A CNN headline on Monday explained, “Trump denies racist tweets were racist.” One could argue that CBS This Morning on Tuesday denied that Democratic Congresswoman’s Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic outbursts are anti-Semitic. The show’s hosts interviewed Ibram X. Kendi, who is the Anti-racist Research and Policy Center Director at American University.
Discussing Donald Trump’s offensive tweets about four minority Congresswoman, Gayle King gently brought up Omar, a woman who slimed Israel as “evil”: “People have said she’s made some anti-Semitic and divisive things. Should she be criticized? Do you see the comparison between her remarks and what the President said as the same?” Kendi replied, “I do not.” He then explained away Omar’s horrific comments.
She was very specific in criticizing the policies of a country. In this case, the country was Israel. Trump has specifically criticized racial groups of people. When he said that Mexicans are rapists. When he said that black people, a trait of blacks is laziness. This is a condemnation of a racial group of people. That is, effectively, racism. When we criticize a country's policies, that is not — when you criticize Israeli policies, that's not anti-Semitic. But when you say there's something wrong with Jews, that is. I haven't heard her say that.
He hasn’t heard Omar make anti-Semitic remarks? Let's review: In 2012, she called the world’s only Jewish state “evil” and said Israel has “hypnotized the world.”
(Omar has since deleted this tweet.)
In February of 2019, Omar trafficked in ancient, anti-Jewish tropes about controlling money, by saying of Israel, “It's all about the Benjamins baby.” As NPR noted, “In another tweet soon after, Omar named the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, saying it was funding Republican support for Israel.”
Yet, the CBS hosts offered no push back when Kendi claimed, “I haven’t heard her say” anti-Semitic comments. Surely, the journalists at CBS are aware of Kendi’s strong support for Omar, despite her bigoted remarks. As noted by Twitchy, in April, he tweeted:
(Speaking of weird beliefs, Kendi’s book on racism features a glowing blurb by Toure, a former MSNBC host who has promoted bizarre 9/11 conspiracy theories.)
Regarding Trump’s offensive comments, King wondered if this means all of Trump’s supporters are racist.
The people who don't criticize them, do you criticize the remarks. Are they racist? Because I hear people say, “I like his policies, I don't like that he said that. I like some of his policies.”
Kendi said of Republicans: “You're effectively being racist yourself.” Now, CBS co-host Anthony Mason opened the show by declaring, “The House could vote as early as today on a Democratic resolution denouncing President Trump's racist tweets.” If CBS can, flat-out, with no qualifiers, condemn Trump’s disturbing remarks, they should be able to do the same with Omar.
A transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more:
CBS This Morning
ANTHONY MASON: In Washington, meanwhile, the House could vote as early as today on a Democratic resolution denouncing President Trump's racist tweets.
8:05:38 to 8:11:30
ANTHONY MASON: Yesterday, the four congresswomen apparently targeted by the President, he didn't name them specifically, slammed his comments as racist. This morning on Twitter, President Trump accused the group of saying, some of the most quote, “Some of the, quote, most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician.” He said the House should vote to rebuke them.
GAYLE KING: Ibram Kendi is a professor and director of the Anti-racist Research and Policy Center Director at American University in Washington, D.C. He's made the trip to join us at the table in New York. Good morning. Good to see you.
IBRAM X. KENDI (American University Anti-racist Research & Policy Center Director): Good morning.
KING: Professor Kendi, take us to the history about “Go back to where you came from.” Why is that considered a racist statement? I know it made a lot of people cringe when he said it.
KENDI: Well, in the 19th century, there were many, many reformers, racial reformers who thought the way to solve the race problem, the negro problem, was to essentially send back all free blacks. And that started with Thomas Jefferson, his Notes to the State of Virginia which was published in 1787 and went all the way up to Abraham Lincoln.
KING: It's never said about caucasians or white people of European descent, is it ever?
KENDI: It is not. It's assumed that this is their country. And so, where would they go back to? But people of color, it's assumed that this is not their country.
MASON: As we reported, some of the President's supporters have called his tweets inappropriate, not racist. What do you say to that?
KENDI: Well, at first I'd say there's no such thing as not racist. There's racist and anti-racist. Racist ideas suggest that there's something wrong or right, superior or inferior about a particular group. It suggests there's something inherently normal about white Americans, that Americans are white and whites are Americans. And his idea suggests that somehow people of color are not American. And that's deeply racist.
KING: But professor, I heard one of his supporters say they're not racist because in the tweets he never mentions race. So how — I heard someone say he never mentions race, how can it be considered racist?
KENDI: So, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, these were voting suppression bills that are widely considered by Americans today to be racist. But there was no racial language in them. You don't have to have racial language in an idea or even in a policy for it to be racist. It's about what its outcome. Are you suggesting that there's something wrong with a particular group? Are you — is it creating inequity? That's the true measure of whether something is racist.
JERICKA DUNCAN: What role do Republicans play in sort of checking the President about these comments? You hear them say it's unacceptable, it's divisive, it's — you know, people are frustrated. But some of them are not really calling out this behavior as racist. What role do they play in sort of helping move this conversation forward or get a better understanding of how our President can say that and some people really feel that's not offensive?
KENDI: I think Republicans should play the same role as all Americans and that is to identify racism when they see it, and to say that America is not going to stand for it. And this is a bipartisan issue. This is an issue that cuts across lines. Either we are a nation of immigrants, either we are a nation where Jefferson included, or where nation of white people. I think we have to decide and Republicans need to decide what type of nation are they going to stand up for.
MASON: The White House says the President has repeatedly condemned racism and bigotry in all forms.
KENDI: So every group of racists in American history have condemned bigotry and racism in all forms except their form. So slave holders condemned it. Segregationists condemned it, mass incarcerators condemned it. They all condemned it but they all deny racism. That's essential to racism itself.
KING: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has come under fire for some of the remarks she made. People have said she’s made some anti-Semitic and divisive things. Should she be criticized? Do you see the comparison between her remarks and what the President said as the same?
KENDI: I do not.
KENDI: She was very specific in criticizing the policies of a country. In this case, the country was Israel. Trump has specifically criticized racial groups of people. When he said that Mexicans are rapists. When he said that black people, a trait of blacks is laziness. This is a condemnation of a racial group of people. That is effectively racism. When we criticize a country's policies, that is not — when you criticize Israeli policies, that's not anti-Semitic. But when you say there's something wrong with Jews, that is. I haven't heard her say that.
KING: Can you write racist things and say racist tweets and not be a racist?
KENDI: What you do in terms of what you say, what policies you support, determines whether you're being racist or anti-racist. So, no. If you say things that are racist, you're racist. Just like if you say things that are anti-racist, the next minute you're being an anti-racist. What we do is effectively who we are in that moment.
KING: The people who don't criticize them, do you criticize the remarks, are they racist? Because I hear people say, “I like his policies, I don't like that he said that. I like some of his policies.”
KENDI: So when you have a politician who is mass producing and circulating racist ideas, racist ideas as to the ones I just described, saying that immigrants from the south are criminals. But never says anything about immigrants from Europe or even the north, when you ask someone who says these things and you don't challenge them, you're effectively supporting them yourself. You're effectively being racist yourself.
MASON: Ibram Kendi, thanks so much for being with us this morning.