Bill O’Reilly criticized for slavery comments

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has come under fire after appearing to defend the living conditions of the slaves who built the White House.

O’Reilly’s remarks came one day after First Lady Michelle Obama’s widely praised speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which she celebrated the progress of American civil rights by noting that she woke up “every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

Seeking to “fact check” that claim, O’Reilly said that the slaves who built the White House “were well-fed and had decent lodgings.”

On Twitter, O’Reilly was immediately slammed for espousing an ante bellum worldview that appeared to defend the institution of slavery. Liam Hogan, a historian, wrote that O’Reilly’s remark was reminiscent of “how chattel slavery was defended by slave owners and pro-slavery interests.”

Meanwhile, some Democrats saw in O’Reilly’s remark an effort to interfere with the accolades for Obama’s speech and instead drag it into a debate about race and slavery.

“Her speech was great. So instead of letting that exist they’re stirring base to make it about Michelle talking about slavery,” one Democratic strategist told CNNMoney. “It’s a very ugly tactic.”

In his full remarks, O’Reilly said that slaves “did participate in the construction of the White House,” but added that “in addition, free blacks, white and immigrants also worked on the massive building.”

“Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well,” he said.

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