POLITICS

Jesse Watters On Ambushing Me: Bill O'Reilly 'Told Me To Get Her'

In 2009, Watters followed and harassed me while I was on vacation.

WASHINGTON -- Jesse Watters, Fox News' ambush man, appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night to discuss his recent altercation with Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim.

On Saturday night, following the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, Grim and Watters got into a fight at an afterparty hosted by MSNBC. It was one of those glitzy Washington events where everyone tries to put aside their differences and get along for one night.

The video above (which contains some explicit language) shows the minutes leading up to the confrontation. Grim tried to get Watters to bury the hatchet with me regarding a 2009 incident in which he ambushed and harassed me while I was on vacation because I'd dared to write a critical post about Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. Grim walked up to Watters -- while filming with his phone -- and asked him to come over and apologize to me. Watters refused. I also said I wasn't interested in talking.

Grim continued to film, which Watters -- who has made a living from ambushing people and filming them unexpectedly -- couldn't handle. He grabbed Grim's phone out of his hand and tossed it away. When Grim returned, still filming, Watters again snatched the phone, pocketed it and refused for several minutes to give it back. He also tried to delete the video. When Grim went to retrieve the phone, fisticuffs ensued.

"Most of it seemed like the beginning of a WWE match when wrestlers are arms locked," witness Adam Green later told The Huffington Post in an email. "Some shoving. Some drink glasses falling to the ground."

On Monday, O'Reilly and Watters addressed the incident on "The O'Reilly Factor." O'Reilly claimed that "this Grim character had no business bothering Jesse Watters about anything, but that is what the far left does. They seek to harm people with whom they disagree."

Watters said he regretted the situation.

"I was at this party trying to enjoy myself. This guy came up to me. He starts putting it in my face," Watters said. "I was friendly at first, and then he started getting a little obnoxious. Things happened, and I regret it happened, and that's all it is."

What hasn't been reported is what Watters said during that conversation and how he characterized his 2009 ambush of me.

Seven years ago, I was a blogger for ThinkProgress. On March 1, 2009, I wrote a post reporting that O'Reilly was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for a group committed to supporting rape survivors. I also noted that in the past, O'Reilly had made controversial comments about an 18-year-old woman who'd been raped and murdered, implying that it was her fault because she had been drinking and because of what she had been wearing. You can read the full post here.

In response to that post, O'Reilly sent Watters out to ambush me while I was on vacation in Virginia. On March 22, Watters accosted me on the street and asked why I was causing "pain and suffering" to rape victims and their families. He never introduced himself and didn't give any context for what he was saying -- he simply shouted questions as I tried to switch out of vacation mode and remember the short post I had written weeks earlier.

Fox News has never given an explanation for how Watters found me. I didn't tell anyone exactly where I would be that weekend, and in retrospect, I remember a car following me for much of the way. My best guess remains that Watters found my home address, followed me for two hours to Virginia and then harassed me after I walked out of my hotel.

Watters was unrepentant Saturday night at the MSNBC party. He said I "denigrated some rape victims" and "said some nasty shit."

"I ambushed her because O'Reilly told me to get her, because she said some really bad shit... She denigrated some rape victims, so we had to call her out. It's what we do," Watters said.

"I love Amanda Terkel, she's a good girl," he added. "I'm not gonna apologize, but she's a good girl."

O'Reilly never reached out to me before sending Watters and his cameraman out on the ambush mission, belying the idea that he was a journalist simply trying to get comment. O'Reilly ran segments describing me as a "far-left blogger" who attacks rape victims, and cast himself as an ally of victimized women. Sending men to intimidate, follow and ambush a young woman is an odd way to make that point. 

I wasn't the first target of O'Reilly and Watters' ambushes. In 2009, after a Florida county judge released a convicted sex offender on bail pending appeal, Watters confronted the judge in a convenience store and physically prevented him from closing his car door. Watters has also gone after the editor of the Columbia Journalism Review on a city bus, a newspaper columnist who was out getting the mail and a Colorado school board member inside her own garage.

Last year, Watters spent some time in New York's Penn Station to describe the scourge of homeless people and their supposedly upsetting effect on commuters. Every homeless person Watters interviewed for the segment was black, and the segment included several homeless people talking about their drug addictions and the money they received from the government.

Watters' way of confronting his subjects is to thrust cameras in their faces unexpectedly and pepper them with aggressive questions. It's surprising, then, that he wasn't more prepared to have the same thing done to him.

Instead, he asked Grim if they could find a better time to talk.

"Not tonight," he told Grim. "Not tonight."

Presumably, in the future, he'll offer his targets the same courtesy -- and won't mind if they grab his camera and keep it.

This post was updated to include O'Reilly and Watters' responses on "The O'Reilly Factor."

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