Pictured above is Joe Williams, the White House Correspondent for Politico that recently came under fire by the right-wing reality spin known as Breitbart.com for a comment he made on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir Live. First of all, let’s look at the comment that started the shitstorm:
“It’s very interesting that he (Mitt Romney) does so many appearances on Fox & Friends. And it’s unscripted. It’s the only time they let Mitt off the leash, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on Fox & Friends, they’re like him. They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company.”
What should stand out immediately is that, yes, Williams used poor judgment when it came to choosing his words. But Breitbart.com accuses him of using “racially charged language” (i.e. he’s a racist). This is why the right-wing blogosphere was so infuriated. This is why Politico suspended Williams. But was he being racist?
No. A defining characteristic of racism is the presence of hate. Williams was not pissed at the “white folks,” he was merely making an unfortunate (but truthful) observation that the on-air crew of Fox & Friends are Caucasian.
“But it’s not what he said,” you might be yelling at me, “so much as it was what he was implying.” Well, he wasn’t implying anything. It’s true that Mitt Romney is having trouble connecting to non-white voters. That’s just fact. And he does seem to be more comfortable around people who are agreeing with him, which just happens to be everyone at Fox News.
Here’s another fact: Romney has appeared on Fox & Friends 21 times in the past year, according to The New York Times. That’s a lot. You can’t exactly say that Williams was making shit up here.
I personally do not believe that his comments were racially motivated. He made a poor choice of words but a sound observation, and it got him suspended. It did not, however, deserve the hate-filled maelstrom of assholery that Breitbart.com conjured up.
I braved the website to find the story, and what I saw cannot simply be unseen. Aside from the terrifying comments in the comments section, John Nolte, the author of the article, linked Politico to the left-leaning MSNBC (Politico is the standard of non-biased journalistic integrity, by the way) – an act that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. It reminds me of the famous Colbert mantra, “Reality has a liberal bias.” Politico has a tendency to report stories accurately – a miraculous feat that tends to rub conservatives the wrong way (you see, “accurate” usually means that it drives against the typical right-wing narrative).
For added silliness, Nolte tried to further discredit Politico by claiming that they have a, “perverted relationship with the anti-Semitic, Soros-funded, tax-exempt Media Matters…” First of all, why would Soros, a Holocaust survivor, fund an anti-Semitic organization? MM, by the way, is a media watchdog that watches all branches of media for inaccuracies and dishonesty. They have found themselves spending more time watching Fox News more closely over the past several years, which is probably why the right-wing blogosphere jumps at every chance to discredit them.
But this is all off-topic. Williams and his comments are the real story here, not John Nolte and the mindless drones over at Breitbart.com. Before I sign off, here’s it what Williams himself had to say about the whole ordeal in an email statement:
I regret that this incident happened. I understand and respect John Harris’ point of view – that I’ve compromised Politico’s objectivity, and my own. At this point my suspension without pay is still indefinite, and I don’t know what management has in mind as an appropriate sanction, so I can’t object or appeal. Politico still employs me, but the review process hasn’t started in earnest so my future remains unclear.
Having covered the Shirley Sherrod firing and seen the fallout from James O’Keefe’s brand of journalism, I’m not surprised a small group with internet access and an ambitious agenda can undermine reporting, influence organizations and distort legitimate analysis of political news. It’s quite unfortunate that I landed in the crosshairs this time, calling Politico’s integrity into question and jeopardizing a job and a career that I love. It’s incredibly frustrating that I won’t be the final target.
This is a great discussion topic, so tell me what you think in the comments below. What do you think about what Williams said? Was it racist?
To get more doses of sanity, check out Shaun’s blog over at “A Sane Break From The Insanity” or email him at email@example.com.