Olbermann’s Smear of Tea Partiers Backfires

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by Roger Aronoff - [producer, media analyst]

Assuming that he is serious, however, one can take a look at the home page of MSNBC-TV and find that it shows 10 white faces and no people of color.

Stung by the reaction to his baseless charges of racism against the Tea Party movement, MSNBC-TV host Keith Olbermann did something he rarely does-he cited on the air some of the criticism of his remarks, including from my column carried by http://www.aim.org, GOPUSA and other Internet sites. He did this without labeling his critics as being among “the worst” people in the world. But he fell far short of coming clean about why he launched his smears.

What’s more, he failed to retract the bogus charges and examine the many white faces that dominate-in fact, monopolize-the political talk shows on the network that employs him.

To recap, Olbermann, a white liberal, claimed that the Tea Party movement was racist against black people. This racism accounts for Obama’s failures and declining popularity, he suggested. As proof, he cited racism that he said lurked in the souls of every white person, including his own. Racism is everywhere, Olbermann said, apparently seriously.

“I think,” the MSNBC host said, “having now been one [a white person] for 51 years, I am permitted to say I believe prejudice and discrimination still sit, defeated, dormant, or virulent, somewhere in the soul of each white man in this country.”

This tired race card approach to politics and current events would not normally require any response or comment. It could be dismissed for what it is, coming from a questionable source who deals in vile rhetoric.

But it is fascinating and worthy of comment because of what it says not only about Olbermann but the network which pays him so much to generate the high ratings that he wants but cannot get. According to Bill Carter of the New York Times, in January CNN surpassed MSNBC for the first time in six months in the ratings, and Fox has approximately triple the ratings of either CNN or MSNBC. So maybe this particular “Special Commentary” is an attempt to see who is paying attention and actually watching the show. We at AIM plead “guilty as charged,” at least in this special case. Please forgive us.

Playing into Olbermann’s hands, one is tempted to tune in to the next program, if only to see whether Olbermann will take the dramatic next step of setting himself on fire in protest of something or other, real or imagined. What will happen next? Will he show up drunk? Will he turn up missing? Does anyone care?

Leading into a segment during the follow-up show, he said, “I wanted to give some equal time to those on the right who disagreed with the focus of Monday’s Special Comment that there is an alarming homogeneity at the so called Tea Party events, and that this is not some kind of demographic coincidence. In other words, they are almost all white people and this is in essence a white people’s party.”

He then showed quotes from Michelle Malkin’s blog, Hot Air, and from David Horowitz’s blog, NewsReal, responding to his comments from Monday night. Then he showed a screenshot of my column, carried on the website GOPUSA.com and said, “And lastly from the GOPUSA website.” He then quoted most of one line, which was that “The tired race card approach to politics and current events would not normally require any response or comment. It could be dismissed for what it is, coming from a questionable source who deals in vile rhetoric…”

At least he got the quote right, though he failed to acknowledge that the source of the column on the GOPUSA site was actually Accuracy in Media.

Following each of the three comments he cited, he said, “My response to this would be, where are the people of color at the tea parties?”

He then concluded with the following: “But this isn’t rhetoric, this isn’t invective. It’s not about education or ranting, and is not the playing of a card. It’s math. The question none of these defenders will touch because there is no answer to it, where are the people of color at the tea parties?”

Blind As A Bat

My column, in fact, did examine that issue. I cited and linked to two different YouTube videos of black men who proudly spoke at last September’s Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., and were very warmly received. How many blacks were in the audience? My colleague, Cliff Kincaid, who covered the protest and took pictures of it, saw some blacks in the crowd, although he didn’t count them.

It’s a safe guess that the number of blacks at the 9-12 demonstration was short of the black percentage of the general population. But what does that prove? Such a gap doesn’t prove that the people who did show up were racists, or that the theme of the protest was racist in nature. In fact, the theme was anti-Big Government. And to repeat-the organizers actually did pick blacks to be speakers.

By contrast, Olbermann and the other white faces on MSNBC-TV were deliberately picked by Jeff Zucker and the other suits that run the network. They did not pick one black face to host a political talk show. Olbermann’s response on the Daily Kos was that he has blacks on his show as guests. This is a variation of the “some of my best friends are black” routine. This kind of response is what adds to the perception among some conservatives that Olbermann just cannot be taken seriously. It also helps explain why his routines have become the subject of jokes on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.”

Assuming that he is serious, however, one can take a look at the home page of MSNBC-TV and find that it shows 10 white faces and no people of color who host or co-host their own shows on the network. To paraphrase Olbermann, “Where are the people of color on MSNBC-TV?”

Does that mean that the people who make those decisions at MSNBC are racist? Of course not. But based on the numbers and faces alone, there is certainly more evidence of racism on their part than on the part of the 9-12 organizers, who had no control over who came to Washington, D.C. but did pick blacks to speak to the crowd.

Speaking of the Daily Kos, its founder and publisher, Markos Moulitsas, was a guest on Olbermann’s show, talking about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement. Moulitsas referred to them four times as Teabaggers, a derogatory sexual reference that is used to demean the movement.

One has to conclude that people like Olbermann and Moulitsas are jealous and frustrated-that a spontaneous movement has arisen to counter and overwhelm the “progressive” base that helped elect Obama and was supposed to guarantee the passage and success of Obama’s policies.

Where are the “grass roots” supporters of the Obama agenda? They are dispirited and disappointed. Their “leaders,” such as they are, can be seen on a regular basis on Olbermann’s show, spewing invective against a true grassroots movement.

We are anxiously waiting for the day when Olbermann will resign his seat at the network and open up the position for a person of color. That way, he can actually do something about racism, instead of just talking about it. ExileStreet

Roger Aronoff is a media analyst with Accuracy in Media, and is the writer/director of ”Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope.” He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org

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