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March 31, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak of the Week: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Women – and black women in particular – took another hit this week when Fox News host Bill O’Reilly took a jab at US Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ on-air on Tuesday.

Rather than give his opinion on  remarks Waters’ had made regarding President Trump and his supporters (as his fellow host asked him to do), O’Reilly instead honed in on Waters’ hairstyle, claiming that he couldn’t concentrate on what she had been saying because he was distracted by what he called her “James Brown wig.”

While O’Reilly later made a middling apology about his comments (“I…made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”), Waters’ showed that she wasn’t going to let his words, or his apology, distract her from what she feels is far more important.

In an interview on MSNBC the next day, Waters made her position clear. “No, I’m not responding to him,” she said, referring to O’Reilly. “Let me just say this. I’m a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody.”

She went on to deliver her message to “women out there everywhere”, by addressing the camera face-on. “Don’t allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people, to intimidate you or scare you,” she said. “Be who you are! Do what you do! And let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country.”

Waters intimated that O’Reilly’s jabs about her hair were about more than just her hair — they were about diverting attention away from the powerful statements she had made about democratic African American’s in relation to President Trump’s supporters when it comes to patriotism, and by turning the conversation to her looks rather than her words, he was attempting to silence and ignore her point.

“We also know that when a woman stands up and speaks truth to power, that there will be attempts to put her down,” she said. “And so I’m not going to be put down. I’m not going to go anywhere. I’m going to stay on the issues.”

Waters used then used the opportunity to continue to outline a number of her concerns about President Trump, and circled back to her point that as an elected official, it is her job “to do good public policy in the best interest of all the people,” and that “that’s what [she’s] going to do” rather than spend her time responding to Bill O’Reilly’s insensitive comments.

For not letting words hurt her and for sticking to the messaging that matters to her, we chose Maxine Waters as our Speak of the Week.