Release the Hounds
With a Hat Tip to The Big Lead, we get this extraordinary segment from Fox News, courtesy of Newshounds, whose mission statement reads: “we watch Fox news so you don’t have to.”
On Monday, Dan LeBatard wrote a column in the Miami Herald arguing that – hold your breath – race has played a role in reactions to the Michael Vick case (The shocking title: “Vick Reaction has Racial Aspect.”) So, on Hannity and Colmes Monday night, there was a panel discussion devoted to the issue of how race was influencing people’s reactions to the story, featuring LeBatard, Atlanta-based syndicated radio host Neal Boortz, and former NFLer and current Sirius radioman, Jim Miller.
There were two incredible aspects to the show that I’ll focus on: 1) the reaction of Alan Colmes to LeBatard’s comments and 2) the presence of radio talking head Neal Boortz on the panel.
First, there was Colmes, the designated liberal in the Hannity/Colmes tandem. While Hannity more or less calmly directed traffic among the guest panelists, Colmes was simply incensed at LeBatard, repeatedly accusing him of “playing the race card” or of “injecting race” into the discussion. Most of the time, such lines would be mere cliches. But, in this case, they’re extraordinary. Hannity introduced the segment first by playing a portion of Vick’s newsconference Monday and then by airing reactions from Black callers to radio stations, arguing that Vick was being treated unfairly because of race. Hannity introduced the radio clips this way:
“angry callers flooded radio stations to say that Vick was being punished not because he broke the rules but because of race…”
And, this was the point of LeBatard’s column: that there is pervasive mistrust among many Blacks about a White-dominated justice system, media and NFL leadership about whether “one of their own” is going to get a fair shake.
Here’s a segment of LeBatard’s column:
There is so much baggage and history and emotion and volume here that a lot gets lost in translation. I don’t hear many black people defending Vick’s actions today. What I hear is many black people objecting to the size and intensity of the reaction. Those are two very different things. But they start to sound the same when white people yell with disgust, ”Not the race card again!” and black people counter with, ”Race impacts everything.” Not a lot gets heard clearly when people are trying to talk while standing that far apart.
And the louder and angrier the reaction gets, the more pressure is put on authorities — usually white authorities — to make an example out of a black icon.
Quibble with our country’s laws if you like, but you have to abide by them if you want to be free here. That’s nonnegotiable, and it is going to get Vick jailed. But it is after that when things get muddier. The question isn’t whether Vick should lose money or freedom today. The question becomes how much of his money and freedom he should lose. The difference there is between penalizing a black icon and ruining him.
It makes sense, based on past history and personal experiences, that black folks might not trust the system to treat one of their own fairly once we go from letter-of-the-law jail to subjective suspension.
The people making the decisions about how much of his life Vick gets to keep post-jail are white and applying their sensibilities — which is how you arrive at rules that ban the black athletes who like to celebrate from dancing too much in the end zone. All the team owners and the commissioner are white, as are the richest of Vick’s endorsers and most of the consumers of all this product. You’ll forgive black people if they aren’t terribly comfortable with white people making the rules for them. That hasn’t gone so well in the past.
In short – the point of the panel was to discuss racially-based reactions to Vick. LeBatard was on the panel to discuss his view that there is, in fact, a perception among some that race has played a role in driving reaction to the Vick case. And, incredibly, Colmes’ repeated outbursts to LeBatard boiled down to attacking him for injecting race into a discussion about…race.
As newshounds noted, LeBatard acquitted himself well. He repeatedly asked where the Black panelists in the discussion. He pointed out that neither he, nor anyone else on the panel, was really well-equipped to discuss this issue. He waved away Colmes’ fulminations about Vick’s heinous crimes by noting that Vick should, of course, be punished for his crimes. He raised the trust issue on the program succinctly:
“All I’ve done is express an opinion, by some members of the Black community that they don’t trust a white system: white commissioners, white owners, white sponsors, white TV hosts. They don’t trust the mainstream media to treat their Black icons fairly and you guys just don’t want to listen to it.”
Which prompted this spluttering reaction from Colmes:
“just because we don’t have black people on right now, and just because we don’t have a Black host of this show, we’re somehow irresponsible. You’re the one injecting race into this issue.”
Well, no Alan, I am not sure I would use the word “irresponsible” and LeBatard never said that. But, if you’ve introduced a discussion about race and then repeatedly cut off one of your guests for actually trying to talk about the issue around which you’ve organized a fifteen minute segment on your program, you do qualify as a moron.
Incredible aspect number two was the presence of Boortz on this particular panel. Hannity introduced him as by far the most-listened to radio voice in Atlanta and, therefore, well-qualified to speak about the racial aspects of reaction to Michael Vick. Boortz came on the show with his small, pet dog, presumably for effect, and Hannity referred several times to his good friend, whom he’s known for a long time. Boortz said that he didn’t think race played any role in this story and that most Black people disapproved of what Vick did and would cringe at the callers played at the beginning of the segment as representative of a “thug culture,” but not of most Black people.
What’s so incredible about that? Well, leaving aside the “thug culture” comment (none of the callers broadcast in the initial segment gave any hint of being a “thug” unless you think that, by definition, Black voices sound like thugs), how about Boortz’ documented history as a racist asshole?
For starters, many internet sources say that Boortz was a speechwriter for then-Georgia governor Lester Maddox, who ran on a segregationist “states-rights” platform in 1966. Boortz’ own online bio, notably, is quite slippery about this fact. In discussing jobs Boortz held prior to graduating from law school in 1977, Boortz includes “writing speeches for the Governor of Georgia” but omits any reference to the name “Maddox.” Now, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people reading that, if they could name any pre-1977 Georgia, would assume he was talking about Jimmy Carter. In any event, the vague formulation is noteworthy.
Well, as Henry Hyde perhaps might say – “youthful indiscretions.”
But, wait, there’s more. Thanks to the good people at Media Matters for America, we have a nice compendium of quotes from Boortz’ radio show in recent years.
Among his choice remarks:
In a December 12, 2005, weblog post, Boortz predicted that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would commute the sentence of convicted murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams to life imprisonment because “Schwarzenegger knows full well that as soon as Tookie’s death is announced there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere.” Boortz wrote that “[t]here are thugs just waiting for an excuse … not a reason, an excuse” and explained that “[t]he rioting, of course, will lead to wide-scale looting.” Boortz added: “There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now.”
Surely, Boortz wasn’t thinking about race at all when he made those comments (Williams, by the way, was executed. And, there were no riots. Good call, Neal).
Then there were the remarks he made about former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney. No, not about her political views, or her conduct in office.
No, this was about her hair, which Boortz said made her look like a “ghetto slut” and “ghetto trash.”
Oh, and Boortz previously called her “the cutest little Islamic Jihadist” in Congress.
During the June 21 (2007) broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Neal Boortz offered a suggestion he said he got from a listener’s email: “When we defeat this illegal alien amnesty bill, and when we yank out the welcome mat, and they all start going back to Mexico, as a going away gift let’s all give them a box of nuclear waste.” Boortz continued: “Give ‘em all a little nuclear waste and let ‘em take it on down there to Mexico. Tell ‘em it can — it’ll heat tortillas.”
And, last but not least, Boortz has said that Muslims “are sort of like cockroaches.” (That’s his idea of humor, it appears).
Good to know he’s an equal opportunity bigot.
So, to recap, FOX has a panel discussion on whether race plays a role in reactions to Michael Vick in which there are no Black panelists, where the one guy who says race is a factor is repeatedly criticized for injecting race into the discussion about race (by the “liberal” on the show), and in which one of the panelists – there to give a presumably evenhanded sense of the racial pulse of Atlanta - has a documented history of racist and bigoted statements.
You can’t make this stuff up.