O'Reilly's Take On Harlem Eatery Stirs Pot

xxx AP

By CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli



Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has raised some eyebrows by saying his experience at Sylvia's, a famous Harlem restaurant, was "exactly the same" as any other restaurant in New York City, "even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship."

O'Reilly also said: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' "

O'Reilly talked about his visit to Sylvia's last week on "The Radio Factor," his syndicated radio program. ("The Radio Factor" is distributed by Westwood One, which is managed by CBS Radio.)

"You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all," O'Reilly said.

Media Matters For America, a liberal media watchdog organization, first reported the comments. Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters, told The Associated Press that O'Reilly's comments were "ignorant and racially charged."

On the Sept. 25 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," his Fox News program, O'Reilly addressed the issue.

"Media Matters distorted the entire conversation and implied I was racist for condemning racism," he said.

O'Reilly added: "If a slime machine like Media Matters can get its far-left propaganda on CNN and NBC News, the nation is in trouble."

Bill Shine, senior V.P. of programming for Fox News, said discussion of O'Reilly's comments constitutes "nothing more than left-wing outlets stirring up false racism accusations for ratings. It's sad."

O'Reilly made the comments as part of a discussion of a dinner he shared with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sharpton spokesperson, Rachel Noerdlinger, said in an e-mail that Sharpton "was surprised that anyone would be surprised that blacks would act that way." She said Sharpton planned to ask O'Reilly onto his radio show Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Added Noerdlinger: "Nothing Mr. O'Reilly said at the dinner itself was offensive, according to Rev. Sharpton."

As part of his comments, O'Reilly said, "Black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture."

O'Reilly contrasted his experience at the restaurant with the image "white America" has of a black culture "dominated by Twista, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg."

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