UPDATE 10 PM: Facing a firestorm of criticism, Bill O’Reilly opened his show on Fox News tonight by addressing the Michelle Obama DNC speech-themed Tuesday segment about the building of the White House that had gotten him in hot water. He defended his comments about the slaves being well treated and called his critics “smear merchants.”

“As any honest historian knows, in order to keep slaves and free laborers strong, the Washington administration provided meat, bread and other staples, also decent lodging on the grounds of the new presidential building,” O’Reilly said. “That is a fact. Not a justification, not a defense of slavery.”  You can watch the video of his response above and the original clip below.

PREVIOUS 7:30 AM: Bill O’Reilly weighed in on Michelle Obama’s mention of slaves who built the White House during her speech Monday at the Democratic National Convention.

The O’Reilly Factor host said he did a little fact-checking of the first lady’s remarks and found that slaves did in fact work on the White House from 1792 to 1800, along with whites, immigrants. and others, but he says they  were “well-fed and had decent lodgings.” He also added that the federal government stopped the use of slave labor in 1802, two years after the White House was built.

In her emotional speech on Monday, Michelle Obama reflected on the past eight years as the first African American family to live in the White House as part of her thoughts on the progress that has been made in the country.

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Obama said. “I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”