Jesse Watters is a Fox News journalist who filmed an interview with President Donald Trump that aired in March. It was his latest step up the Fox News food chain, which culminated with him getting a spot on The Five, which now airs at 9 p.m. ET. Watters still hosts his own Saturday night show, Watters’ World, at 9 p.m. ET.
Watters has been at Fox News since 2002 and was a part of The O’Reilly Factor from 2003 until the show ended with O’Reilly’s firing in April. He started out as a behind-the-scenes producer, but became an on-camera talent thanks to his on-the-street interviews. He got his own spin-off series Watters’ World in November 2015. Although his show is billed as a “comedic” look at news, he still nabbed a one-on-one interview with the president.
The 38-year-old Watters previously stirred controversy in October 2016 with an infamous segment where he interviewed residents of New York’s Chinatown. The segment was considered by some to be racially insensitive, but Watters was never punished for it.
Here’s a look at Watters’ life and career.
1. Watters Called Himself a ‘Political Humorist’ After the Chinatown Segment Fallout
In October 2016, Watters filmed a segment for The O’Reilly Factor, in which he interviewed people in New York’s Chinatown. The segment was filled with racial stereotypes, both in its presentation and with the questions Watters asked. He asked his interview subjects how to bow, if the watches being sold were stolen and if a man sold herbs “for performance,” all while scenes from martial arts movies played and “Kung Fu Fighting” was heard in the background.
At the end of the segment, Bill O’Reilly and Watters sounded surprised that many of the people he talked to knew about American politics. But they also knew that the segment would be controversial.
“It’s gentile fun. I know we’re going to get letters. It’s inevitable,” O’Reilly told Watters.
“It was all in good fun,” Watters said.
Fox News got more than just letters after it aired. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted that Watters’ “vile, racist behavior” has “no place in our city.”
The Asian American Journalists Association criticized the segment. They did manage to set up meetings with Fox News executives, getting them to agree to receiving pitches from AAJA members.
Initially, Watters wrote a non-apology on Twitter. “My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense. As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are,” Watters wrote.
“I was surprised, at the time, with the blowback,” Watters told Business Insider in a December interview. “I didn’t see it coming, and that’s on me. I understand I did offend a lot of people, and I’m very sorry for that. People took issue with some of the statements I made, and some of the reaction to the Chinatown segment, and I understand that. And it’s a learning experience — I definitely learned a lot from it. But it’s a new day, and we are moving forward with it.”
2. Watters Says Bill O’Reilly Comes Up With Many of the Ideas for ‘Watters’ World’ Segments
Watters has been working for O’Reilly for over a decade, so the two have clearly developed a rapport. In an interview with Business Insider about his career, Watters said that it’s his boss who comes up with many of the ideas for Watters’ World segments.
“Usually he’ll say, like, ‘This is kind of how I want you to approach it,’ and then he’ll give me one line, and then I have to fill in the rest,” Watters told the site. “Bill is very understanding of the backdrop of the segment. I think because he was a field guy for so many years, he’s very interested in aesthetics behind the Watters’ World, where it’s being shot, why it’s being shot there.”
“I think he’s either living vicariously through me, or he’s reliving things he did back in the day,” Watters told Business Insider of O’Reilly.
Watters loves his “ambush” style man-on-the-street interviews, which have often been criticized by the media. After all, the style is usually employed more by comedians than journalists.
“I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff that they write,” he told Business Insider of his critics. “It doesn’t really bother me that much. I stand by my work, especially the confrontations. There are heroes and villains out there in the media landscape, in the news landscape, in the political landscape. People sometimes get called out, they react how they react. And I’m proud of what I do.”
3. His Wife Noelle Used to Host a Fox News Fashion Segment
Watters is married to Noelle Inguagiato Watters, who used to host a fashion segment on FoxNews.com called iMag Style.
As Walking Points Memo reports, in 2014, Watters said on Outnumbered that Noelle told him that she voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.
“When I was dating my wife, we were very simpatico politically,” Watters told his co-hosts. “And then all of a sudden, after 2012, she told me she voted for Obama. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me?'”
It turned out she was. “She got me good,” Watters joked.
However, it’s worth noting that Politico reported back in 2012 that an FEC filing revealed that Watters donated $500 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and even listed “News Corp.” as his employer.
The couple live on Long Island. Celebrity Net Worth estimates that he has an estimated net worth of $1 million.
4. Journalist Amanda Terkel Accused Watters of Stalking Her While on She Was on Vacation
In 2009, Huntington Post journalist Amanda Terkel, who is now a senior political reporter for the site, accused Watters of stalking her. At the time, Terkel was writing for Think Progress and she had recently published a story about O’Reilly’s past comments on rape victim Jennifer Moore when he was slated to speak at an Alexa Foundation to support rape victims at the time.
On March 23, Terkel wrote that she was “followed, harassed and ambushed” by Watters while on vacation because she wrote a piece that O’Reilly didn’t like. She wrote that Watters and his cameraman followed her on a two-hour drive from Washington, DC to Winchester, Virginia.
“Shortly after checking into our lodgings, we emerged and immediately saw two men walking toward us calling out my name,” Trekel wrote. “Watters said he was from Fox News, but never said his or his companion’s name, nor did he say he was with The O’Reilly Factor.”
During an edited version of the segment that aired, O’Reilly called Terkel a “villain,” claiming that she was criticizing the Alexa Foundation, which she said she never did. They accused her blog of causing “pain and suffering” to rape victims.
Terkel talked about her experience with Watters on CNN in 2015:
When New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg also wrote a piece criticizing O’Reilly, he was ambushed by Watters. After the segment aired, O’Reilly claimed that Hertzberg declined an invitation go on The O’Reilly Factor. “That’s an outright lie,” the writer told Politico in 2008.
5. Watters Grew Up in Philadelphia & Has a Degree in History
Watters was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a degree in history. His family moved to Long Island while he was in high school.
In a 2015 interview with Philly.com, Watters explained that he had initially wanted to go into finance aftr college, but he didn’t do well in that field. He then tried to work in politics directly, working for Dora J. Irizarry’s failed campaign for New York Governor.
“I got hired at Fox News, because I like politics and I like television. And one day, [Bill] O’Reilly said, ‘Watters! I want you to go down to Alabama and confront this judge,'” Watters recalled. “So I go all the way down to Alabama and run up to some judge who’d given a sex offender a soft sentence, and I ended up confronting the wrong guy, in my first-ever time in the field. So I got off to a rocky start. But after that, I kind of got the hang of things.”
Watters told Philly.com that both of his parents are liberal. “But my parents always brought me up to have discipline and respect for other people and the belief that hard work pays off,” Watters told Philly.com. “They didn’t raise me to be who I am politically, but I think they gave me a lot of the values and the resources to kind of shape my own path.”