In a just universe, someone would find Jesse Watters in his saddest moment, a time of crisis and sorrow, and mock him on camera before broadcasting the footage millions of giggling viewers — an indignity the longtime Fox News host once foisted upon homeless people living in New York’s Penn Station.
In this universe, however, Watters is getting promoted.
The network announced on Monday that it is giving Watters his own 7 p.m. show to lead into Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, respectively. The show will be called Jesse Watters Primetime, and if the host’s career thus far is any indication it will be a reliable cesspool of bigotry, misinformation, and, more than anything, the smug, self-satisfied air of someone who has been able to parlay a total and utter lack of shame into millions.
The 7 p.m. slot had previously been occupied by Martha MacCallum, one of the few actual news anchors employed by the network. MacCallum’s relative adherence to reality didn’t go over very well with viewers following the 2020 election, though, and so she was moved to the afternoon. The network had been experimenting with the time slot ever since. The decision to hand it Watters permanently means the network is heaping on yet another scoop of propaganda into its primetime lineup to pair with what Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham spew every night.
Here’s a taste of some of the controversy Watters has courted over the course of his time at the network.
Watters takes aim at Dr. Fauci
Watters’ latest controversy came just a few weeks ago, when at at Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest he urged people to “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci. Watters said people should be “respectful” when questioning the nation’s top infectious disease expert … and then described the potential confrontation via a cascade of violent cliches.
“Now you go in for the kill shot,” he said. “The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn’t see it coming. 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. Now you do that — 30 seconds, it’s all you need. Now you get that footage to us, you get it to Fox.”
The comments weren’t as shocking as they should have been. Watters has been dutifully bashing Dr. Fauci for most of the pandemic. He even suggested in October that Disney’s documentary on the National Institute of Health chief was produced as a way for Disney to pay Fauci back for spreading enough fear about Covid-19 to lock the nation down, which caused people to stay at home and watch Disney, which caused the company’s stock to climb. “They got all those Beijing profits coming in because Tony ran interference for the lab leak,” he added, again referencing the theory that the disease was manufactured by Chinese scientists.
Fauci responded to Watters imploring people to ambush him by calling the comments “horrible” and arguing that Watters should be “fired on the spot.” He rightly predicted that the network wouldn’t take any action. “He’s gonna go, very likely, unaccountable,” Fauci said. “I mean, whatever network he’s on is not going to do anything for him.”
Fox News did indeed defend Watters. “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 and his words have been twisted completely out of context,” the network said in a statement. Less than three weeks later, they promoted him.
Watters shatters record for most racist Asian American tropes in single visit to Chinatown
Watters got his start as a henchman for longtime Fox News stalwart Bill O’Reilly, taking a camera crew into the streets of New York and elsewhere for a series of racist segments teeing off on the city’s demographically diverse population. The most notorious installment of “Watters’ World,” as the bit was called, may have taken place ahead of the 2016 election in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown. It took Watters a scant five minutes to fill up a Bingo card’s worth of Asian-American stereotypes. He mockingly bowed to people, asked if residents knew karate, and more — all over clips of Bruce Lee and The Karate Kid.
You can watch the original video here, but we suggest watching The Daily Show‘s Ronny Chieng break it down in full:
“That last guy hated you,” O’Reilly told Watters back in the studio.
“He did,” Watters replied as they both laughed. “One of many.”
Watters then joked about how the residents he interviewed just stood there and absorbed his abuse, because they “are a polite people.”
Watters demonizes the homeless in Penn Station
O’Reilly sent Watters to Penn Station in 2015 to examine homelessness under new mayor Bill de Blasio, whom O’Reilly described as “uber liberal.” Watters interviewed passersby about how uncomfortable the homeless made them feel, and even put the microphone in front of actual homeless people. He asked how they made money, whether they slept in the station, and what kind of drugs they liked. Back in the studio, Watters and O’Reilly discussed the danger of homeless over footage of the desperate people he interviewed.
Watters implies … something about Ivanka Trump
Watters led the roundtable show The Five for most of former President Trump’s time in office. In April 2017, he made a very strange, very suggestive comment about Ivanka Trump while the panel was discussing remarks she made while overseas. “I really like the way she was holding that microphone,” he said while trying to stifle a giggle after calling Democrats are hypocrites for talking about respecting women while at the same time disagreeing with Trump’s daughter.
WATCH: Jesse Watters on Fox News re Ivanka Trump: "I really like how she was speaking into that microphone" pic.twitter.com/HoJHLpMtq1
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 26, 2017
Watters received blowback for the apparent blowjob joke. He claimed it wasn’t sexual, though, insisting he was talking about how Ivanka sounded like a “smooth jazz radio DJ.” Soon thereafter, he did what many Fox News hosts have done after they find themselves in the middle of a controversy: He announced he was going on vacation.
Watters goes to Philadelphia to prove racism is a hoax
Watters went to Philadelphia ahead of the 2016 election to ask a bunch of people about racism. It quickly became clear that he was trying to demonstrate it was overblown and not really that big of a deal. He asked one man if “racism” was thrown around too much in America. “Yes,” the man said. “What’s that about?” responded Watters. He then asked the same question of a woman of color, who said it wasn’t talked about enough. Watters challenged her: “We don’t talk about racism enough? It’s all we talk about in this country.”
It went on like this, with Watters taking people who downplayed racism in stride, while trying to poke holes in the arguments of anyone who took it seriously. He made fun of a woman for thinking that Trump explicitly asking Black people to vote for him was racist. He wondered how someone could argue Trump wanting to construct a border wall was racist. He teased someone who admitted he was undocumented. “Welcome to America,” Watters said. “You can stay … for now.”
One through line through Watters’ career is the shit-eating grin that’s perpetually plastered across his face. It’s very clearly all a joke to him. He even titled his 2021 book How I Saved the World. Watters’ new weeknight counterparts may take the implications of information war a little more seriously, but Watters seems to view his place at the feet of the former president strictly as a ticket to money and fame, as CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out after the promotion announcement.
More than anything, Watters seems amused that it’s all as easy as loving Trump, taking it to the libs, and pushing a few cultural hot buttons here and there. Sadly, it is that easy, and Watters has something new to smile about on Monday.