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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exposed: Fox News' long history of race-baiting

Media Matters is on the case.  They are recording and exposing Fox News for what it is -- racist propaganda.  By facilitating and amplifying Breitbart's libel against Shirley Sherrod, they have exposed themselves and left themselves vulnerable.  Fox News claims that the White House and the NAACP are what made the story a story by the dismissal of Mrs Sherrod.  It was Fox Nation, the Web site extension of Fox News, that broke the story on the Web.  It was Fox Nation that was revving up the ratings for a lead up to Bill OReilly's 8:00p show.  It was the news bureau that broke this story causing the unfortunate reaction from the NAACP and the Administration.  Breitbart's false charge against Mrs Sherrod was a lie that fit Fox News narrative of spreading white resentment.  The best resource in exposing Fox News propaganda machine is Media Matters.  It was Media Matters that exposed Fox's "Willie Hortonization of Obama."  The key on air players and detail are discussed in the full article.  RGN

Fox News' long history of race-baiting
July 27, 2010 5:34 am ET

Howard Dean and Joan Walsh recently called out Fox News, criticizing what they called its "racist" handling of the deceptively edited Shirley Sherrod video clip. Indeed, Fox News and its personalities have a long history of aggressive race-baiting and racially charged commentary.

Walsh, Dean describe Fox as "racist," highlight Sherrod, New Black Panthers coverage
Howard Dean: Fox acted "absolutely racist." In a July 25 appearance on Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean told host Chris Wallace: "Let's just be blunt about this. I don't think Newt Gingrich is a racist, and you're certainly not a racist, but I think Fox News did something that was absolutely racist. They took a -- they had an obligation to find out what was really in the [Sherrod] clip. They have been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this [Sherrod] business and [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor and all this other stuff."

Walsh: "It's true" that Sherrod is a victim of Fox racism. On the July 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Walsh, editor in chief, stated of Sherrod: "I'm not giving her a pass, but I think the idea that she shouldn't be able to say Fox or Breitbart is racist is preposterous. She gets to say that because it's true, and because, from her vantage point, it's especially true."

Walsh describes "Fox News's 50-state Southern strategy." In a July 25 post, Walsh noted that Fox News is hyping "one 'scary black people' and 'Obama's a racist' story after another" and wrote: "Fox News has, sadly, become the purveyor of a 50-state 'Southern strategy,' the plan perfected by Richard Nixon to use race to scare Southern Democrats into becoming Republicans by insisting the other party wasn't merely trying to fight racism, but give blacks advantages over whites (Fox News boss Roger Ailes, of course, famously worked for Nixon)."

Fox pushes phony Sherrod video, keeps pushing after full video debunks "racism" attack
Fox's reaction to Breitbart's bogus video: "Racist" Sherrod "must resign." On the July 19 edition of his show, Bill O'Reilly played the out-of-context clip of Sherrod and said: "[T]hat is simply unacceptable. And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately." Sean Hannity asserted that Sherrod's comments were "[j]ust the latest in a series of racial incidents." Guest-hosting Fox News' On the Record, Dana Perino suggested Sherrod's remarks were racist, saying, "The video adds fuel to a growing controversy after the NAACP approved a resolution condemning the tea party movement for not denouncing racist members." The next morning, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that Sherrod made "a speech to the NAACP that sure sounded racist." Later, after guest-host Alisyn Camerota asserted that Sherrod's remarks are "outrageous and perhaps everybody needs a refresher course on what racism looks like," Doocy responded that Sherrod's comments are "Exhibit A."

Even after Breitbart's racism smear was debunked, some Fox News personalities stayed on the attack. After the full video of Sherrod's remarks surfaced, indicating that her story was one of racial reconciliation rather than discrimination, some Fox News figures continued to attack Sherrod. Hannity asserted: "She still admits that she was discriminating against this white farmer." On Fox & Friends, guest host Juliet Huddy said that there "are things that I think are incriminating" in the full video of Sherrod's remarks that "I do think raise a lot of questions about whether or not she should be in the position that she held in the first place." Fox News contributor Dick Morris suggested that keeping Sherrod at the USDA would represent a "huge problem" for President Obama, adding, "It's like he has Reverend Wright on his staff." On The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested that Sherrod may be among "radicals, racists, socialists" in the Obama administration.

Fox's nonstop hyping of the phony New Black Panthers scandal
Fox relentlessly pushes phony New Black Panthers scandal and uses it as an excuse for race-baiting. Fox News has hyped the manufactured scandal surrounding the New Black Panther Party more than 100 times. On America's Newsroom, Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. responded to a question from co-host Megyn Kelly about "what ... we know about [Attorney General] Eric Holder and his history of prosecuting this kind of case," by saying that "at Columbia college, he [Holder] was active in black student association[s] there" and that "at some point, there had been a takeover of the dean's office at Columbia." Morris used the New Black Panthers scandal to declare that Obama is "stereotyping himself as a racial president."

Fox baselessly links Obama and Holder to New Black Panthers case. Fox News figures baselessly asserted that Obama and Holder were involved in the Justice Department's decision in the New Black Panthers case. Kelly teased an interview with former Bush DOJ official Hans von Spakovsky by saying: "[S]erious allegations today that the decision to drop the now-infamous voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party may have reached all the way to the White House." Beck stated that "Obama comes in and decides suddenly in May of 2009 to drop the case." O'Reilly said Holder's "failure to prosecute is simply a dereliction of his sworn duty." Doocy asserted that "the attorney general drop[ped]" the charges against the New Black Panthers. And on Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard, host David Asman claimed that Obama "is defending racists in ... letting the Black Panthers off." In fact, J. Christian Adams, the conservative activist who has pushed the phony story testified that he had no "indication" higher-ups were involved in the decision.

Racially charged rhetoric a major part of Fox News' history
In addition to their racially charged coverage of the Sherrod tape and New Black Panthers case, as highlighted by Dean and Walsh, Fox's employees have relentlessly stoked racial tensions on Fox News.

Rupert Murdoch
Fox News' race problem starts at the very top. Its parent company's chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch, baselessly claimed that Obama made a "very racist comment" and that Glenn Beck's characterization of Obama as a "racist" was "right." Murdoch also hired Roger Ailes as Fox News Channel president despite his prior history of using race for political gain.

Murdoch says Beck's "racist" comment "was right." Responding to Beck's description of Obama as a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," Murdoch said in a November 6, 2009, interview with Sky News Australia that while that "was something which perhaps shouldn't have been said about the president, but if you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right." Murdoch also claimed that Obama "did make a very racist comment." A News Corp. spokesperson reportedly later told Politico that Murdoch "does not at all, for a minute, think the president is a racist."

When asked what "very racist comment" he was referring to, Murdoch says he "denied that absolutely." On November 19, 2009, Media Matters asked Murdoch to explain what he meant by his remark that Obama made a "very racist comment." Murdoch said, "I denied that absolutely." He added: "I don't believe he's a racist."

Roger Ailes
Before launching Fox News Channel, Ailes worked as a media consultant for several Republican campaigns in which evidence shows he appealed to racial fears and biases for political gain, and as executive producer for Rush Limbaugh's television show, during which Limbaugh made controversial statements about race. Under Ailes, Fox News has routinely engaged in race-baiting, as evidenced by the comments of Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, and other Fox News personalities.

As Nixon campaign consultant, Ailes reportedly looked for a "Wallaceite cab-driver" to bring up race at televised town hall meetings. As media consultant for Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign, Ailes directed televised town hall meetings in which Nixon answered questions from a supportive audience. According to historian Rick Pearlstein, Ailes suggested Nixon take a question from a "good, mean, Wallaceite cab-driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about these niggers?' " Pearlstein wrote, "Nixon then could abhor the uncivility of the words, while endorsing a 'moderate' version of the opinion. Ailes walked up and down a nearby taxi stand until he found a cabbie who fit the bill."

Ailes on 1988 strategy against Dukakis: "The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it." Along with Lee Atwater, Ailes was credited with helping George H.W. Bush come from behind to beat Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. Part of that winning strategy included portraying Dukakis as "soft on crime" and connecting him with convicted felon Willie Horton. Horton committed assault, armed robbery, and rape in Maryland during a weekend furlough -- a program granting temporary release to prisoners that Dukakis supported but was created under the previous governor. While the Bush campaign did not produce the Horton ad that was widely criticized as "racist," Ailes did produce the "Revolving Door" ad that similarly attacked Dukakis for the furlough program. The campaign also created "The Risk," a negative ad that referenced "a furlough escapee" who "terrorized a Maryland couple." Ailes has been quoted as saying, "The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it."

Ailes was media consultant for 1989 Giuliani campaign, whose attacks on Dinkins "prey[ed] upon the fears of the Jewish community." While Ailes was media consultant for Rudy Giuliani's first campaign for New York City mayor, the campaign placed an ad in a prominent Yiddish newspaper, The Algemeiner Journal, that featured an image of Giuliani's opponent David Dinkins -- who would become New York City's first African-American mayor -- alongside Jesse Jackson. The ad also displayed a photo of Giuliani with President George H.W. Bush, with the headline reading: ''Let the people of New York choose their own destiny" [New York Times, 9/30/1989]. Howard Kurtz reported that "Ira Silverman, vice president of the American Jewish Committee, said the Giuliani ad seemed a 'legitimate campaign tactic,' but said that he found it 'troubling' because it 'preys upon the fears of the Jewish community' " [Washington Post, 9/29/1989]. National Public Radio has further reported: "Giuliani also tagged Dinkins as a 'Jesse Jackson Democrat.' That was an appeal to the city's large contingent of Jewish voters, who had despised Jackson ever since he used an anti-Semitic epithet to describe New York City. In this context, Giuliani's signature issue of crime took on racial overtones, says political consultant Norman Adler." One of Giuliani's ads featured a New Yorker stating, "I'm tired of living in New York and being scared."

Ailes produced Limbaugh's television show. Ailes served as executive producer for Limbaugh's syndicated television show, which ran from 1992 to 1996. On his TV show, in response to Spike Lee's recommendation that African-American children be permitted to skip school to view Malcolm X, Limbaugh once said: "Spike, if you're going to do that, let's complete the education experience. You should tell them that they should loot the theater and then blow it up on their way out" [Nexis transcript of Limbaugh's show on October 29, 1992]. And after Sen. Strom Thurmond -- who in 1948 ran for president on a States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) platform that advocated racial segregation -- told a gay service member during a 1993 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on gays in the military, "Your lifestyle is not normal," and asked if he had every sought psychiatric help, Limbaugh stated of Thurmond: "He is not encumbered by trying to be politically correct. He's not encumbered by all of the -- the so-called new niceties and proprieties. He just says it, and if you want to know what America used to be -- and a lot of people wish it still were -- then you listen to Strom Thurmond." Limbaugh added, "He got a standing ovation. Now people -- people applauded that. People applaud -- because -- you know, Strom Thurmond can say it because he's 90 years old and people say, Ah, he's just an old coot. He's from the old days,' and so forth. But that's what most people think. They just don't have the guts to say it. That's why they applaud when somebody does say it that directly and that simply" [Nexis transcript of Limbaugh's show, May 11, 1993].

For the full article and on-air personalities

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ron Walters: No White House Defense, So Racist Are Able Define Racism

No White House Defense, So Racist Are Able Define Racism
By Ron Walters

The case of Shirley Sherrod, who was fired from her job at the Department of Agriculture for being charged by Andrew Breitbart, a white nationalist, with making a racist speech at a March NAACP conference is on its way to being respectfully resolved. Breitbart had placed an edited eight minute video of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP conference in March on his website to make a case for racism within the NAACP. Ms. Sherrod said that she had taken her job to help Black people, but when a white farmer came to her for help, understanding that many Black farmers had received no help, she would have to determine, in light of his arrogance in dealing with her, just how much help she would give him. And although she decided that she would do just enough, circumstances caused her to rethink her initial decision and go above and beyond the call of duty, coming to believe that what really mattered was that he was poor and not just white and as such had much in common with blacks.

But what still sticks in my craw is that all the parties to the sorry treatment of Ms. Sherrod based their actions in agreement with the concept of racism as defined by Andrew Breitbart, that the eight minute video segment showed racism both in terms of Ms. Sherrod’s statements and the audience’s response. It’s simply not there.

Most people now understand that the speech was actually 35 minutes and that this small segment was taken out of context of a complete story. But it should be noted that even the first eight minutes were not racist. It was not racist that Ms. Sherrod wanted to work only for Black people. Charge Cesar Chavez with being racist for only working for Hispanics. It was not racist that she remembered the past mal-treatment of blacks and decided how much help she would give him. It would only have been racist if she decided she would give him less than equal service. It was not racist for some in the audience to respond audibly in agreement with Sherrod who voiced the irony that the shoe was on the other foot and she now had the power to determine how to help a white farmer knowing that Black farmers had faced trouble at the hands of whites.

In other words, the cultural context within the exchange between Ms. Sherrod and the NAACP audience was a legitimate one for the expression of her past experiences and its validation by the audience. It only appears racist when taken out of that cultural forum, as was the case of the video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and thrown into an arena where it was evaluated at the hands of conservatives who had neither respect nor much knowledge of Black culture.

This means that the White House, the media and other institutions are vulnerable to having racial situations being defined by those with a distinctly political agenda if they do not change their approach. So, they should take racism seriously rather than running from the issue for the reasons that many have written about, because the President lives in a country where race is one of the most dynamic issues and his own race will continually invite some relationship to those issues. In this sense, it was, and is, naïve for him and his advisers to believe that they can either ignore these issues or handle them on an ad hoc basis. They are as serious to his success as passing health care legislation and they deserve “war room” attention.

Either the White House, the NAACP, MSNBC and various other media outlets, and the Agriculture Department all agreed with Breitbart’s definition of the video segment, or they were afraid to have to defend the video against a Fox News campaign by its show hosts to shape the speech as racist. Perhaps it was both, but if they had been accurate about the concept, the Right wing campaign would have come to a halt right there. These institutions need expert and trusted advisers on racial issues that they use in the decision-making process not just for damage control. The NAACP should have known better, and done better, and its expertise on the issue would have been able to inform others.

First Rev. Wright, then Van Jones, Acorn, the New Black Panthers, now Breitbart all lead to the conclusion that this White House is inept in the handling of racial issues. Since the culture war against it will not stop, it should develop the capacity and the confidence to face it down.

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. One of his books is: White Nationalist, Black Interests (Wayne State University Press)

Mitch Albom Breitbart the Smearer

Long before Mitch Albom became a best selling author with a national reputation, Detroiters had the pleasure of reading his Detroit Free Press columns on an almost daily basis. Mitch has increbile insights not only about sports, but life as well. As his Tuesdays with Morrie shows not only is Mitch bright, he is very compassionate. His piece here on the Shirley Sherrod incident is right on target -- the blame here clearly is Breitbart's. Albom does does a great job in showing that what Breitbart does in not journalism. It was this breach that was the match -- Breitbart's match. What Mitch does not do is take on who poured or at least ready to pour gasoline on the flame -- Fox News!!! Fox News has been Breitbart's access to the mainstream. It was Fox News that was responsible for the firing of Van Jones, It was Fox News that destroyed Acorn. Was there some expectation that the Obama administration could survive, unharmed, from a 24/7 -- like The Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- full loops? The nation's #1 news source was fanning the flames even before they got to Bill O'Reilly's air time. Except for letting Fox News off the hook, Albom focuses in on the real culprit here a racist unethical Breitbart!  RGN

In the Sherrod controversy, do shoot the messenger


Posted: July 25, 2010

If a house is burned to the ground, you can whine about the firefighters or criticize the building material -- but first you blame the guy who started the fire, right?

Last week, a government worker named Shirley Sherrod was axed after a video clip of her NAACP speech was used to paint her as racist. In the blink of an eye, her reputation was burned down.

But once the whole speech was revealed -- proving the clip was way out of context -- her bosses were booed, the NAACP was blasted, even the president was chided.

And the guy who started the fire?

As of today, he still has matches.

Andrew Breitbart is the conservative blogger who posted the edited video of Sherrod. He put it on one of his five Web sites. Breitbart, a former Matt Drudge groupie, onetime E! Entertainment employee, and a guy who called Sen. Edward Kennedy, hours after his death, "a special pile of human excrement," hoisted that clip as evidence of reverse racism by the NAACP. He claimed the audience applauded such sentiments. The video showed no such thing.

But Breitbart lit the fire. He blew on the flames. As Sherrod would later tell CNN, "He knew exactly what would happen."

So Breitbart is where this sad story begins, where the blame lies and where the punishment should be doled out -- if there were any you could dole out.

Sadly, how do you punish a blogger like Breitbart? He simply slithers back into the muck that some confuse with journalism. Who does he have to answer to?


Not the whole truth

"I am," Breitbart boasted to the media last week, "public enemy No. 1 or 2 to the Democratic Party ... based upon the successes my journalism has had."

There are several things wrong with that statement. First, I doubt he counts that much.

Second, his journalism? It's not journalism if you look for only one point of view, post other people's stuff and don't even acknowledge how using chopped-up material to paint a full picture is wrong.

"Let me think about that," was what Breitbart said when asked whether he might have vetted the footage more carefully if given another chance.

Let me think about that?

Some people have called this incident a referendum on racism. I don't think so. It was a referendum on editing. A referendum on Internet blogging. A referendum on our blazing desire for explosive moments -- even out of context -- and our creeping slowness to see the full picture.

Anyone who watches the whole tape of Sherrod's speech sees an honest woman who tells of an incident with a white farmer 24 years ago that made her question her own prejudices. She goes on to say such things as:

"Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't ... and they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic. ...

"God helped me see that it's not just about black people. ... I've come to realize that we have to work together ... we have to overcome the divisions that we have."

Yet, even after all that, Breitbart's Web site contains pieces like "If Anyone Needs to Apologize, It's Shirley Sherrod." Breitbart actually said the following of Sherrod: "This person has not gotten past black versus white."

Sounds like he can't get past something himself.

What standards?

And that, of course, is hate. Hate makes the political world spin, particularly the blog world. The shrieking Ann Coulter, who can't possibly be taken seriously, actually claimed Breitbart was a "victim" of whomever set him up with this video. Sorry, but you can't fan your fame with "blockbuster" revelations, then blame others if they turn up bogus. It's like knocking over souvenirs in a curio shop; you break it, you Breitbart broke it, he bought it, but instead of taking responsibility for it, he spins and points to anyone else -- the liberals, President Barack Obama, the NAACP, even Sherrod herself, a woman who was nothing more than a pawn.

"I believe that I'm held to a higher standard," Breitbart told Politico. "If this video showed a picture of a caucasian talking in the exact same way but talking about a black person with an audience affirming and clapping that behavior, the reporter would be getting a Pulitzer Prize right now."

Response: 1) No, he wouldn't. 2) Showing an edited video is not "reporting." 3) You, Breitbart, are not held to any standard.

And that's the problem.

Contact MITCH ALBOM: or

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are Black Leaders Brain Washed??

Tom Burwell has raised the right question:  "Are Black Leaders Brainwashed?"   From our experience with this "new" black leadership, the conclusion must be a resounding, "Yes."   The problem begins with this "new black leadership" to have itself cast as being "post racial."  When Ben Jealous challenged the Tea Party to expose and expel the racists from their ranks was a master stroke.  It was so good tax Fox News' Tea Party Express was expelled from the Tea Party movement.  That would have been the first of many, but in the name of being "post racial" and making sure blacks do not discriminate against whites, this new leadership, this "post racial leadership" has failed the test.   Seasoned civil rights activist, rather than being "snookered" would have known there was something fishy from the get.  Being reported was an event that happened in your organization three months ago and you fall for the Okie-doke??   Give me a break.  Part of the problem is that they tuned out on the Acorn story.  The NAACP made no noise when Acorn was going down.  This "new leadership" thinks that change is going to come from the heart.  Hopefully, they now see that they racists have no heart.   That change will come through struggle knowing that those white nationalist propagandists are out to "snooker" you.  Rather than condemnation of Shirley Sherrod, an earlier generation would have demanded "Prove it!"  RGN

Are Black Leaders Brainwashed?

By: Tom Burrell

Posted: July 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM

The rush to condemn Shirley Sherrod exposes a lack of courage that we cannot afford in the coming media war.

The debacle surrounding the virtual lynching of black agriculture official Shirley Sherrod has left everyone involved scrambling for cover. President Obama, while not directly linked to the premature decision to fire Sherrod, called her Thursday to apologize. Video provocateur Andrew Breitbart has insisted he was not after Sherrod but after the NAACP. Fox News' Glenn Beck displayed a time line on his show to argue he only covered the story after Sherrod was shown to have been unfairly dismissed.

But the role played by black leaders in this tragic story deserves a closer look. It tells us a lot about the state of black leadership in America and the lack of courage among these leaders in the face of the relentless campaign from the conservative right to demonize black America. When the incriminating video first aired, implying that Sherrod had discriminated against a white farmer, the NAACP quickly repudiated Sherrod, defining her words as ''appalling, shameful, intolerable and racist.'' CNN's Roland Martin expressed solidarity with the NAACP, saying its admonishment was correct.

When the truth came to light -- that the video posted by Breitbart was heavily edited to dilute Sherrod's anecdotal story of racial reconciliation -- NAACP president Ben Jealous retracted his organization's repudiation, claiming they had all been ''snookered'' by Fox News and Breitbart. Jealous said the orchestrated smear campaign represented a ''teachable moment'' for activists and journalists.

I beg to differ. For black political and community leaders, media pundits and voters, this is not just a ''teachable moment.'' It's our moment of reconciliation, our moment to take a stand. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Breitbart said he released the truncated Sherrod video in response to the NAACP's use of ''propaganda'' to smear the Tea Party. It was a classic pot-kettle maneuver from a member of the camp that has resurrected and expertly utilized fear-based, Nazi-era propagandizing techniques. Judging by the right's record, the Sherrod affair is just the warm-up act before the fall elections. It's a safe bet that race-based attacks will be part of the propaganda war to drive Obama from office.

On the winner-takes-all, scurrilous, new-media battlefield, there's no room for political naiveté or acquiescence. Frankly, it's embarrassing that the leader of a prominent civil rights organization allowed conservative operatives to influence his decision to demean a socially conscious black woman. To admit he was ''snookered'' by Fox News is akin to being surprised that the Ku Klux Klan's has a distaste for black people. Judging blacks ''without all the facts'' is a tepid response from a black president who doesn't seem to have the stomach for racial confrontations.

Wake Up, Stand Up

Rest assured, the propaganda war is in full swing. With a presidential election on the horizon, black leaders and black media must adopt a new code of conduct. Before the media's next ''big thing,'' we must identify the puppets and puppet masters -- the race baiters and power brokers who exploit America's fears and pull black leaders' strings. Now, more than ever, we have to recognize the indications of weak black leadership and deep racial conditioning.

In the ongoing battle for equality, opportunity and progress, it's imperative that we fully understand the new racial paradigm. We are but a few decades removed from the most heinous forms of racial barbarity and oppression, yet black people are expected to be contrite, apologetic and on the defensive so as not to be considered ''racist.''

A week before the Sherrod incident, NAACP members caught hell from conservatives after voting for a resolution demanding that the Tea Party ''repudiate the racists'' in its ranks. No doubt, the NAACP leader's knee-jerk response to Sherrod's supposed controversial remarks was motivated by a burning desire to acquiesce, to appear fair and balanced. Unfortunately, it is an attempt to please an unfair and unbalanced opposition that could care less about compromising overtures.

Considering the source, high-profile blacks should have vetted Breitbart and Fox News' story before trashing Sherrod. It's an indictment of black leadership (and that includes President Obama) if they aren't willing to fight for what's right even when it crosses into the unsavory realm of race.

The stakes are higher for people denied opportunity for centuries. It's reckless to abide with black leaders who place their own needs above the collective's. This is the time for media-savvy blacks, like the National Association of Black Journalists, to use their skills to fact-check, vet and counter rigged propaganda maneuvers. Expert black voices must emphasize the ramifications of losing the high-stakes media war. We must use our numbers and economic clout. Fox News and its advertisers should understand that there will be serious consequences if the network continues to underwrite propaganda disguised as ''fair and balanced'' news.

The story of an innocent black woman who became a pawn in the high stakes ''gotcha'' media game also speaks to the mercenary component of politics. Americans, repulsed by the idea that opportunistic media manipulators can destroy innocent lives, want the boundaries of decency reinforced.

According to recent news reports, Sherrod has been asked to consider a new and ''unique'' position with the USDA. This doesn't erase the fact that the NAACP and White House officials sacrificed Sherrod for reasons of self-interest. In an evolving environment dictated by a post-racial fantasy, we can ill afford brainwashed, compromising leadership.

A serious blow was struck against segregation 55 years ago when Rosa Parks refused to vacate a seat for a white passenger. Black leaders need to remember that progress inched forward because a real black hero remained seated on the bus -- unlike Shirley Sherrod, a modern-day hero who was thrown under it.

Tom Burrell is a marketing communications pioneer, founder and former CEO of Burrell Communications, and an Advertising Hall of Fame inductee. He is the author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority (Smiley Books).

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Too Quick to Blame the NAACP?????

The criticism of the NAACP is well-deserved.  One, it shows that there is a lack of experience at the helm.  Julian Bond would have or should have known better the moment the name Sherrod and Georgia were mentioned in the same breath.  Two, even without the name, the NAACP should have known that something from its own Web site was not racist!!!  (At least it is my understanding that Breirbart got the clip from the NAACP Web site.)    It was the NAACP that legitimized the story!  More senior movement people have had a long history with racist lies.  The right wing lies about everything, including centuries of murder and of which Mrs. Sherrod's father was a victim of.  If there were a vibrant black press as during The Movement days, the NAACP would not have been operating in such a vacuum. 

Having laid much of the blame at the feet of the NAACP, pardon the cliche but hindsight is 20/20.  Below Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press raises all of the right questions.  Even so, there is a propaganda war out there that the NAACP dediced to take on.  They challenged the racists to root out the racists in their ranks.  The NAACP was asking them to commit suicide.  The racists had to defend themselves.  They defended themselves by attacking the NAACP at its soul contenenacing anti-white discrimination!!!   What the NAACP was prepared for was to reject "reverse racism" in its ranks.  What it was not prepared for was for Fox News, a news organization, to LIE!!!   Distort, yes.  But LIE!!!  And have every news source repeat that lie.  

By the time the NAAC P got the story it was  9 hours old.  It had been ruminating since about 11:00a.  The story of thei USDA official committimng reverse discrimination was all over the blogosphrere. Given the repugnance of the lie, the inexperienced NAACP leadship got "snookered."    They didn't understand that the whole purpose of Fox News is to lie -- it is no exaggeration that we should be reminded  of the ability of the Third Reich to construct reality, or the press of the Jim Crow South.  Racist realities remain hegemonic.  Fox News is the propaganda arm for America's white nationalism. 

Media Matters gets it right when they say that Fox News is the "Wille Hortonization of the Presidency"   It was Roger Ailes who injected the Willie Horton commercial into the Bush-Dukakis campaign in 1988.  Now Ailes has a cable network to use to stoke the flames of white resentment and promote his white nationalist views. This smear is at the feet of Fox News.  At 9:11p NAACP issued its denounciation of Mrs. Sherrod in response to this 9:04p. report. RGN

9:04 p.m.: "Fox News Alert": Hannity reports that Sherrod has resigned and discusses the incident with Gingrich. On his Fox News program, Sean Hannity reported that Sherrod "resigned just a short time ago after she was caught on tape appearing to tell an audience that she had used her position to racially discriminate against white farmers." Hannity then aired Breitbart's "shocking video." In a later segment, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich stated: "Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing. I mean I often disagree with this administration. But firing her after that kind of viciously racist attitude was exactly the right thing to do." Hannity later stated: "My only thing is they weren't the ones that caught it. It was on and it happened some time ago. So it's interesting that it took the new media to expose this." (accessed via Nexis)

Posted: July 23, 2010
Shirley Sherrod, Fox, NAACP, USDA and Obama


"Working with him made me see that it's really  about those who have versus those who haven't. They could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to help poor people -- those who don't have access the way others have."
-- Shirley Sherrod

When the news broke Monday that a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee was fired for being a racist, I wondered just what she had called her co-worker or client or supervisor.

When the venerable NAACP repudiated her, I figured she must have slapped somebody. Then came the news Tuesday that Shirley Sherrod not only was not a racist, but had shared with an audience her "Come to Jesus" moment, the moment she realized racism was wrong.

But this is where the story stopped me in my tracks: NAACP President Ben Jealous released a statement Tuesday saying his organization had been "snookered by Fox News and tea party activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias."

A strange sequence Sherrod was fired after Fox Entertainment (it's not news) posted an edited video clip of Sherrod  from a conservative activist. In the clip, Sherrod says she took a white farmer to a white lawyer
so he could be helped by his own kind. But she went on to say something that you didn't see on the activist's site or on Fox:

"Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who haven't. They could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to help poor people -- those who don't have access the way others have."

The family whose farm Sherrod eventually helped to save appeared on CNN to defend her.

So here's my question: A tea party activist posts 2 minutes and 38 seconds of a 43-minute speech.
Fox runs the video.  The NAACP watches Fox. The Obama administration reacts to the NAACP.  The USDA tells Sherrod to resign. ...

Oh, yeah ... the question: What the heck is wrong with the NAACP?

For full video of speech see Shirley Sherrod link to left.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We Need Shirley Sherrod's Memoir.....

Shirley Sherrod Gets a White House Apology, Deserves a Book Contract

Melinda Henneberger

Editor in Chief



Shirley Sherrod, I will read your memoir!

Most of us had never heard of Sherrod until she was wrongly accused of racism and lost her USDA job over misleading video snippets publicized by the conservative Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart.

Proving once again that the camera can too lie, what we saw on the tape made it look like this African-American civil servant had withheld help from a white farmer it was her job to assist back in 1986. The whole tape showed that's not remotely what happened, though, and the farmer vigorously defended her: "We probably wouldn't have [our farm] today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction," Eloise Spooner told CNN. "I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to Sherrod during Wednesday's briefing. "Members of this administration, members of the media, members of different political factions on both sides of this have all made determinations and judgments without a full set of facts," he said in explaining what happened.

"I can't speak for everybody involved, but I think we live in a culture [where] things whip around," he continued. "People want fast responses, we want to give fast responses, and I don't think there's any doubt that if we look at this, one of the great lessons we take away from this is to ask all of the questions first and to come to that full understanding."

[Update: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack offered an even fuller apology at a late afternoon press conference, and said he has offered Sherrod a better job than the one she lost -- an offer she is apparently mulling. "I asked for Shirley's forgiveness and she has been gracious enough to give it to me,'' he said. "I did not think before I acted...This woman has been through hell."]

So all's well? Hardly, and I'm not quite ready to write Breitbart a thank-you note for bringing Sherrod to our attention. But rehired or retired, it looks like we could all learn something at the knee of this woman.

As we now know, she said absolutely nothing wrong in a March speech about an impulse she'd checked, a temptation she'd resisted, an experience she'd learned from 24 years earlier, as even the man who started all the mischief now admits.

"I feel bad they made this about her,'' Breitbart told MSNBC. (Who is this they you speak of, cowboy? And here I thought conservatives were all about personal responsibility. And in theory opposed the thought police.) On Hannity, he said he was looking for payback after the NAACP accused Tea Partiers of racism.

But I'm in awe of what Sherrod did right, not only in overcoming what haters did to her father, who was murdered by the KKK, but in having the humility to admit to her worst race-based impulses, which every one of us has. After this wrong has been righted, as it surely to goodness will be, I'd still like to hear a lot more about this woman, who even at the height of the craziness was cool as you please on television, calmly stating that she did wish the NAACP had checked with her before issuing a condemnation.

How about giving her whole life story a hearing? I, for one, am ready to pre-order on Amazon.

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Media Matters on the Shirley Sherrod Liie!!!

Let's be clear.  Fox News has waged war against this president.  They are waging that war because he is black.  If he were Michael Steele or Clarence Thomas doing the bidding of the white nationalists, they would be lavishing accolades all over him.  But because he is not a sell out, he is fair game.   Fox News has committed their full-time programing to stoking up white resentment.  Their programming are attacks on anything black whether it is Van Jones, Acorn, New Black Panther Party or now Shirley Sherrod.  When the White House said that Fox News was not news, Roger Ailes response has been "boy I will put you in your place!"  As a consequence, Fox News is now pandering to white resentment as the "new news" whose ratings continue to climb.  They intimidate the so-called mainstream media.  In fact, the brother Kevin Merida, the omsbudsman for the Washington Post, apologized to Fox News for not following their lead on the New Black Panther Party.  Fox News is pandering to racial warfare.  This is dangerous stuff and responsible journalists should expose Ailes and Fox News for what they are  White Nationalism Propaganda network!!!

Thanks to Media Matters their due diligence let's us know what Fox is up to.  Here's the exposure of Breithbart of James O'Keefe fame with another lying video

Full video vindicates Sherrod, destroys Breitbart's accusations of racism. RGN

July 20, 2010 10:39 pm ET - by Matt McLaughlin

The NAACP has posted the video of Shirley Sherrod's March 27 speech, and it definitively proves false Andrew Breitbart's claim that the edited video he posted at his website is "evidence of racism."

In his first post about the video, Breitbart wrote: "In the first video, 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."

Media Matters previously documented that Breitbart's original post suggested that the actions Sherrod described in the video came in her capacity as the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development during the Obama administration. In fact, the actions she described came 24 years ago, when she when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund -- before she began working for the Agriculture Department.

And in the full video, Sherrod recounts how she ultimately helped the farmer avoid the foreclosure on his farm. Indeed, while Breitbart's video included Sherrod saying that she initially didn't to everything she could, it omitted her explanation that later she went to much greater lengths to help the farmer:

SHERROD: So, everything was going along fine -- I'm thinking he's being taken care of by the white lawyer, then they lift the injunction against USDA in May of '87 for two weeks and he was one of 13 farmers in Georgia who received a foreclosure notice. He called me. I said, well, go on and make an appointment at the lawyer. Let me know when it is and I'll meet you there.

So we met at the lawyer's office on the day they had given him. And this lawyer sat there -- he had been paying this lawyer, y'all. That's what got me. He had been paying the lawyer since November, and this was May. And the lawyer sat there and looked at him and said, "Well, y'all are getting old. Why don't you just let the farm go?" I could not believe he said that, so I said to the lawyer -- I told him, I can't believe you said that. I said: It's obvious to me that he cannot file a Chapter 12 bankruptcy to stop this foreclose, you have to file an 11. And the lawyer said to me, I'll do whatever you say -- whatever you think -- that's the way he put it. But he's paying him. He wasn't paying me any money. You know, so he said -- the lawyer said he would work on it.

And then, about seven days before that man would have been sold at the courthouse steps, the farmer called me and said the lawyer wasn't doing anything. And that's when I spent time there in my office calling everybody I could think so to try to see -- help me find the lawyer who would handle this.

She goes on to say how her encounter with the farmer "made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people" regardless of whether they were black, white, or Hispanic.

Breitbart's video edits out any of Sherrod's remarks about the true nature of her relationship with the farmer -- who today stated that Sherrod did her "level best to help him" -- and about the true meaning of her story.

Following are Sherrod's remarks at the March 27 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet (the section in bold is what Breitbart's video included -- the rest was omitted):

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will the President Fight Back Against Fox News????

The White House was wrong, but I digress.

In an earlier post there was a need to praise the "new leadership" of the NAACP in their challenge to the Tea Party's racism.  Ben Jealous and the leadership deserved credit for forcing the Tea Parties to "confirm or deny" the racism in their ranks.   As it happens the praise was too quick.  This same leadership allowed themselves to betray a civils rights veteran in a knee jerk reaction to satisfy Fox News.   Upon the first reports of Shirkley Sherrod's remarks, they caved demanded she be fired without understanding the facts.   As was with the Acorn case, or or the New Black Panther Party case, or the Van Jones case, Fox News is committed to producing white resentment.  They have no shame.  

The Shirley Sherrod case was no less than what could be expected from Fox News, it was manufactured news.   The report was a lie.  Now that it is known that the story was a lie!!!  Instead of a story about racial preference or racial divison, Ms Sherrod was telling a story of understanding and compassion, even for whites.  Here is the NAACP retraction

The NAACP was only a part of the problem. More important, the White House had her fired because they were trying to kill a Glenn Beck story.  She was harrassed and forced to pull beside the road to resign on the spot enroute from one work site to another.  We cannot have Fox News shaping policies and practices when it comes to race and racism.  Because of the humiliation the White House and the Department of Agriculture owe this hero who was really spreading the good word an apology,  I an encouraging a letter writing campaign to the White House requesting that Mrs Sherrod be invited to the White House to receive a personal apology from the President.  RGN

Fox News: Shirley Sherrod Acorn II

Fox News has an agenda. Ramping up white resentment. It is whites who are victims according to Fox News. The latest is akin the "Acorn exposure" by indicted or was it convicted James O'Keefe. A USDA official made some comments that seemed miscontrued by a Fox News story. The charge in the Fox story was that Shirley Sherrod, an African American agent for a non-profit organization but now a USDA employee, expressed that she had treated a white farmer less than favorably because of this superior attitude. Ms Sherrod, dismissed by the administration, was telling a story of an event that had happened 24 years ago. And at a time when black farmers were being robbed of their land by white officials, public and private. It took CNN to run the full story. See the Daily Kos

Shirley Sherrod Tells her story

NAACP and Eugene Robinson to Tea Bag Racism

For Ben Jealous and the NAACP, the resolution was a stroke of genius to demand that the Tea Party expel the openly white racists from their ranks. From the town meetings in the summer of 2009, the nation has witnessed a grotesque display of the most vicious racism since the days of Lester Maddox wielding his axe handle and brandishing a hand-gun chasing would be African American customers from his Pickwick restaurant in Atlanta in 1964. Having demonstrated his vow to uphold a segregation, he went on the become governor in 1967. There was a white nationalist solidarity with Maddox.

That was then, this is now. While the white majority may favor rolling the clock back, there is a new majority in America today. It is a coalition of enlightened whites, blacks, browns, tans, you name it. The demography of this new America is diverse. White dominance is on the wane. Yet for this group, there is a resentment that a black man is President. The Tea Parties and “birthers” are simply the last gasp of a popular white nationalism. At their rallies, the President has been displayed as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose and ways that seem to invite sedition. Such racist displays are an insult of not just the President but all Americans who believe in justice and equality. These people are out to “take their country back.” Consequently, any demand that they call out, expose and expel the racists is to defeat their very reason for being. Contrary to their disavowals, their whole raison d’etre is to oppose the black President. Talk about “divide and conqueror,” the NAACP resolution has requires that they affirm or deny the racism in their ranks. This new leadership is to be commended for having them turn on themselves.

Unlike the days of Lester Maddox, the white nationalist agenda does not fit with this new America.

In the column below Eugene Robinson gives praise to the Jealous and NAACP offensive. RGN
The Tea Party must purge racism from its ranks
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, July 20, 2010; A21

That was quick. We now have proof the NAACP was right.

When the nation's leading civil rights organization passed a resolution condemning displays of racism by Tea Party activists, leaders of the movement reacted with umbrage so thick you could cut it with a knife -- then demonstrated that the NAACP's allegation was entirely justified.

On Saturday, the National Tea Party Federation announced it had expelled one of the movement's most prominent figures -- a California blowhard named Mark Williams -- because of the outrageously racist things he had said about the NAACP. Ejected along with Williams was his whole organization, Tea Party Express, which had been a particularly active, high-profile group.

The last straw was a "satirical" letter that Williams, a former right-wing talk radio host, posted on his Web site. It was supposed to be a missive from NAACP President Ben Jealous to Abraham Lincoln, and the Tea Party Federation deemed it "clearly offensive." With good reason.

Here is one passage: "We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

Amazingly, it gets worse:

"Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government 'stop raising our taxes.' That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide-screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong."

That's not satire, it's hate speech. The national federation should be commended for moving quickly to cut all ties with this unreconstructed bigot. But Williams is not some obscure figure from the movement's outer fringe. He's a big player.

Tea Party Express lists as its "national sponsor" a political action committee named Our Country Deserves Better, which spent about $350,000 on Sen. Scott Brown's winning campaign in Massachusetts and is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Nevada on behalf of GOP candidate Sharron Angle. Tea Party Express boasts on its Web site of having staged rallies featuring such speakers as Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and one Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber.

Have the rest of the movement's leaders never noticed Williams's rhetoric before now? His most recent obsession, before the NAACP flap, has been a crusade to halt construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. He has called the proposed structure a place where Muslims would honor the al-Qaeda hijackers and "worship the terrorists' monkey-god." He has called President Obama an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug."

If Williams is now a pariah in Tea Party circles, that's progress. But this episode should prompt the national leadership to look inward and acknowledge -- not just to the rest of us, but also to themselves -- that ugly, racially charged rhetoric has been part of the movement's stock in trade all along. If the Tea Party groundswell is to mature into something important and lasting, it needs to purge itself of this poison.

And if the Republican Party is going to try to harness the Tea Party's passion on behalf of GOP candidates, responsible leaders need to make clear that racism will not be tolerated. Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to talk about the NAACP flap when asked about it Sunday, and Sen. John Cornyn volunteered that accusing the Tea Party of racism is "slanderous."

It's not slander if it's the truth, senator. No one can deny that some fraction of the Tea Party's considerable energy is generated by racism. Excommunicating Mark Williams was a start to disowning and discarding this element -- but just a start.

And by the way, remember when Attorney General Eric Holder urged us to have a national conversation about race? Well, this is how we do it -- awkwardly and episodically, almost always in reaction to a specific event. We don't talk, we shout and grumble. It ain't pretty, but it's the American way.

The writer will be online to chat with readers at 1 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Sign the Petition to strenthen the fight to extend unemployment benefits...

Here is the link to Donna Brazile's appeal to sign a petition to support the Democrats in their fight against the Republicans for an extension of unemployment benefits. This is a very important issue that demostrates that the Republicans are suffering from an affliction brought on by the likes of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Between the Tea Party white nationalists and these Libertarian think tanks, these so-called conservatives are being exposed for not only being anti-people of color but in opposition to the America's so-called "middle class", it's working class. The Republicans oppose "promot[ing]the general welfare" of the American people. To oppose extending unemployment benefits in these times when there or 5 times as many people unemployed as there are jobs is not promoting the general welfare of the American people. To demagogue health care is totally contrary to promoting the general welfare of the American people. Talk about being un-American? Expose the Republicans!!! It's even time for the Reagan Democrats to come home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Kagan Nomination and the Trashing of Thrugood Marshall

In the hearings on Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nominationIn keeping with the long tradition of white nationalists to disparage African Americans, Thurgood Marshall was repeatedly held up as an "activist" judge who legislated from the bench. What they meant was that any challenge to their white nationalist hegemony is activism. Though not willing to say it, to them Brown v. Board was "activism" that the South resents until this day. And it was Justice Marshall who was most responsible for overturning Jim Crow white supremacy as the law. With Marshall having been one of Kagan's mentors, the attempt was to tar Elana Kagan with the Thurgood Marshall's legacy. The Republicans were cut short in this endeavor when nominee Kagan reminded them that if confirmed they "would get Justice Kagan not Justice Marshall." Last year with Sotomayor they alienated the Latinos with their derisive "wise Latina" attacks. This year they have some full circle in attempting to degrade a civil rights icon. Ifill's analysis from "The Root" situates the Sessions, Kyl, Cronyn challenges in their context. RGN

Trashing Thurgood Marshall
By: Sherrilyn A. Ifill
Posted: June 30, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Just because Elena Kagan is white didn't stop Republicans from injecting race into her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

The second day of the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court was marked by some substantive dialogue, respectful banter and even an exchange of ethnic humor between the nominee and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans and Democrats alike seemed to have forgotten the previous day's tensions. But for many of us who'd sat in stunned silence while Republicans members of the committee used their opening statements to unleash an orchestrated disparagement of the record and legacy of Supreme Court justice and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, the wounds still felt raw.

The invocation of Marshall (35 times by Republicans) was a surprising new low, even for the shameless opportunism of modern confirmation hearings. At first it seemed astonishing as senator after senator -- Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) -- disparaged nominee Kagan's "association" with Thurgood Marshall. But the abandonment of the "Marshall as slur" tactic on day 2 suggests that the Republican senators' opening-day sucker punch may have backfired.

For Republicans, the issue of race is good for confirmation hearings. Last year's hearings for Justice Sonia Sotomayor proved an important turning point for congressional Republicans, who were uncertain in the first months of the Obama presidency how to handle their opposition to the new, popular, African-American president. It seems a long time ago now, but just last spring, Americans were still genuinely caught up in the transformative moment symbolized by the election of the first black president. In the heady early months of the Obama presidency, when many thought we might be heading for a post-racial America and things seemed so magical that a plane could land on the Hudson River with all passengers unharmed, Republicans were in a quandary. How should they package their opposition to the president without ruining the public's good racial mood? The election of Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee -- an action that has since generated considerable buyer's remorse -- revealed the desperate effort by some GOP stalwarts to navigate the shoals of the new racial politics. That was before health care town halls and the emergence of the Tea Party.

Indeed, the president's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the discovery of her "wise Latina" remarks gave congressional Republicans their land legs. Critiques of Justice Sotomayor as a racial partisan allowed some Republicans to recycle old-school racial tropes.

Obama and Sotomayor were painted as a kind of tag-team black-Latino duo of racial-quota champions, preparing to take away the jobs and educational opportunities of hardworking whites like firefighter Frank Ricci. By the time the Sotomayor hearings were over, the bloom had faded from the Obama rose and we were full into the volatile town halls. President Obama's angry off-the-cuff reaction to the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (The Root's editor-in-chief) by an overzealous white police officer, and the much derided "beer summit," helped cap what turned out to be a very good summer for the Republican Party.

So when President Obama nominated Solicitor General Kagan to the bench, Republican senators on the Judiciary Committe faced an understandable dilemma. Kagan is a pragmatic centrist, admired by a number of high-profile conservatives. She's not a person of color, and she has no track record as a civil rights lawyer or champion. She has never been inclined to give inflammatory partisan statements, and even her work in the Clinton administration reveals Kagan to be a careful compromiser rather than liberal firebrand. On her record, Kagan leaves little for Republicans to attack. But the Republican base understands better than its Democratic counterpart the significance of Supreme Court nominations to the goals and aims of the party, and so Republicans are able to talk to their core constituency through confirmation hearings in ways that Democrats cannot. Race, class and culture divisions are themes that some Republican senators turn to again and again at confirmation hearings. They do this by invoking the specter of out-of-touch elites, unqualified racial minorities, the dangers of international law, and equal rights for gays and lesbians.
And so it was attack by association. Kagan's work as Thurgood Marshall's law clerk after she graduated from Harvard Law seemed too good an opportunity for some Republicans on the committee to pass up. Invoking Justice Marshall as an activist gave the Republicans on the committee the chance to criticize the kind of nominee they wish President Obama had nominated: one who was black and unabashedly liberal. The fact that President Obama chose not to appoint such a nominee (precisely to deny Republicans the opportunity to paralyze the country with divisive and unproductive hearings) was of no importance. Elena Kagan was, in essence, raced by the committee members, who used Justice Marshall as a racial stand-in for President Obama and a proxy in the ongoing culture wars.

Outside the Senate Judiciary hearing room, Justice Marshall is regarded as one of the greatest lawyers and most admired judges of the 20th century, so the way the Republicans talked about him -- as a dangerous judicial activist "outside the mainstream" -- was pure theater. Marshall was an unabashed liberal at a time when that word was simply a place on the ideological spectrum, not an indictment. Indeed, Marshall's place on the legal spectrum is well within the mainstream of legal thought -- so much so that he was confirmed by a vote of 69-11 for a seat on the Supreme Court in 1967.

Marshall's record as a justice can stand up to any ad hominem attack. It includes, in addition to a principled stance against the constitutionality of the death penalty, his decision holding that even a white criminal defendant may challenge the systematic exclusion of blacks from participating in the jury, his opinion striking down a city ordinance that drew distinctions between permissible and impermissible protest speech, and his oft-cited statement in his opinion protecting privacy rights that "if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving the government the power to control men's minds."

The legacy of Thurgood Marshall as a legal giant who compelled the American legal system to honor the true and intended meaning of the word "equality" in the 14th amendment to the Constitution is unassailable. Republicans know this. But the tantalizing benefit of playing the race card at the Kagan confirmation hearings was just too attractive for some of the Republicans on the committee to resist. Even Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who's been around long enough to know better but who has perhaps been made uneasy by the surprising decision of voters to kick fellow senator Bennett out of office -- got in on the fun in an interview with MSNBC. Kudos go the Republican members of the committee who refused to engage in this shameful and divisive game (it's you again, Sen. Lindsay Graham [R-S.C.]).

Republicans may have gotten more than they bargained for in the negative reactions to their Marshall bashing. Perhaps this explained their considerably more courtly performance on day 2. But their work was done. Race had been insidiously inserted into the confirmation hearings to remind the right wing base of the GOP what these hearings are really all about.
Sherrilyn Ifill, who teaches at the University of Maryland School of Law, writes about the law for The Root.