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“Bill, what were you trying to say?” asked Jesse Jackson on “The O’Reilly Factor,” which devoted a significant portion of Thursday’s show to Bill O’Reilly’s pushback against accusations that comments he made about a dinner he had at a Harlem restaurant were racially insensitive.

While Jackson suggested that O’Reilly’s comment came across as underestimating “the civility of blacks,” he said the bigger issue was that the brouhaha obscured more substantive issues this week, like the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock High School and the challenge of “resegregation” in schools.

“That to me was more insulting,” Jackson told O’Reilly.

The entire incident, first highlighted by progressive watchdog group Media Matters earlier this week, ignited what has been a back and forth between O’Reilly and some of his detractors. O’Reilly has accused news outlets like the New York Times and CNN of distorting what he said, calling it a “witchhunt.”

“The point right here is to get beyond the smashing and counter-smashing,” Jackson said.

But it’s not over yet. O’Reilly also pointed to one CNN guest’s use of the term “the eternally happy Negro” to describe Juan Williams in one CNN segment on the controversy.

This naturally is fodder for O’Reilly, but it may be even better publicity for Media Matters, which doesn’t have a popular nightly cable forum. On their website, the group said that although “O’Reilly claimed Media Matters has personally attacked him,” he “failed to offer any examples.”

Video of Jackson’s interview here.

And here’s the CNN segment.

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