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Fox News’ Jesse Watters Takes Vacation Amid Controversy Over Ivanka Trump Remarks

Variety logo Variety 4/27/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Anchor Jesse Watters is known for the playful banter he has put on display during dozens of person-on-the-street interviews. But some remarks he made during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Five” weren’t seen as particularly light-hearted.

After watching footage of Ivanka Trump being called out during an appearance in Berlin, Watters uttered a line that some saw as disrespectful and misogynist.

“It’s funny, the left says they really respect women, and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss,” he said, adding: “So I don’t really get what’s going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.”

The utterance was criticized by people on the right and the left, among them John Podhoretz and Mika Brzezinski.

On Wednesday, Watters issued a statement saying the line was not meant as sexual innuendo. “During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ,” the anchor said in a statement. “This was in no way a joke about anything else.” Later that evening on the broadcast of “The Five,” he announced he would be taking a short vacation, missing two primetime sessions of the program, as well as his Saturday-night program, “Watters World.”

Fox News has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after an April disclosure that five different women had received settlements totaling $13 million after levying allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior against Bill O’Reilly, the veteran anchor who led the network’s 8 p.m. slot. O’Reilly and Fox News announced a parting of the ways last week. He has said he made settlements to protect his children. Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes was ousted from the 21st Century Fox unit last year after former anchor Gretchen Carlson alleged she had been sexually harassed by him. An internal investigation followed, and other accusations against Ailes surfaced. Ailes has denied all charges.

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