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The Controversy Over Bill Cosby's Recent Remarks

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 1, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, [comedian, actor] Bill Cosby (search) recently said some black parents are irresponsible, not educating their children, not imposing discipline.  Some Americans objected to Cosby's blunt remarks, but he has not pulled back.  Here's the latest. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL COSBY:  I see those people who did Brown v. The Board of Education (search) in the room to make whatever it was, separate but equal or to equal or to show the children, Ken, Clark and this white men with the dolls to show the children felt inferior to.  I'm looking at Nashville and the march where people are trying to sit at a counter, and we say OK, all of that was done for this.  And then here it is, 50 percent dropout. You can't just blame white people for this, man, you can't.  Whether I'm right wing or left, some people are not parenting. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY:  All right, joining us now from Dallas is Roland Martin, the founder of the blackamericatoday.com Web site, and the author of the book "Speak, Brother: A Black Man's View of America (search)." And from Cleveland, Jimi Izrael, a journalist who writes for africana.com. 

Mr. Israel, I'll begin with you.  Cosby is right.  Cosby is right.  The only way out of poverty and the only way to improve your situation is with discipline and education.  And if parents don't provide that for your children, they are failing, they are bad parents.  So why the controversy?

JIMI IZRAEL, africana.com:  Well, I want to say this, Bill, that Mr. Cosby is right about an awful lot, Dr. Cosby, excuse me.  I just think the way he said it, he talks down to these people.  He talks down about the poor and undereducated and uneducated as opposed to offering some kind of substantive solution.  And that's my problem.  He is talking down his nose at these people that love and revere him so much, whereas he's not offering any solutions. 

O'REILLY:  Why do you think he's talking down at them?  He basically said the same thing.  If you allow your child to go out and speak poorly, not do their homework, take drugs, hang out until all hours of the night, you are a bad parent.  Why is that speaking down?

IZRAEL:  If he had just said that, that would have been fine.  But he took his opportunity to like lob one-liners at people that didn't have it coming, didn't ask for it coming.  And you know what, you know something, Bill?  There is a reason why extemporaneous speaking is an art form.  There is a reason why nobody is asking Dave Chappelle to speak at Brown v. Board of Education, because you don't flip off the cuff at these kind of things.  You should have a very set agenda of what you want to say.  And Bill Cosby wasn't setting any agendas.  He was flipping one-liners at poor people. 

O'REILLY:  See, I disagree, Jimi.  I think he really thought it out and he's angry at the irresponsibility of some parents, particularly in the... 

IZRAEL:  He's allowed to be angry... 

O'REILLY:  He is, and I think he is doing a service to poor people when he tells them this is the way it is.  Am I wrong, Mr. Martin?

ROLAND MARTIN, AUTHOR:  No, I don't think you're wrong.  Jimi makes the statement that he didn't offer any solutions, when he says you have parents who are spending $500 on athletic gear and not $200 on a hooked on phonics tape.  If I'm a parent, I'm saying, wait a minute, I should be reprioritizing where I'm spending my dollars.  When you talk about ensuring that your kids are speaking proper English, not how white people talk, not how black people talk, but simply how people talk, proper English, then...

IZRAEL:  Hey, Roland... 

MARTIN:  One second, Jimi. 

IZRAEL:  Sure. 

MARTIN:  When he talks about African-Americans getting upset with treating every black person who is in jail as a political prisoner, what he's saying is you have to look at what an individual is doing.  I certainly agree that there are significant problems with our education system.  I agree there are problems with our criminal justice system.  But what I believe is, you can fight on one hand on those issues but at the same time ensure that our kids are being educated.  That's what Bill Cosby was saying. 

O'REILLY:  All right, go ahead, Jimi. 

IZRAEL:  Well, I don't know what's going on at the bodega on Bill Cosby's street, but there are no kids on my street stealing Coca-Cola and pound cake.  They haven't stole that kind of stuff for years.  And I'll tell you what, I'm not going to license a cop to shoot him in the back of the head.  You know.  And I think what he says was irresponsible.  And he didn't think it out.  I think he was just angry.  He might have had a few to drink and got up there and just started ranting... 

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY:  Let me get in here.  Let me get in here.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Roland, Roland, Roland, let me get in here.  And we'll get back to you.

MARTIN:  Don't say the man was drinking.

O'REILLY:  I agree with you, Jimi, in the sense that I didn't like the pound cake thing.  You don't shoot a kid because of pound cake.  But I think, look -- I wrote a chapter on this on "Who is Looking Out for You," my book.  I'm a white guy.  All right.  I know black people but I've never... 

IZRAEL:  Really?

O'REILLY:  Yes, the whitest guy on Earth, Jimi, I can't get any whiter.  I got sunburned over the weekend because I'm so white.  But I shouldn't have to be telling the black community that you have to have peer pressure to help the kids and abandon the gangsta rap, abandon the pity party, abandon the blame game because if you don't, you will fail.  And that's what Cosby is saying, Jimi. 

IZRAEL:  That isn't what he is saying. 

O'REILLY:  Yes, it is. 

IZRAEL:  He lobbed one-liners at these poor people... 

(CROSSTALK)

IZRAEL:  ... them and those and those people down there as opposed to saying, us and we.  He didn't embrace these kids.  And you know what?  This isn't like he is Chris Rock.  Chris Rock is more like America's mailroom clerk.  Nobody takes him seriously.  Everybody loves him but nobody takes him seriously... 

O'REILLY:  I think Rock makes some good points...

IZRAEL:  ... Bill Cosby is...

O'REILLY:  ... but he says the same stuff. 

(CROSSTALK)

IZRAEL:  ... father, and besides that, they take everything he says as gospel.  He has a responsibility. 

O'REILLY:  All right, go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN:  For me, the reality is this.  I'm not going to get hung up on semantics that he should have said some and not all, he should have said this.  The fact of the matter is there is a major education gap in this country.  When you look at reading stats with black fourth graders, there is a study here in 2001 in Texas, there were 28,000 black kids who graduated from high school.  Of the SAT standards to get into college, only 1200 were eligible.  Again, I'm not going to sit here and waste my time saying tit for tat.  The fact of the matter is Bill Cosby was speaking about the needs for black people to educate our children to step up and man up and woman up and stop playing games. 

O'REILLY:  Let me ask you one question, Roland, then I'll give Jimi the last word.  What if the black parents themselves are uneducated, can't speak correctly, can't read well, then what?

MARTIN:  Well, we do exactly what the pre-Brown parents did.  They said, I may not be able to read, but I'm going to make sure my child is reading.  Those parents also can take advantage of an education system that allows them to read, whether it's a GED, whether it's going back to school.  Again, you can't tell me that there are whole families of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and extended families, none of them can read.  I'm sorry.  I'm not going to buy that. 

O'REILLY:  OK.  And Jimi, I'm going to let you wrap it up, 20 seconds, go. 

IZRAEL:  Well, I think Bill had a good point, but he took his podium and he took his opportunity and he just put down all these people that love and revere him.  And as opposed to taking shots at them, he owes them a solution.  He's an America's father.  He should step up to that mantle and be a good parent.  And you know...

O'REILLY:  All right.

IZRAEL:  And that...

(CROSSTALK)

IZRAEL:  ... thing is just overrated.

O'REILLY:  All right, appreciate it very much.  Thank you. 

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