Obama Wants Official Fired for Race Remarks; Similar Comments Not a Problem Back in '94, June '07

Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama is demanding that John Tanner, head of the Justice Department's voting rights division, be fired for racially insensitive remarks:

John Tanner's remarks came during an Oct. 5 panel discussion on minority voters before the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles. Tanner addressed state laws that require photo identification for voting, saying that elderly voters disproportionately don't have the proper IDs.

"That's a shame, you know, creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance," Tanner said, according to video posted on YouTube. "Of course, that also ties into the racial aspect because our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."

"There are inequities in health care. There are a variety of inequities in this country, and so anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly has the opposite impact on minorities. Just the math is such as that."

Tanner has worked for Justice since 1976, last serving under the Clinton Administration's White House counsel's office.

Tanner's spokesman, Erik Ablin, said,

"Mr. Tanner is an attorney who works to protect civil rights on a daily basis," adding that [Tanner] had won numerous awards from African-American groups. "Nothing in his comments deviated from his firm commitment to enforce the law, and it is unfortunate that they have been so grossly misconstrued."

Obama stated that

"Such comments are patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country."

That doesn't jibe with what the article says two paragraphs later, that "It is well documented that black Americans — particularly black males — have shorter life expectancies than whites." But, of course, African-Americans do live to become senior citizens. The article, probably merely like Mr. Tanner did clumsily, is just indicating a statistical reality.

Are Obama's demands for Tanner's firing justified? If so, perhaps Obama will consider the June (2007) appointment of Julianne Malveaux as the president of Bennett College. Malveaux, back in 1994, made the exact same point that Tanner did, albeit in a much more vicious way: She pointed to the statistic hoping that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would "die early like many black men do" because he "is an absolutely reprehensible person."

Does anyone recall there being mainstream media (or any) coverage of these reprehensible comments when Malveaux was [recently] hired as president of Bennett College?

Neither do I.

Video of John Tanner's remarks.

Video of Julianne Malveaux's remarks about Clarence Thomas. (Scroll down to last segment.)

(h/t to NB reader David Henry.)

Race Issues Higher Education Associated Press Julianne Malveaux

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