Nets Hail Actor’s Racial Tirade at BET Awards as ‘Powerful,’ ‘Impassioned Call to Action’

On Monday, all three network morning shows gushed over the left-wing activism on display during Sunday night’s BET Awards. In particular, the hosts and correspondents on NBC, ABC, and CBS were enthralled by Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams launching into a racially-charged screed against “this invention called whiteness [that] uses and abuses” African Americans.

On NBC’s Today, correspondent Shienelle Jones proclaimed: “There were many memorable moments at the BET Awards last night. The one that got everyone on their feet was...Jesse Williams’s acceptance speech for humanitarian of the year....he held nothing back in the politically-charged speech, touching on police brutality, conditional freedoms, and the exploitation of black culture.”

A clip played of Williams ranting: “And we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold.”

Following the soundbite, Jones highlighted: “Twitter reacted instantly. One person writing, ‘Jesse Williams. Genius. Polarizing. Political. BLACK. Greatest acceptance speech I ever heard.’”

Moments later, fill-in co-host Tamron Hall fawned: “And for people who don't know, Jesse was a teacher in Philadelphia before he became an actor. He was a teacher in the urban part of that city, and so, that is also why he is so eloquent and so passionate about these things.”

Later, at the top of the 9 a.m. ET hour, a portion of Williams’s incendiary remarks was replayed, with Hall declaring: “...social media...across the board commenting and celebrating his words....a powerful speech. You should follow him on social media, he's always just a very engaged person. And again, his connection to the community, he’s traveled a journey a lot of people haven't, from actor – from teacher to actor, it’s powerful.”

On ABC’s Good Morning America, correspondent Mara Schiavocampo excitedly told viewers: “But one of the night's most powerful moments came unexpectedly with a deeply political speech from Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams.” She later called it “a powerful speech about race.”

GMA censored any of the actor’s controversial language in favor of a brief bland soundbite of Williams: “Now, this is also in particular for the black women, in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”

On CBS This Morning, correspondent Demarco Morgan heralded: “Powerful tributes and speeches anchored the night....Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams, who has been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, received the humanitarian award and gave an impassioned call to action.”

Another clip played of Williams lecturing: “If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”

After the report, co-host Gayle King applauded: “But Jesse Williams, I thought, stole the night.” Morgan swooned: “Oh, my. I was screaming at the TV.” King urged viewers: “His speech was – it’s worth going online and reading to hear what he had to say.” Morgan agreed: “Yes, it is.”

None of the broadcasts labeled the tirade as controversial or divisive.

Here are excerpts of the June 27 coverage on Today:

7:47 AM ET

TAMRON HALL: Back at 7:47 with the award show that has a lot of people talking this morning. And Sheinelle’s in the Orange Room for us, in for Carson. Good morning.

SHEINELLE JONES: Good morning to you. There were many memorable moments at the BET Awards last night. The one that got everyone on their feet was Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams’s acceptance speech for humanitarian of the year. Here’s the deal, the actor, he held nothing back in the politically-charged speech, touching on police brutality, conditional freedoms, and the exploitation of black culture.

JESSE WILLIAMS [BET AWARDS]: And we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn't mean we’re not real.

JONES: Twitter reacted instantly. One person writing, “Jesse Williams. Genius. Polarizing. Political. BLACK. Greatest acceptance speech I ever heard.”

(...)

HALL: And for people who don't know, Jesse was a teacher in Philadelphia before he became an actor. He was a teacher in the urban part of that city, and so, that is also why he is so eloquent and so passionate about these things.

(...)

9:05 AM ET

HALL: And Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams was named humanitarian of the year. The actor and former teacher – a lot of people don't realize that Jesse was a teacher in Philadelphia before going on to acting – he gave a speech that – people were – social media, Justin Timberlake, across the board commenting and celebrating his words. Here's what he said.

JESSE WILLIAMS [BET AWARDS]: And we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn't mean we’re not real.

HALL: There you have a powerful speech. You should follow him on social media, he's always just a very engaged person. And again, his connection to the community, he’s traveled a journey a lot of people haven't, from actor – from teacher to actor, it’s powerful. Big night, big night.

(...)

NBDaily Culture/Society Liberals & Democrats Race Issues ABC Good Morning America Grey's Anatomy CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today BET Video Gayle King Mara Schiavocampo Tamron Hall

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