Fox News host Bill O'Reilly stoked the fires of controversy this week when he called African-American lawmakers like Rep. Barbara Lee "race hustlers." The California Democrat in response said that his remarks were "disgusting and divisive."
It all began with a conversation the conservative commentator had earlier this week with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan about his own controversy over remarks in which he suggested that men in urban communities are lazy and have no work ethic.
At the time, Lee, a fervent defender of working class and low-income Americans, said that Ryan's remarks were a "thinly veiled racial attack."
"Let's be clear. When Mr. Ryan says 'inner city,' when he says, 'culture,' these are simply code words for what he really means: 'Black,'" Lee said.
Ryan later said he'd been "inarticulate" but not racist, and that he wanted to have a serious conversation about how to address poverty, which Lee also told reporters. In addition, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge and Rep. Gwen Moore sent a written invitation to the Wisconsin lawmaker to meet with the CBC.
But according to O'Reilly African-American lawmakers aren't actually interested in a serious debate.
"They don't want a conversation. They don't want to solve the problem," he told Ryan during his Tuesday broadcast. "These race hustlers make a big living and they get voted into office by portraying their constituents as victims."
Such language, Lee said in a statement, just "gets in the way" of efforts to address serious issues like poverty, jobs and education.
"Unfortunately, we've come to expect language like 'welfare queens,' 'food stamp president' and now 'race hustlers' from the right wing and Mr. O'Reilly," she said, "It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse."
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(Photos: Kris Connor/Getty Images for TV One; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)