Gawker has some questions for Jesse B. Watters, the Fox News producer that Bill O'Reilly likes to send out to ambush his enemies. So we're outside his building in Long Island. Right now. (Hi, Jesse!)
This apartment building is the last known address for both him and his wife according to publicly accessible databases. (And because some of you thought the original photo was a Google Street View snap, here's a fresh pic.) We've got a video camera, and we'll let you know if we find him.
Watters, as you may have read, likes to sneak up on people without warning and ask them questions so that O'Reilly can air video of his enemies looking aggrieved and flustered. He's done it to the New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, the Washington Post's William Arkin, Think Progress' Amanda Terkel, and others. Watters tailed Arkin for an hour-and-a-half, from Vermont to Massachusetts, and attempted to interview him in front of his children (Fox, always gracious, digitally obscured their faces). He famously followed Terkel, who is a rather slight young woman, for two hours from Washington, D.C., to rural Virginia on a weekend getaway. In all of the above cases, Watters' intent was to question his targets about things they had said or written.
More recently, Watters attended a GE shareholders' conference under the pretense that he owned shares of the company. During a question-and-answer session, he asked GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt about MSNBC's political leanings, and accused the network of airing hateful speech. He failed to announce himself as a Fox News employee and secretly recorded the exchange so that O'Reilly could broadcast it as evidence of a shareholders' "uprising" against Immelt.
In a recent New York Times story, Fox attempted justify its tactics by saying that it invited the targets to appear on O'Reilly's program, and that they had declined. Since O'Reilly's desire was to force them to defend their ideas to him, the only other option was to seek them out, without warning, at their homes or public places. As Watters put it in a billoreilly.com blog post quoted by the Times: "If they don't come to us, we'll go to them." This is, at least in the case of Terkel and Hertzberg, a lie: Neither of them received an invitation to go on the program before Watters showed up with his camera.
The Times quoted Watters' blog post because it couldn't speak to him directly: "The Fox News producer responsible for most of the ambush interviews, Jesse Watters, refused repeated interview requests," the paper wrote.
We found it odd that Watters would refuse to talk to a reporter, given the lengths to which he goes to compel others speak to him. And as you can hear in this audio, unlike Watters' typical m.o., we called him to ask him about it yesterday. He transferred us immediately to Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti, for whom we left a message.
Later yesterday, Briganti called us back. When we informed her that we were recording the conversation, she refused to talk. (Incidentally, that's Fox News' Roger Ailes pictured, because we couldn't find a picture of Briganti.) Later, via email, Briganti indicated that Watters refused our interview request. So we decided to track him down and ask him about his ambush interview tactics face-to-face.
If we find him, we'll post the video as soon as we can. If we don't, we'll keep trying, and for that we'll need your help. What do you know about Jesse Watters? Did you go to college with him? Do you ride the train with him? Do you work at the Starbucks where he buys his coffee? Let us know. We'll get you started:
Watters was born in July 1978. He was raised in Philadelphia, graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 2001, and has been a producer for the O'Reilly Factor since 2003. Before that, he spent about four months in 2002 working on federal judge Dora Irizarry's losing campaign for New York Attorney General (making less than $12,000 per year).
If you see him, snap a camera phone picture and send it to us. Or better yet, ask him why he stalks and ambushes people that his boss disagrees with, and tell us what he says. Two years ago, during an on-air celebration of Watters' ambushes, O'Reilly had this to say about his young charge: "Jesse Watters, everybody. He's becoming a big star all over the world."
Let's make that happen.