MSNBC Host Admits: ‘Bigger Issue’ If ‘Races Swapped’ in Facebook Torture

Anchoring MSNBC’s 1 p.m. ET hour on Thursday, host Craig Melvin acknowledged that had the races been reversed in the brutal Chicago kidnapping and assault broadcast on Facebook Live, the media coverage would be very different. Talking to correspondent Ron Mott, he admitted: “I think that if the races were swapped we would certainly be making probably a bigger issue of this.”

Melvin continued: “Four black teenagers, victim white. They’re shouting – and if you listen to the video, you can hear it – they’re shouting these racist, these anti-trump things at this guy. How are police saying that this is not racial? How are they explaining that?” Mott replied: “I think again, Craig, they think this is just teenagers behaving carelessly and just being dumb....But I think you might find that some people will be upset if this is not labeled a hate crime. They certainly spewed some racial hatred toward this young man in this video.”

Minutes later, after Chicago prosecutors announced that the four attackers would be charged with hate crimes, Melvin observed: “If you watch this and you listen to this, it is very hard to deduce how a prosecutor, how officials would not consider this a hate crime. Not even the special needs aspect of it, but the race – the racial aspect of it. They’re screaming racist stuff at the guy.”

Turning to legal correspondent Ari Melber, Melvin wondered: “I'm going to put you on the spot here, and I don't do this a lot on live television. If we had four white teenagers there and it was a black kid – a black young man with special needs, any different?”

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Melber explained:

I will tell you this, there are precedents that relate to very clear racist incidents. So burning a cross, right, is seen as an anti-black hate crime. The terrible murders in the Charleston church, right, were seen as an attack on a black church. It can be more difficult, absent video, to know when you have an interaction between two people....I think what you have here, though, was clearly the evidence of – what we would call testimonial evidence, right – of political and racist-related attack, plus the physical disability.

Here are excerpts of the January 5 coverage:

1:23 PM ET

(...)

CRAIG MELVIN: Ron, I’ve got to ask you this because I think that if the races were swapped we would certainly be making probably a bigger issue of this. Four black teenagers, victim white. They’re shouting – and if you listen to the video, you can hear it – they’re shouting these racist, these anti-trump things at this guy. How are police saying that this is not racial? How are they explaining that?

RON MOTT: I think again, Craig, they think this is just teenagers behaving carelessly and just being dumb. And that they picked this particular young man because he has some mental health challenges and they see him as a potential mark, someone easy to assault in this manner.

MELVIN: Yeah.

MOTT: And they apparently kept him for 24 hours, maybe as long as 48 hours. We don't know the full timing yet of how long he was held without his consent in this house, apparently, on the west side and then was found wandering around this neighborhood. He lives 40, 50 miles away from downtown Chicago. So he was out of place. And fortunately he is physically okay. His family obviously very worried about the emotional scars that will be left behind by this. But I think you might find that some people will be upset if this is not labeled a hate crime. They certainly spewed some racial hatred toward this young man in this video. Whether they will be prosecuted under hate legislation we'll just have to see.

(...)

1:47 PM ET

MELVIN: We have had to clean up this video considerably to air on our cable network here. If you watch this and you listen to this, it is very hard to deduce how a prosecutor, how officials would not consider this a hate crime. Not even the special needs aspect of it, but the race – the racial aspect of it. They’re screaming racist stuff at the guy.

ARI MELBER: Certainly.

MELVIN: So, I don't know, I mean, I guess, would it be possible for this to be considered a double hate crime? I mean you’ve got two of the protected classes here that might be affected. Or no, would they –

MELBER: It's possible the prosecutors would press their case by saying these people were acting in unlawful and hateful ways in multiple dimensions. They only would need to be clear legally to prove one of them. But they might very well say to a jury this was both racist and anti –  anti-disability, or just like you might say someone was racist and sexist.

MELVIN: I'm going to put you on the spot here, and I don't do this a lot on live television. If we had four white teenagers there and it was a black kid – a black young man with special needs, any different?

MELBER: Well, you’re asking a hypothetical.

MELVIN: I am.

MELBER: You’re asking a lawyer a hypothetical question.

MELVIN: I am.

MELBER: I will tell you this, there are precedents that relate to very clear racist incidents. So burning a cross, right, is seen as an anti-black hate crime. The terrible murders in the Charleston church, right, were seen as an attack on a black church. It can be more difficult, absent video, to know when you have an interaction between two people.

I think what you have here, though, was clearly the evidence of – what we would call testimonial evidence, right – of political and racist-related attack, plus the physical disability. Now we have also been advised – I'm just reporting what we've been told by authorities – that they believe that – and this is quite disgusting and heinous – but they believe that these assailants, allegedly, right, targeted this person specifically because of physical disability. That they thought this victim would make for an easier victim because of the disability. That also being a key part. So prosecutors care a lot about what happened, the video is damning evidence. They also care a lot about what they can prove in front of a jury. These are a serious round of felony charges for what was a very serious and disgusting incident, allegedly – as we always say to be careful – but based on what was seen in the plain viewing of that tape.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC