Anchor Campbell Brown’s show on CNN is subtitled “No Bias, No Bull,” but the show displayed plenty of bias during a Wednesday night segment about Attorney General Eric Holder calling America “a nation of cowards” on race issues. Brown praised Holder for “cutting through the bull,” and a panel discussion was utterly unanimous: Gloria Borger, Soledad O’Brien, and Roland Martin all toed the liberal line and praised Holder for lambasting the nation. Martin wholeheartedly agreed with Holder’s characterization. Borger defended the first black attorney general, stating that he was “trying to be provocative on purpose,” while O’Brien thought the Obama appointee was trying to start a “honest conversation” on race.
As for ‘cutting through bull,’ Brown should have corrected O’Brien when she repeated the old radical line that somehow Black History Month is the shortest month on the calendar due to some racial slight, which completely mangles the facts. It began as “Negro History Week” and was founded by African-American historian Carter Woodson in mid-February to honor Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are on the 12th and the 14th respectively.
Brown introduced the topic with her praise of Holder and with excerpts from his speech: “On this program, we are all about ‘Cutting Through The Bull,’ and, for once, somebody in Washington is, too. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder went well beyond paying lip service to the nation’s annual observance of February as Black History Month. It would have been easy for him to simply praise African-Americans...But, instead, Holder used his speech at the Department of Justice to demand that Americans confront our unfinished business on the uncomfortable subject of race.”
After playing the excerpts, she introduced her guests, and directed her first question to Martin: “What did you think of what he said? Are we a nation of cowards?” Martin replied, “Absolutely....We have segregated schools. We have -- in terms of neighborhoods, churches, and so we have this nice little coexistence. But he’s right. We don’t want to be forcefully honest about where we stand when it comes to issues of race.”
The anchor then asked O’Brien, “So, how do you break that cycle? I mean, you can’t legislate it, Soledad.” The CNN special correspondent agreed with Brown’s assessment, and began her answer with her rant about Black History Month:
O’BRIEN: No, and I don’t think he’s asking to legislate it. I think what he was saying was -- take this Black History Month, which, frankly, I think a lot of people roll their eyes and say, oh, the shortest month of the year actually gets to be the month devoted to black people -- and let’s actually have an honest conversation, where you can say what you’re really thinking and I get to say what I’m really thinking, and we can talk about some of the issues that are out there. I think what he was saying was, this is an opportunity. It’s going to be painful and it’s going to be awkward, to quote him from his speech, but you really can’t make progress. And you’re looking at demographics, where -- let’s throw Latinos into the mix, too -- the country is not going to be
majority white in the year 2050. So, we’re going to hit that moment and not too far in our future, and if we don’t start having some real conversations -- you know, people will often say, I don’t see color, and they think that that’s a compliment in some way, and I think, why not? Why don’t you see color? What you need to do is see color and respect people for who they are, regardless of color. I don't see color means you have very bad eyesight and you have a problem visually, truly.
Brown then turned to Borger, one of CNN’s senior political analysts, and made the point that Holder’s remarks were “all the more surprising” because he is a “consummate Washington insider.” In her reply, Borger focused on how whites apparently reacted to his use of the word “coward” versus how blacks reacted to them:
BORGER: You talk to a lot of white people today, and in response to the word coward -- okay, and they will say that it was needlessly provocative, and that he shouldn’t have used the word coward, that maybe he should have used the word fearful. And then you talk to a lot of African-Americans, as did I around our office today, who said, well, that’s exactly the word he should use, because he was trying to get people to pay attention, and we wouldn’t have paid attention if he had used the word fearful, because that's a
word we use all the time --
MARTIN: Thank you. Correct.
BORGER: So, I think he was trying to be provocative on purpose. He now has a platform. He is the first African-American attorney general. He is going to have a very aggressive office of civil rights in his department, and I think what Eric Holder was trying to do -- yes, he’s a careful man; yes, he’s an insider -- but he also comes to this job as a bit of an outsider, and wanted to start that conversation.
At the end of the segment, the panel turned to the recent New York Post editorial cartoon which referenced the chimpanzee in Connecticut that was shot and killed by police after mauling a person. All three guests agreed that it really was a “clear” racist attack on President Obama:
BROWN: What did you think when you saw it, Soledad?
O’BRIEN: I think it is clearly racist. I think that think that they’re -- anytime somebody wants to portray a black person as less than human -- and this is done historically, from early days of the nation -- of this nation -- you portray them as a chimpanzee. That is so classic. So -- and that not only is that -- that cartoon is not even clever. It is not even clever. So, it’s clearly -- it’s not sort of racist. It’s just clearly racist.
BROWN: And we’re almost out of time, guys, but that was what struck me about it. I mean, it’s not like people didn’t think of this reference or recognize this reference or understand it, Roland.
MARTIN: Right. It’s because we know our history. Now, he had put Congress on the chimpanzee’s chest and further explained it. But to say, well, it’s a chimp and the Congress and the stimulus. Sorry, we’re not buying it. We know it when we see it, and so people need to understand it. And The Post, they continue to make excuses.
BORGER: I found it offensive, Campbell, to me. It was offensive to me.
BROWN: Across the board.
BROWN: All right, guys, to Gloria, Roland, and Soledad, thanks so much. Appreciate it.