Armstrong: Don't mess with Maxine Waters or her wig

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) quickly shot back after an insult from Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly.

If Donald Trump is our annoying, right-wing uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table, then watch out, world. 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) has become the nation’s beloved salty aunt who holds her tongue and her shade for no one ... and that includes Trump. 

The world has taken fresh notice of the ballsy, longtime congresswoman from Los Angeles because she says what she thinks  and does it in a way that makes you sit up and take notice.  Lately, she's been giving life to the Trump resistance effort by speaking loudly and often about how unfit Trump  is for office and how he needs to go.

The internet loves her. Millennials post memes on social media of Waters looking fierce and throwing shade, as they say.  And it's all directed at the Trump administration.  No wonder Fox's Bill O'Reilly tried to take her down by joking about her hair of all things.

During an appearance on Fox & Friends, he was asked for his thoughts  about a speech she made from the House floor, and he said:  "I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig."

Instead of talking about what she said, O'Reilly attacked her looks, a sexist, juvenile diversionary tactic that he later apologized for.  

Waters, though, didn't let a hair of that perfectly coifed hairdo slip out of place over the dig.  She's been around too long to let O'Reilly ruffle her. Instead, Waters seized the moment to rally her supporters.

"I am a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined," Waters declared in that trademark voice of hers on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes. "I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O'Reilly or anybody.

"And I'd like to say to women out there everywhere: Don't allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people,  to intimidate you or scare you. Be who you are. Do what you do and let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country."

Aunty Maxine, as the millennials call her, doesn't play.

Twitter responded with the hashtag #blackwomenatwork, spurred not only by O'Reilly's offense but also  by  the actions of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. He repeatedly  admonished  American Urban Radio Networks reporter April  Ryan for shaking her head in frustration and disbelief during Tuesday's news briefing.

The longtime Washington correspondent was pressing him on the administration's  Russian connections when Spicer said: “I'm sorry that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head.”

After more back-and-forth between the two, Ryan again shook her head, prompting Spicer to chide her, saying,  “Please, stop shaking your head again.” 

Mind you, this took place on national TV before a packed room of reporters. Spicer came off more like a dad, trying to discipline an unruly kid than a representative of the executive office addressing a respected member of the Fourth Estate. 

Ryan, you may recall, is the same African American reporter who earlier this year was asked by President Trump to organize a meeting for him with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.   

“I was just asking a question, trying to get an answer, and I found myself trying to defend myself," Ryan told CNN on Wednesday about Spicer's admonition. "It was a simple question. It was a legitimate question.”

"At the end of the day, I'm a reporter. He's a press secretary and we both have jobs to do," she added.  

And that's the point. Ryan's a journalist who was doing her job admirably -- not a child whose behavior needed to be corrected. 

As for O'Reilly, he  unwittingly touched a third rail by daring to joke about the hair of a senior member of Congress who is both African American and a woman. He should have known better.

Although detractors regularly make fun of  Trump's combover, that ribbing  doesn't carry the same weight because the objectification of women  has long been a thorny subject, as has the degradation of blacks.  Historically, African Americans have been mocked for their hair and other aspects of their appearance.

“Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride,” Hillary Clinton pointed out Tuesday while speaking at the conference of Professional BusinessWomen of California.  

“But why should we have to? And any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”

Girlfriend ought to know.