NBC Analysts Try to Blame Trump for Northam Blackface Scandal

On Monday, the third hour of the Today show brought on a pair of left-wing MSNBC political analysts to react to the growing racial scandal embroiling Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. While both of them appropriately condemned an offensive blackface picture featured on Northam’s 1984 college yearbook page, they also argued that President Trump was somehow to blame for the controversy.

Talking to Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude, a regular pundit for MSNBC, co-host Craig Melvin wondered: “This is the third such incident that’s surfaced over the past, I think, three or four weeks....when did blackface become a thing again? Why does it seem as if blackface is all of a sudden front and center in America again? What’s happening?”

 

 

Glaude replied: “I think it has something to do with what Donald Trump has unleashed. It has something to do with the reservoir that’s underneath our politics that can always be activated at any moment....it’s always underneath. It’s the undertow.”

The incidents that Melvin cited included Northam’s scandal, from three decades ago, and the newly-elected Florida Secretary of State stepping down over revelations that he wore blackface as part of a costume over a decade ago. It’s not clear how Donald Trump could possibly have been responsible for either offensive display.

Rather than challenge Glaude’s partisan assertion, fellow co-host Dylan Dreyer instead turned to MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, a former member of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and asked: “So it has seemed to resurface a lot lately, but for kids....now we have to have this conversation with them....What is the best way to talk to children to get them through this time that was from so long ago?”

In part, Maxwell doubled down on the Glaude’s claims:

Well, certainly young children of color experience incidents of racism in their own life....you know, young children of color are dealing with kids saying “Build the wall,” and so I agree with Professor Glaude, Donald Trump has normalized this overt display of racism. Where it used to be impolite...

After the guests desperately tried to paint the Democrat’s scandal as Trump’s fault, co-host Al Roker mentioned the possibility of “forgiveness” for Northam: “So here’s a question, where do we draw the line? Can somebody find forgiveness but can he only, in the case of the Governor, only find forgiveness or a second chance after stepping down?”

Glaude declared: “I think he had an opportunity to say, ‘I made a mistake 30 years ago. I didn’t reveal it. We need to have a conversation about race. I want to tell you how I have moved, I’ve grown from this period – ’ Roker interjected: “And if he’d done that on Saturday, could he still stay in office?” Glaude replied: “No, I don’t think so.”

“Forgiveness” was certainly not on Roker’s mind when former 9:00 a.m. ET hour Today show host Megyn Kelly was caught up controversy over comments she made about blackface on the program back in October. At that time, both him and Melvin rejected her attempts to apologize for her remarks.

Rather than simply hold a Democrat accountable for racially offensive actions, NBC’s inclination was to find a way to spread the blame around and ultimately try to pin the scandal on a Republican president.  

Here are excerpts of the February 4 panel discussion:

9:18 AM ET

(...)

AL ROKER: So, Eddie, you say this is an issue not just an on one person, one party, this is a country-wide issue.

EDDIE GLAUDE [PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY]: Oh, absolutely. What it reveals is that the problem of racism is not a problem solely of the Republican Party. It’s clear for Governor Northam to think that dressing up in blackface was a good idea, it suggests that his social environment is completely segregated, that his intimate life doesn’t consist of people of color. Because if you had people around you that you loved dearly, you would know that that would be painful. And so, what it reveals is that we’re often mysteries to each other because our lives are profoundly segregated. And this country is still segregated.

(...)

CRAIG MELVIN: Professor Glaude, I had a question for you though. I always enjoy your insight and your perspective. This is the third such incident that’s surfaced over the past, I think, three or four weeks. You had that situation in Florida, the secretary of state there stepping aside because it was revealed that he also dressed in blackface back in, I believe, 2004 or 2005 as a Hurricane Katrina survivor. In Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, you had the two college students there. How did – when did blackface become a thing again? Why does it seem as if blackface is all of a sudden front and center in America again? What’s happening?

GLAUDE: I think it has something to do with what Donald Trump has unleashed. It has something to do with the reservoir that’s underneath our politics that can always be activated at any moment. So it’s not like something new has happened, it’s always underneath. It’s the undertow.         

ZERLINA MAXWELL [MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST]: Yup.

DYLAN DRYER: Can I ask a question kind of going to what Craig was saying? So it has seemed to resurface a lot lately, but for kids, you know, it’s something we can kind of almost not expose them to and by exposing them to it again now we have to have this conversation with them because they weren’t aware that this was a part of our history but, wow, it is, and now kids are talking about it. What is the best way to talk to children to get them through this time that was from so long ago?

MAXWELL: Well, certainly young children of color experience incidents of racism in their own life, and they may go home – I remember being in the first grade and a kid asked the teacher what is the n-word, and she said a black person, and then he proceeded to call me that for the rest of the day. And I went home and I asked my mother, what does that mean? She went and got the teacher fired.

But I think that, you know, young children of color are dealing with kids saying “Build the wall,” and so I agree with Professor Glaude, Donald Trump has normalized this overt display of racism. Where it used to be impolite, you know. It’s not okay in polite social settings to be overtly racist, and I think that this moment is a moment in which we have to be honest. We need to call it out. We need to name it. We can't, you know, beat around the bush, call it “racially charged.” We need to say something is racist, it is not okay, and it that shouldn’t be accepted in polite conversation.

(...)

9:22 AM ET

ROKER: So here’s a question, where do we draw the line? Can somebody find forgiveness but can he only, in the case of the governor, only find forgiveness or a second chance after stepping down?

GLAUDE: I think it’s the latter.

MAXWELL: Right.

GLAUDE: I think he had an opportunity to say, “I made a mistake 30 years ago. I didn’t reveal it. We need to have a conversation about race. I want to tell you how I have moved, I’ve grown from this period – ”

ROKER: And if he’d done that on Saturday, could he still stay in office?

GLAUDE: No, I don’t think so. I think he had to, in some ways, embody the consequences of the position. But let’s be very clear really quickly. Blackface isn't about black people. It never has been. It’s about what white people think about black people, right? And so, as long as we have this understanding of race circulating in our country and as long as we think that this is okay, we’re gonna have these moments whether or not we have to activate our over-forgiveness gene, right, and we’ll find ourselves on this racial hamster wheel over and over and over again.

(...)

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