On MSNBC's "New York Times edition" Friday afternoon, host John Harwood, who also writes about politics for the Times, called talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments about Obama using the Haiti earthquake to appeal to black voters "pretty disgusting," about twenty minutes into the show.
Harwood then put Times columnist Ross Douthat on the spot as its "man of the right" to explain Limbaugh if he wished (Douthat didn't). Liberal Times columnist Charles Blow followed up by calling Rush "a particularly vile human being."
The source of the Times's ire? Limbaugh's comments on his radio show that "This'll play right into Obama's hands, humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community in, both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."
No one involved in the exchange pointed out that Limbaugh was riffing on a comment by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid captured in new book "Game Change," noting Obama was a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
As my NB colleague Geoff Dickens observed, "Limbaugh and his African-American staffer James Golden AKA Bo Snerdley joked that Obama -- by letting Reid off the hook for his comment about 'light-skinned' blacks -- had disrespected 'dark-skinned' blacks."
Harwood set up the clip of Rush saying: "This'll play right into Obama's hands, humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community in, both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It's made to order for'em. That's why couldn't wait to get out there. Could not wait to get out there."
Harwood: "Now joining us now to discuss all this, from New York, Charles Blow, the visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times, and op-ed columnist Ross Douthat. Ross, let me start with you, as the man of the right in this discussion. Help me understand what Rush Limbaugh is all about. That was pretty disgusting to hear that, and I think a lot of people listen to that and wonder, how could you, how could you talk like that in a moment like this."
(A defensive Douthat said Rush's comments were "inappropriate" and an example of Rush just being Rush "to get everybody else riled up.")
Co-host Norah O'Donnell: "There's no doubt that that's part of it, Rush being Rush. But there might be something more insidious, and Charles, let me bring you in this. That Rush suggesting the reason that Obama reacted so quickly was so that he could gin up support with other 'light-and-dark-skinned black people.' That's what he said."
Charles Blow: "I like the fact that Rush is now splitting the black people in half, and that they're two different communities. That's ridiculous. I mean, Rush is a particularly vile human being. And I even hate the fact that we have to discuss his comments here and spread them more widely than they've already been dispensed. I mean, I think that most people in America at this point, you know, the basic humanity of people rises at a time like this. And I don't think that most people, right or left, wherever they are, agree with Rush Limbaugh at all on this particular issue."