UPDATE: Bill O’Reilly addressed the controversy over his comments that the slaves who built the White House were "well-fed" and lived in "decent lodging." “Far left loons distort tip about @FLOTUS statement that slaves built White House. She’s correct & I provided facts. More on The Factor – BO’R,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, July 27.
Bill O’Reilly addressed the United States’ use of slaves to build the White House after Michelle Obama made note of the fact in her Democratic National Convention speech on Monday, July 25.
The first lady’s emotional address emphasized the significance of her family being the first black family to reside in the historic house. “I wake every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” she said. “I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
The O’Reilly Factor host, 66, fact-checked Obama’s comments during his show on Tuesday, July 26, and said that slaves did indeed help construct the presidential residence. Then he shocked viewers by arguing that the slaves worked under “decent” conditions and that they weren’t the only group of people to partake in the labor.
“Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House. 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,” O’Reilly said.
He continued, “Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802; however, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well.”
People on Twitter were instantly outraged by his comments. "How dare @oreillyfactor defend the practice of slavery?! He should be fired and/or resign for saying something so ignorant. #BillOReilly,” one tweeter wrote.
“Bill O’Reilly seems to think it’s ok if you feed and house your slaves well. What part of the word ‘slave’ doesn’t he understand?” another Twitter user wrote.
According to The White House Historical Association, slaves provided “the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol and other early government buildings.” The slaves joined a workforce that also included “local white laborers and artisans from Maryland and Virginia,” as well as immigrants from Europe.
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