Michelle Obama set right-wing heads spinning on Monday evening when she pointed out the historical fact that the White House was built by slave labor. Some flipped out over the fact that the First Lady of the United States, a black woman, gave a nod to how far African-Americans have come over the past 150 years. At least one tried to claim that there is no historical proof that slave labor was used. (There’s actually plenty of proof.) But it was the Fox News resident “expert” on race, Bill O’Reilly, who may have offered the most jaw-dropping defense of slave labor you will ever hear.
O’Reilly is the guy who was amazed a few years back when he visited the famous Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem and didn’t find anyone yelling “M-Fer, I want more iced tea!” Now he’s the guy who seems to have set himself up to explain to black people how they should think and feel about matters of race.
It doesn’t seem to matter to Bill-o, as Keith Olbermann called him, that the White House, along with several other iconic buildings in Washington D.C., was built in part by slaves instead of paid workers. No, that doesn’t matter to him at all apparently. According to him, the slaves who worked on those buildings were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”
Where O’Reilly gets the notion that the slaves were well treated and taken care of during the period they worked in Washington isn’t clear. Smithsonian reports that much of the information about the role that slaves played in building the White House and other buildings has been lost because “as a country, we didn’t value these stories.”
O’Reilly was correct to assert that there was plenty of labor provided by workers who weren’t slaves, but to excuse the use of slavery by the federal government with the unfounded claim that those slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings” is simply amazing.
Here is Fox’s white expert on race, Bill O’Reilly, just making stuff up in order to criticize Michelle Obama:
Featured image via Fox News screen capture