Rep. Maxine Waters responded to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s comments mocking her appearance Tuesday by declaring she would not be intimidated by "right-wing talking heads."
“I’m a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined,” Waters said in an interview on MSNBC. “I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody."
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During an appearance Tuesday morning on "Fox & Friends" O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters — a member of the Congressional Black Caucus — criticizing President Donald Trump’s actions in office by disparaging her hair.
"I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig," O’Reilly said Tuesday morning.
O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing for his remark earlier Tuesday and addressed it on his show Fox News’ "The O’Reilly Factor" Tuesday night.
In her MSNBC interview, Waters refused to respond directly to O’Reilly’s comment. Instead, Waters thanked former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for “standing up for all women” and urging other minority women to stand up against the likes of O’Reilly.
She added: “I’d like to say to women out there everywhere, don’t allow these right wing talking heads, these dishonorable people to intimidate you or scare you, be who you are, do what you do, and let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country.”
Waters went on to attack O’Reilly and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes for accusations of sexual misconduct levied against them.
“Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes have no credibility,” she said. “They have been sued by women. They’ve had to pay millions out in bonds for harassment and other kind of things.”
Less than half an hour before Waters’ rebuke, O’Reilly expanded on an apology he released earlier Tuesday, calling his commentary “stupid.”
“I said it in simple jest that the congresswoman’s hair distracted me. Well that was stupid and I apologize. It had no place in the conversation,” O’Reilly said on Fox News’ "The O’Reilly Factor."
The top-rated Fox News personality, whose quip was widely condemned as racist and sexist by critics online, did not back away from his political critique of Waters, challenging the California representative to back up her Trump criticisms on his show.
"It would be instructive for Ms. Waters to come on ‘The Factor’ to define her beef," he said. "What is bothering her about President Trump? Of course, she will not do that. Way too risky. She would be challenged by me and she does not want to be challenged."
In his earlier statement O’Reilly stressed that he respected Waters “for being sincere in her beliefs” and called the comments “dumb.”
O’Reilly had initially responded to a clip of Waters’ panning Trump’s administration as unpatriotic during a speech from the House floor.
"We fight against this president and we point out how dangerous he is," Waters said on the floor. "We’re fighting for democracy. We’re fighting for America. We’re saying to those who say they’re patriotic, but they turn a blind eye to the destruction he is about to cause to this country. You are not nearly as patriotic as we are."
Waters was also defended by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, who reportedly discussed the rift at the Professional Business Women of California conference in San Francisco Tuesday.
"One of our own California congressmen Maxine Waters was taunted with a racist joke about her hair," Clinton said. "Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride."