A website owned by the Washington Post on Monday accused Fox News host Bill O'Reilly of racism. O'Reilly's slight? Informing his viewers of the widespread corruption in Haiti. The accuser, meanwhile, omitted key facts undermining his charge.
O'Reilly had the audacity in a January 13 "Talking Points" segment to make the "not particularly constructive" suggestion (in The Root's words) that his viewers be wary of the intermediaries they use to send aid to Haiti given the island's notorious problem with corruption.
First of all, O'Reilly is a very "constructive" donor to the Haitian relief organization Haitian Health Foundation. The organization's founder, Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, heaped praise on O'Reilly for his generous donations to the cause in a letter read on air on January 22: "Mr. O, thank you for your latest donation. Your generosity over the years to the Haitian Health Foundation has brought improved health and hope to our poorest neighbors. God bless you!"
Not content to merely omit facts in his dubious attacks on O'Reilly, The Root author Thomas Reed attributed O'Reilly's statement that Haiti is an immensely corrupt nation to "a far too familiar trope: Black as savage, other, incomprehensible. Inhuman. Is this hyperbole? Perhaps."
Is it hyperbole to suggest that to mind where one's aid dollars are going in the poorest and most corrupt nation in the Western Hemisphere is a symptom of racist dehumanization of black people the world over? I'd say there's no "perhaps" about it.
Of course Reed included no empirical evidence beyond a couple of anecdotes about ambiguous incidents that really don't have any bearing on the central premise of O'Reilly's argument.
Is this hyperbole? Perhaps. Or perhaps we ought to ask the Idaho church group who thought they could simply leave the island with orphaned (and maybe some not-so-orphaned [author's note: where is Reed getting this accusation?]) children without the appropriate documentation. Or the Brazilian troops who last week trained their rifles on a hungry crowd of displaced Haitians, firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep the peace. Perhaps we should ask the Haitian people who again and again have had to attest to their own humanity.
Reed's concluding sentence, above, is somewhat puzzling given that he invokes O'Reilly's name as the central antagonist of his essay. A reasonable reader would no doubt gather that Reed is accusing O'Reilly of furthering the dehumanization of the Haitian people through his supposedly racist comments.
Did O'Reilly call Haitians' humanity into doubt? Let's review what he actually said (a radical approach, I know):
Now as far as Haiti is concerned, the USA has given that country more than $1 billion over the past five years. Compare that to the World Bank, which has donated about $300 million over the same time. It is clear America is very concerned about the world's poor, and "Talking Points" would like to know how much money Russia and China have donated.
I myself donate money to the Haitian Health Foundation run by a Connecticut patriot, Dr. Jerry Lowney. I give the money directly to the doctor because I know if I send it to the island, Haitian authorities will most likely steal it.
And therein lies the problem with Haiti: massive corruption.
There are nine million Haitians on the island, so there's enough aid to provide for all of them. The nation could be a tourist mecca. It is rich in folklore and culture, including voodoo. It has the Caribbean Sea and very nice people. But there is little tourism in Haiti.
My travels there have been illuminating. Only half the population can read and write. Unemployment's more than 50 percent. Most Haitians live on less than $2 a day. No matter how much charity is given, no matter how many good intentions there are, Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed.
Many liberals don't want to hear that. They believe that nanny state can provide, but it can't. No society will prosper unless there are rules of conduct, mandatory education and fairness by those in power. None of that happens in Haiti. And so the USA will once again pour millions into that country, much of which will be stolen.
So O'Reilly is proud of how much the United States and he personally have given in aid, is worried about corruption in Haiti (ranked by Transparency International on the same level as Guinea and Iran, just below Venezuela and Kyrgyzstan--see link above), admires the Haitian people and their culture, is concerned that many lack basic necessities such as education and employment, and is troubled that the world is not addressing the root causes of Haitian suffering.
Where is the racist, dehumanizing characterization of black people as savages, exactly? O'Reilly, by Reed's logic, is just as racist as Secretary of State Hilllary Clinton, who has said that she is "not going to spend a penny [in Haiti] unless I have some confidence that it's going to go to the right place."
Maybe Reed just heard what he wanted to hear--that O'Reilly is a racist--since, as he admits, he has "come to expect drivel from Fox TV." Are these the standards that the Washington Post is now employing at all of its online subsidiaries?