During Wednesday’s edition of The Beat With Ari Melber, the eponymous host shared some “new information and context for President Trump’s race-baiting rhetoric and discriminatory policies.” This “new information” came in the form of indefensible comments from then-California governor and future President Ronald Reagan and the then-President Richard Nixon, which Melber gleefully used as a lynchpin to attack Republicans and conservatives as racist.
After he finished painting President Trump as a racist, Melber proceeded to share some newly released audio from the Nixon Presidential Library featuring Reagan referring to people from African countries as “monkeys” during a conversation with Nixon. The conversation took place as the United Nations had “just formally recognized the People’s Republic of China.”
Not surprisingly, it did not take long for Melber to use the audio as an excuse to trash the GOP. Melber asked “What did Make America Great Again mean then? What does it mean now?” Melber attempted to answer his own questions by describing Trump's agenda as “the politics of the southern strategy, the attacks on welfare queens by Reagan, (and) the relentless fixation on ‘law and order’ by Nixon.”
Melber went on to describe the tapes of Nixon and Reagan and presumably their policies and campaign rhetoric as “the foundation of discrimination and racism and the politics of hate that has long stained America.”
Melber closed his monologue by urging his audience to “be wary of anyone who wants to deny history or facts because we need a firm grasp of both to overcome so many of our nation’s mistakes.” Melber is right; history and facts are important. While he certainly had a right to be offended by Reagan’s “monkeys” comment, Melber had an obligation to provide the history of the Democrats’ record on race.
For starters, 21 Senate Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while only six Senate Republicans did. In 1971, the year the aforementioned conversation took place, segregationists, the real “foundation of discrimination and racism and the politics of hate that has long stained America,” made up a large portion of the Democratic Party.
As for “the southern strategy” supposedly used by Richard Nixon to win the south, it didn’t work. In 1968, half of the southern states were carried by segregationist George Wallace or Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Only in the landslide elections of 1928, 1952, 1956, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988 did Republicans carry an overwhelming majority of the southern states.
It was not until 2000 that Republicans began consistently carrying a majority of the southern states in presidential elections. By then, the Democrats’ far-left positions on abortion, guns, and environmentalism had made them unpalatable to a majority of voters in the increasingly conservative and religious south. For more information on the truth about the “southern strategy,” consult this PragerU video from Dr. Carol Swain.
Melber’s commentary proves that Reagan biographer Paul Kengor was correct in predicting that the “monkeys” comment “will be hoisted on a progressive petard as an eternal symbol of his (Reagan’s) views on race.” Don’t expect the media to hold their Democratic friends to the same standard.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Wednesday’s edition of The Beat is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Beat With Ari Melber
ARI MELBER: Now we turn to some new information in context for President Trump’s race-baiting rhetoric and discriminatory policies. Donald Trump has been rebuked as racist by the U.S. House. He’s been called out by civil rights leaders across the nation recently and now his new approach is to blame everyone else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the word has really gone down a long way because everybody’s called a racist now. I’m the least racist person there is in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Critics note Trump uses that exact line as a taunt. He doesn’t appear to believe it or expect most others to given that he entered politics pushing the race-baiting birther conspiracy, ran for President on a religious ban that was so blatantly discriminatory, his own lawyers later claimed he never tried to enact it as a kind of defense. And of course, now, kicked off his re-election campaign with these attacks on minority members of Congress and basking in those MAGA chants to “send people home.” As a political project, Trump’s figured out how to appeal to some Americans’ desire to go back in time. Hence the plagiarized Reagan slogan “Make America Great Again” and the echoes of Richard Nixon’s appeals to law and order. Well, there are those who argue that Trump has basically corrupted those otherwise acceptable types of appeals, that those slogans and words could mean something different in Trump’s hands and that’s what he makes this newly released audio recording from the Nixon Presidential Library so relevant right now; with what America is going through right now. As you are about to hear, this repugnant, racist language deployed by former top American officials. Recording is from 1971. Then-Governor Reagan called President Nixon, who was opposed at the time to how the U.N. had just formally recognized the People’s Republic of China, obviously a bit of a complex international piece of history but that’s relevant because in this call, when the two men believed they were speaking privately, you have Reagan blaming the African delegations in very particular language. Now, this is all newly released historical material. It is in the news but first a warning. It is deeply offensive. So, keep that in mind if you choose to keep the sound on.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN: Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I, as I did…
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: Yeah.
REAGAN: To see those, those monkeys from those African countries, damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes.
REAGAN: Well, and then they…the tail wags the dog there, doesn’t it?
REAGAN: The tail wags the dog.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Yeah, President Nixon laughingly appearing to agree with Reagan’s statements, not at all objecting, of course, to the language and then placing a call to Secretary of State William Rogers; basically invoking Reagan’s depiction for a conversation about policy within the Nixon administration.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: I, for example, just had a call from Reagan, California, and, you know, he’s been out there and so forth and…and as you can imagine, there’s…there’s strong feeling that we just shouldn’t…as he said, he saw these, these, these, these cannibals on television last night and he sits back, he says “they weren’t even wearing shoes” and he says “here the United States is going to submit his fate to that,” and so forth and so on. And, and…you know, but…but that’s typical of a reaction which is probably…
WILLIAM ROGERS: That’s right.
NIXON: …quite strong.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: This is new from history. What people say can be revealing. Especially when they don’t think it will get out and what they do can be revealing given account civil rights record of that same Nixon administration and how Reagan would go on to campaign. So, what did Make America Great Again mean then? What does it mean now? The politics of the southern strategy, the attacks on welfare queens by Reagan, the relentless fixation on law and order by Nixon, law and order by a President who was found by his own party among others to be committing high crimes in office. So, it’s not all just history. It is the foundation of discrimination and racism and the politics of hate that has long stained America. Be wary of anyone who wants to deny history or facts because we need a firm grasp of both to overcome so many of our nation’s mistakes.