Bill O’Reilly, the longtime Fox News host, responded to the speech made by Michelle Obama during the Democratic National Convention on Monday evening.
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Obama said, referring to the White House. “I watch my daughters—two beautiful, intelligent, black young women—playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Later, O’Reilly talked about her comment on a segment on his show, describing the conditions slaves faced while working on the White House.
“Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802,” he said. “However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well.”
It’s worth noting that the White House wasn’t exclusively built by slaves. Other laborers worked on it as well.
The White House Historical Association says that the government didn’t own slaves but hired them from slave owners.
“The D.C. commissioners, charged by Congress with building the new city under the direction of the president, initially planned to import workers from Europe to meet their labor needs. However, response to recruitment was dismal and soon they turned to African American—enslaved and free—to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings,” it says.
Jesse Holland, author of “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House,” said about two-thirds of laborers who worked on the U.S. Capitol building were slaves.