Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly is on the receiving end of immense backlash after he attempted to fact-check First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The host of The O'Reilly Factor defended the living conditions of slaves who were forced to build the White House.
"Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labour in 1802," the conservative pundit said. "However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labour. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well."
He also said: "Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between 1795 and 1801. In addition, free blacks, whites and immigrants also worked on the massive building. There were no illegal immigrants at that time – if you could make it here, you could stay here."
The negative response on Twitter was swift and blunt. "The idiocy never ceases to amaze me. Try slavery, Bill. Let us know how good the food is while you wear chains," tweeted TV show producer Shonda Rhimes.
"I don't care if the slaves who built the White House were paid in gold and housed in mansions, Bill O'Reilly — THEY WERE SLAVES!!!" Dracula show creator, Cole Haddon tweeted. According to CNN, historian Liam Hogan noted that O'Reilly's comment was reminiscent of "how chattel slavery was defended by slave owners and pro-slavery interests."
O'Reilly later defended his words on Twitter. "Far left loons distort tip about @FLOTUS statement that slaves built White House. She's correct & I provided facts. More on The Factor," he wrote.
According to the White House Historical Association, both enslaved and free African-Americans provided "the bulk of the labour that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings." Slaves were tasked with cutting the stone for the White House walls at the government's quarry in Aquia, Virginia, the organisation said.