NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The controversial mob attack on two Virginian-Pilot reporters in Norfolk is getting national attention. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly spoke about the attack Monday night after sending a crew to cover the story over the weekend.
During the show, his producer Jesse Watters said many people in Norfolk felt it was a racially motivated attack: "I think there is a lot of racial animosity in Norfolk."
Here's what concerns many leaders in Norfolk: The producer made this observation after spending Sunday in Norfolk, after ambushing the Pilot editor while he was getting into his car, and flagging down a couple of others he met on the street to get their reaction.
"I was a bit taken back when I saw the O'Reilly factor piece last night," said Norfolk Vice-Mayor Anthony Burfoot who has lived in the city his entire 44 years. "I am out here everyday, and I do not hear that there is this deep racial tension and racial animosity in Norfolk."
Watters goes on about the attack, which even the victims claim was not racially motivated, "(The event) was a lid on the powder keg and all of a sudden it exploded," Watters said.
Burfoot got calls about it, "I had friends that called me from California. They asked, 'What's going on there in Norfolk? Hell, what is going on? I didn't know you had race problems in Norfolk,' and all I could say was we don't have anything going on here," Burfoot said.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim told WAVY.com, "The citizens of Norfolk are concerned about crime wherever and whenever it occurs." Mayor Fraim has lived in Norfolk his entire 62 years, and was especially incensed by this Jesse Watters conclusion, "And a lot people in the black community are using the Trayvon Martin as a leverage to explode." Fraim responded, "We are insulted by that, and that they would link this to something that happened in Florida is ridiculous."
Burfoot goes further than that, saying the Bill O'Reilly producer enflamed to get a reaction, "They are not getting the response that they wanted. They didn't get the reaction, so they then sensationalized it." That, of course, is the negative stereotype of reporters, "Creating a story that is fictitious, and that there is a powder keg in this community, and that race relations are not good, but the relations are good," said Burfoot.
Wardence Butler, who works in Norfolk said in response to the racial animosity allegations, "There will always be racial problems, but there is no overwhelming problems between the races here. There are racial issues, but I don't think it's a powder keg. I don't think we are going to have a revolution anytime soon."
Kent Lee, Sr., felt strongly on the issue, saying, "A powder keg with its top about to blow? No, we are one community out here. We look out for each other, so I don't see the powder keg." Lee's 19-year-old son, Kent Jr. said, "I got white friends. I still play ball with them, so i don't see that powder keg at all."
Longtime City of Norfolk critic, Michael Muhammad, who is always concerned about racial issues in Norfolk, told WAVY.com, "Well, the reality is there is a lot of racial animosity in Norfolk, but it has nothing to do with this story."
Muhammad thinks racial tension in any community like Norfolk deals a lot with economic disparity.
10 On Your Side called O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters, but he did not return our call. Pilot reporter Dave Forster e-mailed us back saying the Norfolk Police have asked him not to speak anymore on this issue.
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