and wear masks. 

Fox News did not heed Fauci's request, as the network maintained Watters was speaking figuratively. "Based on watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it's more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci about gain-of-function research," the network declared in an official statement.