Longtime Fox News host Jesse Watters, a man whose far-right views horrify his own mother, is taking over the ousted Tucker Carlson’s prime-time spot starting Monday night, kicking off a new era for the conservative network’s top billing.
Watters’ year-and-half-old show, “Jesse Watters Primetime,” is expected to enjoy a bigger audience with the new time slot, giving a more powerful platform to his conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and President Joe Biden being an intelligence operative, along with a litany of racist, Islamophobic, transphobic and sexist takes.
Here’s a look back at some of Watters’ greatest hits.
An Overtly Racist Segment In Chinatown
One of Watters’ most blatant displays of racism came in 2016, when he did a segment for Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” mocking and stereotyping Asian Americans in New York’s Chinatown.
Among the questions Watters asked people on the street were: “Am I supposed to bow?” and “Is it the year of the dragon? Rabbit?” and “Do you know karate?”
The segment aired shortly after the first presidential debate in 2016 and served no journalistic purpose. When introducing the segment, host Bill O’Reilly said the show sent Watters to Chinatown simply because “China was mentioned 12 times” during the debate.
Watters also perpetuated the stereotype of Asian people being docile and obedient.
“They’re such a polite people,” he said, referencing elderly Asian people he approached who appeared not to understand him. “They won’t walk away or tell me to get out of here. They just sit there and say nothing.”
A Segment Demonizing The Homeless
In another “O’Reilly Factor” segment in 2015 about New York’s homeless population, Watters went to Penn Station and interviewed predominantly Black homeless people about why they were unhoused, then asked predominantly white people how they felt about homelessness.
He featured several interviews with people who said they’d been violently attacked by homeless people. In reality, unhoused people are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.
“You’re stepping over people with animals, supplies, there’s new synthetic drugs now with people that are out of their mind, very unpredictable. A lot of people are being attacked,” Watters said as scenes of his interviews with homeless people played.
Watters has only gotten more aggressive in his stance toward homeless people. In January, he described San Francisco’s unhoused population as “bags of flesh mutating on the sidewalk,” “urine-soaked junkies” and “vagabonds and zombies.”
Stalking And Ambushing A Reporter
In 2009, Watters ambushed HuffPost’s former Washington bureau chief Amanda Terkel, who was a blogger for ThinkProgress at the time, over a post she wrote questioning whether O’Reilly was an appropriate speaker at a fundraiser for a rape survivor organization given his past victim-blaming of rape victims.
Terkel described the disturbing encounter on HuffPost in 2016, writing that she believes Watters followed her across state lines to try to catch her off-guard while she was on vacation:
In response to that post, O’Reilly sent Watters out to ambush me while I was on vacation in Virginia. On March 22, Watters accosted me on the street and asked why I was causing “pain and suffering” to rape victims and their families. 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.
Fox News has never given an explanation for how Watters found me. I didn’t tell anyone exactly where I would be that weekend, and in retrospect, I remember a car following me for much of the way. My best guess remains that Watters found my home address, followed me for two hours to Virginia and then harassed me after I walked out of my hotel.
The Creepy Way He Met His Wife
Watters revealed last year on Fox News’ “The Five” that he wooed his now-wife, then a younger producer working on his show, by stranding her at work.
“When I was trying to get Emma to date me, the first thing I did was let the air out of her tires,” Watters told his co-hosts. “She couldn’t go anywhere. She needed a lift, I said, ‘You need a lift?’ She hopped right in the car.”
Watters was married to another woman at the time.
His shocked co-hosts asked if he’d ever used that move before, to which Watters replied: “It works like a charm.”
Urging Violent Attacks On Dr. Anthony Fauci
Watters gave a speech at a conservative conference in 2021 and made highly disturbing remarks calling for violence against Dr. Anthony Fauci, then the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
“Now you go in for the kill shot, the kill shot with an ambush, deadly, because he doesn’t see it coming,” Watters told the crowd before launching into conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19.
“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!” Watters said.
Fauci responded shortly after, saying Watters “should be fired on the spot” for those comments.
His Bizarre Downplaying Of The Attack On Paul Pelosi
After then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s octogenarian husband, Paul Pelosi, was brutally beaten with a hammer, Watters dismissed the attack’s political motivations and said the violence was completely unremarkable.
“People are being hit with hammers every day ... but the media focuses on this one single crime to pin it on Republicans?” Watters said on his show last October.
A violent hammer attack on the husband of one of the federal government’s highest-ranking officials is, in fact, an exceptional event. Paul Pelosi was rushed into surgery for a skull fracture and received treatment for serious injuries to his hands and arm. He was kept in the hospital for six days, and his assailant was charged with two federal crimes and six state felonies.
Saying He Can Tell Who’s Undocumented Just By Looking At Them
In May, Watters claimed he could tell who’s an undocumented immigrant with one glance and refused to explicitly say why.
“I saw, on the way into work, an illegal immigration family digging through the trash, looking for recyclables,” he said on “The Five,” to which one of his co-hosts asked how he could tell they were undocumented.
“I can tell. I’m a city guy. You don’t want me to get into it, but I can tell,” Watters said.
Claiming Female Reporters Sleep With Their Sources
In 2019, Watters baselessly asserted that female reporters sleep with their sources “all the time” to get scoops. He cited only one real-world example of such allegations before going into a list of fictional examples from movies.
“So, it happens a lot, and it happens a lot in movies and TV shows. Just a list right here. ‘Fletch,’ ‘Thank You for Smoking,’ ‘Top Five,’ ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’” Watters said.
Watters’ remarks were a response to criticism of the Clint Eastwood film “Richard Jewell” for depicting a real-life female reporter exchanging sex for tips, even though there’s no evidence she did that.
“I mean, it’s all over Hollywood. Now they pick a problem with a Clint Eastwood movie? Come on,” Watters said.
His Obsession With Black History Classes
Watters has a big problem with the College Board’s new Advanced Placement class on Black history.
In January, he said he’d read through the course syllabus and came to the bizarre conclusion that every lesson about 1960 onward, when the Civil Rights Movement was taking off, had no historical significance.
“It’s all activism. It’s all ideology. It’s no history. A good chunk is really good stuff, and then it goes into white supremacy, patriarchy, abolish the prisons, overthrow capitalism, queer theory, intersectionality,” Watters claimed on his show.
He also referred to the AP class as “a Trojan horse” infiltrating classrooms.
It’s nothing new from Watters, who in 2021 claimed that critical race theory is “a stain on the legacy of Martin Luther King.”
Claiming Mentally Ill People Don’t Deserve Rights
Last fall, Watters denounced the lack of people institutionalized with mental illnesses and suggested they should have their basic rights taken away.
“It looks like in the Civil Rights Movement, when we granted all these rights to people who didn’t have rights at the time ― Blacks, women, workers, the environment got more rights, people with disabilities ― they said, ‘Hey, let’s bring the mentally ill along, too, and let’s give them all the rights,’” he said on “The Five” in September.
“You can have all your rights, but, hey, you’re going to be dead and naked and afraid and disease-ridden because the country is not trying to help you,” he said.
Saying European Settlers Fairly Took Land From Native Americans
Watters spewed some serious revisionist history in 2021 while talking about the origins of the United States, reframing the horrors that European settlers inflicted on the Native people as winning that land fair and square.
“This land wasn’t stolen. We won this land on the battlefield and we bought it. Right? ... I mean we purchased Florida from Spain. We have the receipts. What, do you want to give Florida back to Spain?” Watters asked on “The Five.”
When one of his co-hosts pointed out the presence of Native tribes, Watters doubled down.
“We won that territory on the battlefield. It was an ugly, brutal battle, but we won it. We’re not just going to give everything back to the Indigenous people of this country,” he claimed.
Later, in 2022, Watters mocked Native Americans for not having “stronger borders” when colonizers arrived.