Politics & Policy

Cry Racism!

And let slip the dogs of politics.

In the last fortnight: 1) The NAACP called the tea party racist; 2) Andrew Breitbart called the NAACP racist; 3) Shirley Sherrod called Republican opponents of Obamacare racists; 4) Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called Shirley Sherrod racist; 5) many in mainstream media called Andrew Breitbart racist; 6) Howard Dean called Fox racist; and, 7) it was revealed that liberal journalist Spencer Ackerman proposed calling Fred Barnes and Karl Rove racist.

Thus, through a confluence of bizarrely unlikely events, the vicious act of falsely accusing people of racism became a laughingstock. It went from being a career killer to a punch line; from villainy to vaudeville; from knife in the back to pie in the face.

#ad#It started at about noon Monday when Andrew Breitbart published on his website an edited video of Shirley Sherrod giving a speech to an NAACP audience this spring, which he described, in part, thus:

Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind.”

She refers him to a white lawyer. Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement.

The week before, the NAACP, without evidence, had attacked the tea party for alleged racism in its rank and file. This is part of a running smear by prominent Democrats — such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and legions of Democratic-party support groups — that the tea party (now identified with by about a third of the country) is racist, Nazi, un-American, etc.

Breitbart struck back, with evidence (in the form of the video of the audience reaction to the moment in Sherrod speech before she talks of racial reconciliation) demonstrating anti-white racism in a NAACP audience. The story of the week was thus launched.

Notice, by the way, that he alerted the viewer that “eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help.” It’s in the video, and it is in the text of Breitbart’s original post on the topic. But the mainstream media selectively edited out this exonerating fact in virtually every story about Breitbart. So the subsequent charge against Breitbart by the mainstream media — that his editing was misleading — was itself misleading.

In a seemingly unrelated story just after midnight on July 20, Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller reported on leaked e-mails from the liberal-media cabal JournoList, in which — after the Reverend Wright issue first emerged during the 2008 campaign — one of the participating liberal journalists, Spencer Ackerman, proposed defending Obama by using a racial smear tactic:

If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them-Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares-and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

At last, we have the smoking gun that proves to the American public that at least some liberal reporters are quite prepared to make false charges of racism to advance their political agenda — and to conspire with other like-minded character-assassin journalists in so doing.


Then, the White House panicked, and turned a couple of — until then — minor Web stories into one of the worst political weeks for any White House since Nixon’s many sad examples of terrible political weeks in 1974.

According to Mrs. Sherrod, she was forced to resign her post immediately at the Department of Agriculture under pressure from the White House, which was afraid that Glenn Beck was about to report the story of her NAACP speech. (In the Obama version of FDR, “The only thing we have to fear is the Glenn Beck Show itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”)

The compliant NAACP then itself apologized. The next day, more of Mrs. Sherrod’s speech became available, in which she describes how she overcame that first instinct of racial bigotry three decades ago and helped out the white farmer. The white farmer’s wife went on CNN and said what a nice and helpful lady Mrs. Sherrod is.

#ad#The White House panicked again and instructed the secretary of agriculture to apologize and offer her job back to her. The NAACP then withdrew its apology and said it was “snookered” by Breitbart (even though the tape had come from the organization’s own event, and a roomful of its members were present when the tape was made).

Then some more of her speech — after the reconciliation-of-the-races-section — was made available and included the following sentences: “I haven’t seen such a mean-spirited people as I’ve seen lately over this issue of health care. [Murmurs of agreement.] Some of the racism we thought was buried — [someone in the audience says, “It surfaced!”] didn’t it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes and we didn’t do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president. [Applause]” (Text courtesy of National Review.)

In other words, she accused up to 70 million Americans (registered Republican voters) of opposing Obamacare because the president is black — rather than because we disagree with the policy, as we did with Hillarycare in 1994. That is a broad-brush, bigoted attitude for Mrs. Sherrod to take toward all of us who opposed the president’s health-care policy. She implicitly accused all 70 million of us of being racist.

Then Mrs. Sherrod went on CNN with Anderson Cooper and said she thinks that Andrew Breitbart wants America to return to slavery. And that is the last mainstream television seems to want to present of Mrs. Sherrod live and unedited. After dominating the news for the week, the eloquent Mrs. Sherrod was not invited to a single Sunday show.

And so did the rank cynicism of overplaying the race card turn that dreaded knave into a joker.

Tony Blankley is executive vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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