Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is currently in County Cavan, where his relatives were evicted in 1845 during the Famine, prompting him to debunk ‘White Privilege’.
In 2017, O’Reilly was fired from Fox due to sexual harassment claims and is known for voicing his opinion openly and often quite bluntly.
Regarding his visit to his ancestral home, he wrote on Twitter: “Enjoying my time in Ireland. Visited County Cavan where my ancestors were evicted from their land in 1845. That forced them to come to America so they wouldn’t starve. Pardon me if I reject the ‘white privilege’ scenario if applied to my family.”
Predictably, this caused him a bit of controversy because of the parallel he drew.
Your ancestors cameto America legally because the only qualification of entry to the US at the time was no visible signs of communicable disease.
Your statement about ‘legality’ is misleading without historical context.
Details matter.— Melanie O'Donnell (@MelanieODonnell) July 19, 2018
O’Reilly argued that his family immigrated to the states “legally”, yet many responded to his remarks stating that there were virtually no legal regulations on immigration to the United States in the mid-19th century.
Bollix - there was no “legal” immigration in 1845.
But I’m sure your ancestors would be proud you had to pay out $30m in sexual harassment claims.
America is not sending us their best people.— Joe O’Shea (@josefoshea) July 19, 2018
The American Immigration Council stated: “Many people assume that their family immigrated to the United States legally, or did it ‘the right way’. In most cases, this statement does not reflect the fact that the U.S. immigration system was very different in the past and that their families might not have been allowed to enter had today’s laws been in effect.
“When many families arrived in the United States, there were no numerical limitations on immigration, no requirements to have an existing family or employment relationship with someone in the country, and no requirement to obtain a visa prior to arriving.”
Spending the day learning of my ancestors and the land that made them. pic.twitter.com/9qUYunsgM4— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) July 19, 2018
They went on to say that there is no equivalency between now and then since the definition who is “legal” and who is not, changes as immigration laws evolve.
“Many of our ancestors would not have qualified under today’s immigration laws. Until the late 19th century, there was very little federal regulation of immigration- there were virtually no laws to break.”
While this may not have been a case of ‘White Privilege’, O’Reilly may have to consider that the times have changed since 1845 in regards to the reality of immigration to the United States.