A Fox News reporter is in hot water after a racially charged segment in New York City's Chinatown

Jesse wattersFox NewsJesse Watters in Chinatown.

Fox News on Wednesday found itself on the defensive over a correspondent it had been hoping to promote as a younger, more playful presence on the network. 

Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters, who hosts recurring short segments on “The O’Reilly Factor,” became the subject of intense criticism after a segment aired this week showed him interviewing pedestrians in the street in New York City’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

Critics suggested it engaged in confused, longtime racial stereotypes of Asian-Americans. Despite ostensibly on a mission to discuss the role of China in the 2016 presidential election, Watters’ interview progressed to him quizzing passersby about whether it was the “year of the dragon,” asking subjects if he needed to bow to them, and inquiring about karate.

After the segment came to light Wednesday, the Asian American Journalists Association sought an apology from Fox.

“It’s 2016. We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race,” Paul Cheung, president of the AAJA, said in a statement. “Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of colour in a respectful and fair manner.”

The segment also caught the attention of elected officials, earning condemnation from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, among others:

In a series of tweets late Wednesday, the “O’Reilly Factor” correspondent offered an apology to anyone who “found offence” with his segment:

But it comes at an inopportune time for the Fox News personality, whom the network had been promoting to media. Fox News postponed an interview between Watters and Business Insider on Thursday that had been scheduled before the segment aired.

Watters is no stranger to controversy, though rarely has his work been as widely criticised. Since joining “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2003, the correspondent has verbally sparred with celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell and been the subject of ridicule on programs like “The Colbert Report.”

Huffington Post editor Amanda Terkel (disclaimer: Terkel is a former colleague of this Business Insider reporter) criticised Watters for tracking her down in 2009 and confronting her about one of her articles while she was on vacation.

This incident sparked a highly publicized scuffle at a 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner party between Watters and Huffington Post DC bureau chief Ryan Grim, who reportedly asked Watters to apologise to Terkel and mocked Watters’ ambush-style interviews.

For his part, Watters has acknowledged that his segments occasionally elicit criticism. The correspondent told IJReview last year that he often pokes fun at himself and does not mean to offend anyone with his segments.

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