UPDATE: FOX host Bill O'Reilly has apologized to Rep. Maxine Waters for his comments about her hair this morning on "FOX & Friends." He stated that joking about her appearance was "dumb" and that he has the utmost respect for Waters.
"As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs," O'Reilly said in a statement. "I said it again today on 'FOX & Friends,' calling her 'old school.'"
Next time, O'Reilly, just leave it at that.
Rep. Maxine Waters is many things: a controversial politician, a minor Democratic icon, a Californian, an African-American woman, and —according to FOX pundit Bill O'Reilly — too much like James Brown to take seriously.
In a nonsensical and unprofessional moment on Tuesday morning's "FOX & Friends," O'Reilly proceeded to derail a conversation about the House and things that actually matter to make petty comments about Waters' hair.
"I didn't hear a word she said," he sneered. "I was looking at the James Brown wig."
One of the first things most of us notice about other people is their physical appearance. It's also often the first thing we judge them for— doubly so, in the case of women. This sexist habit can be destructive to a woman's confidence, and studies show it can influence her career and impact her power.
"Attention to appearance is a placeholder for gender. While public comments about whether Gillard's jackets flatter her figure may be more irritating than important, they encourage other aspects of her leadership to be viewed through a gendered lens."
Whether he did it intentionally or subconsciously, when O'Reilly decided to veer off-topic and take jabs at Waters' hair (even though he tried to justify it by gushing about how he loves her and James Brown), he fed into a prevailing system that views Waters' merit as linked to her gender. He created a space for the public to evaluate and dissect Waters based on her looks, not her policies. It's not new, but it's a shame.
To keep from losing any substance thanks to O'Reilly's sexism, here is Waters' speech about President Donald Trump on the House floor:
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