Appearing as a guest on Wednesday's Amanpour and Company on PBS to discuss former President George H.W. Bush's legacy, The New Yorker editor David Remnick condemned Bush's use of convicted murderer Willie Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign as "racist." Host Christiane Amanpour also suggested that Bush had run a "racist" campaign ad.
As she teased the segment, Amanpour noted some of President Bush's foreign policy successes before adding: "...while at home an inability to muster the empathy for economic troubles on main street or during most of the AIDS crisis."
She then continued: "One of the ugliest episodes will remain the notorious, divisive and racist Willie Horton presidential campaign ad."
After bringing aboard Remnick as a guest, the two spoke about Bush's foreign policy accomplishments, and then pivoted to a more negative take on domestic policy as she suggested the President had a "tin ear" and asserted: "His career is littered with the wrong direction, whether it was not fighting for civil rights in the '60s, whether it was ignoring the AIDS crisis because of how it disproportionately or entirely affected gay people."
She then wondered if President Bush enabled "the more extreme wing" of the GOP as she added: "And also, did he -- was he a bastion of moderate Republicanism? Or was he also sort of overseeing the gradual rightward turn to the more extreme wing of the Republican party as we see today?"
After lambasting Bush campaign strategist Lee Atwater, tagging him as a "killer," Remnick misleadingly asserted that he used "the Willie Horton ad," even though the version of the ad liberals have usually complained about was run by a third party group and not the Bush campaign.
Ironically, after decrying Atwater as a "killer," Remnick did not even bother to inform viewers that Horton had committed murder before being sent to prison, and then raped a woman while out on a furlough program Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis supported as the liberal journalist only vaguely referred to him committing "violent" crimes. Remnick:
And he (Atwater) used the Willie Horton ad ... Willie Horton was somebody who was in jail. He was let out of jail and committed another violent crime, and George H.W. Bush, at Lee Atwater's urging, pinned this on his opponent in the presidential race -- the now somewhat forgotten Michael Dukakis.
Remnick continued covering for Dukakis as he added: "It was incredibly unfair, and it was not racially charged -- it was racist. And George Bush, quite frankly, didn't seem to feel any compunction about it."
As if President Bush should have apologized for highlighting one of the strongest examples of Governor Dukakis's poor judgment in running his state's government.
He then complained that this part of the 1988 campaign had "glided by" in obituaries of President Bush. After Remnick griped about the media "whitewashing" Bush's legacy, Amanpour agreed as she declared that a journalist's job "is to be truthful and be objective" instead of doing a "whitewash."
It was ironic that the very discussion she was having was not upfront in actually telling viewers the truth about which ad Bush's campaign ran or the severity of the crimes that Horton had committed that made his story such a serious and relevant issue.