NPR Talk Show Host Uses Covington Kids to Claim Wall is About 'Xenophobia' and 'Race'

As NewsBusters has previously reported, NBC marched a hard line to smear the Covington Catholic kids as racists in a viral video face-off with a Native American activist. NPR talk show host Joshua Johnson, a panelist on Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, dragged the smears into a discussion of the government shutdown. 

According to Johnson, “if you want to look for an image that actually speaks to this, it’s probably those protesters who were on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Native American man who was beating the drum, Nathan Phillips, and those kids and the Make America Great Again hats that were kind of smirking at him and kind of looking down their noses at him.” Johnson connected the ultimately misleading original videotape to the debate over the wall, saying “this is about xenophobia. For many Americans, this is about race.”

Johnson continued to use the “morality” argument regarding the wall, citing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s description of the wall as an “immorality,” asking “how do you make a political solution to a moral quandary?” Johnson attempted to answer his own question: “for many Americans, for many people of color and I’m not speaking of all people of color, for the Rashida Talibs in this country, for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes in this country, they are tired of political solutions to moral problems.”

 

 

Fellow panelist Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute strongly pushed back on Johnson’s analysis: “The problem that you have is when you start suggesting that anyone who wants a wall is…or no, not many. I don’t want to be unfair to you. But that many who want this are actually racists, it causes a real hardening on the other side. There are plenty of people, including 35-plus Democratic Senators, who wanted a wall, signed up to a wall, and who I don’t think are racists.”

Johnson appeared to backpedal later on, talking about how “there are some experts who do believe there are certain kind of barriers in certain parts of the border that make perfect sense.” Johnson then appeared to reject Pelosi’s dismissal of a wall as immoral: “so saying it’s inherently an immorality may be true in some people’s hearts, but there are pragmatic ways in which certain kinds of barriers along certain parts of the border have helped.”

Hopefully, Johnson and other media figures will begin backpedaling their statements about the Covington Catholic students, as a handful of media organizations already have.  Hopefully this, along with the Buzzfeed story, will teach the media not to rush to judgment.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press is below. Click “expand” to read more.

 

Meet the Press

01/20/19

10:56 AM

HEIDI PRYZBLA:  According to the Democrats who I talked to is they really are going to stay united when it comes to the principle of this negotiation taking place when the government is open and not closed.

TODD:  Interesting. Well, close, no? You don’t see progress?

JOSHUA JOHNSON: Don’t look at me. I don’t know.

TODD: Yeah?

JOHNSON: Nope. And let’s be clear. No one in this room knows when the shutdown is going to end. Let’s just…

TODD: Fair enough.

JOHNSON: Let’s just knock that right out. There’s no clear path and I think part of the reason is because this is no longer purely pragmatic or practical politics. This is a moral issue. I mean, I think the shutdown is kind of a symptom of something larger. The wall is a campaign promise the President made to play on something very deeply held that his political base feels. And if you want to look for an image that actually speaks to this, speaks to this, it’s probably those protesters who were on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Native American man who was beating the drum, Nathan Phillips, and those kids and the Make America Great Again hats that were kind of smirking at him and kind of looking down their noses at him. To me, that is the real image, that is the real emblem of this. This is about xenophobia. For many Americans, this is about race. This is about rhetoric that has reached a point where it has ground the government to a halt. Nancy Pelosi said a wall is an immorality. So how do you make a political solution to a moral quandary? It seems like the entire political establishment has kind of painted itself into a place where the practical nature of politics could solve this. But for many Americans, for many people of color and I’m not speaking of all people of color, for the Rashida Talibs in this country, for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes in this country, they are tired of political solutions to moral problems.

TODD: You know, Dani, it’s interesting, he brought up the…perhaps the box that Democrats have painted themselves in, the morality. Then you have the “A” word when it comes to the right, which is amnesty, which is that any little protection for anybody that’s not here legally is somehow amnesty and the President tweeted this, this morning “ No, Amnesty is not part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else. Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful, Nancy.” The amnesty word, we know that that suddenly can splinter the right.

DANIELLE PLETKA: So there’s a lot of history behind these immigration problems. It’s not just something that came up between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. This goes back to 1986 and the original deal that was struck with the Reagan administration, which most people don’t even remember and that was the amnesty question. You know, I think what we’ve seen is that while Donald Trump had painted himself into a corner, the reality is we may not like it. We may not agree with him, but he has moved. And it is a mistake on the part of the Speaker to come out of the box and not accept the idea that we like the idea of a three-year extension. Sure, we want to do better. We like, we could accept a 700-mile or so border, a fence. The Democrats, every sitting Democrat in the Senate, voted for just such a thing a mere five years ago. The problem that you have is when you start suggesting that anyone who wants a wall is…or no, not many. I don’t want to be unfair to you. But that many who want this are actually racists, it causes a real hardening on the other side. There are plenty of people, including 35-plus Democratic Senators, who wanted a wall, signed up to a wall, and who I don’t think are racists.

TODD: Bottom line is if you take the emotion out of this debate, it’s solved tomorrow. Right?

BAKER: Yeah. Exactly right. And I think Josh’s point is exactly right which is that what used to be a relatively pragmatic discussion about a little of this, a little of that, right? In 2006, Republicans, along with many Democrats voted for the Secure Fence Act; they put in 650 miles worth of fencing. Today, it has become a moral issue on both sides in different ways. Very hard to meet in the middle.

JOHNSON: I want to be clear, there are some experts who do believe there are certain kind of barriers in certain parts of the border that make perfect sense. We interviewed a border patrol expert on our program who said that especially in urban areas, where there are plenty of places for smugglers to duck and dive behind buildings or down alleys, physical barriers can make a real difference in terms of securing the border. So saying it’s inherently an immorality may be true in some people’s hearts, but there are pragmatic ways in which certain kinds of barriers along certain parts of the border have helped.

 

Events Government shutdown NBC Meet the Press Uncorrected Falsehoods Joshua Johnson
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