NBC spotlighted radical black Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson to rail against President Bush as a "clueless patrician" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and then Brian Williams threw those words in Bush's face. On Wednesday, they spotlighted Dyson’s vicious attack on Rep. Joe Wilson and other conservatives as comparable to terrorists, like the suicide attackers of 9/11. Matt Lauer didn’t find this an occasion to interrupt and interject. Instead, he then read Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column calling Wilson a racist. Here’s how Lauer brought Dyson in:
LAUER: Michael, I don't know which is worse. Is it worse if, in fact, some of this opposition to President Obama is fueled by outright racism? Or is it worse if some liberals, in an attempt to defend President Obama and his plans, invoke the charge of racism to discredit the critics?
DYSON: Well clearly the first would be the problem, Matt. The existence of an abuse is far worse than those who trump it up. But let me say this. You don't ask the person who's been, you know, the abuser what the status of the, the progress is. You ask the people or the person who's been abused. Or if we look at terror, there's only been one terrorist strike, 9/11, but since then we've had terror alerts, we've been proactive, we've been preemptive. So race is the same way. Race is not only a former of terror, it is terror.
And the thing is that, yeah, there have been, I think incredibly valid incidents of racial opposition to Mr. Obama, and there's been an atmosphere from which those events have derived. So I think if you look at the tea baggers, if you look at-
DYSON: -the birthers. He's not even American. If you look at the racial sentiment that is swirling out there, of course we understand that it would be difficult for the Obama White House to come out and say "Yeah," because he looks like a victim crying in his beer, so to speak, but at the same time, why is it that we put the burden of proof upon him when we know that this nation has been built upon so much racial inequality, and it continues to exist in our own time?
NBC paired the professor of "racial terror" studies with right-leaning pollster Frank Luntz, which had the effect of pairing an accountant with a professional wrestler. One meekly offered numbers, and the other was screaming for a fight at the Omni on Friday night. The caption during the segment was "Obama, Wilson And Racism, What's Behind Attacks On The President?" Here was the Dowd Syndrome section:
LAUER: Let me read you both something that Maureen Dowd wrote in her column this week, and it's quite inflammatory. She wrote this, the normally, and she's talking about the incident at the speech before the joint session of Congress. "The normally nonchalant Barack Obama looked nonplussed as Nancy Pelosi glowered behind, surrounded by middle-aged white guys -- the sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men's club -- Joe Wilson yelled, "You lie!" at a president who didn't. But fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air. 'You lie boy!'" Frank did you hear that word?
LUNTZ: Absolutely not. The anger is not directed just towards Barack Obama. It's directed towards a member, members of Congress. It's directed towards the Senate. It's directed towards the media, towards unions, towards institutions that we feel have failed us.
LAUER: Michael, did you hear "You lie boy!" in that comment from Joe Wilson?
DYSON: That and a lot more. "You uppity 'n'!" and so on. Here's the point, Matt.
LAUER: You really heard that?
DYSON: Well, well, obviously I didn't physically hear that, but the implication, the inference. You don't only deal with so-called empirically verifiable racism. You can point to a lynching or using a epithet. You look at the kind of atmosphere and attitude. Look at the opposition. President Obama wants to speak to the American schoolchildren. What's more American than that? People are keeping their kids at home because they fear he's gonna use their bully pulpit to try to drive home a Democratic agenda. The point is, Matt, when you look at the intense concentration on Mr. Obama. Painting him as a president with two eyes in a, in a black box. Calling him a Nazi. Calling him a chimpanzee. Calling him a monkey. How much evidence do you need?
LAUER: Alright Frank.
DYSON: And it's, it amazes me that white Americans are incapable of acknowledging what is before our faces and the reality is that we have to deal with the racial animus that undergirds and underlies American public discourse-
LAUER: Frank I'm gonna give you-
DYSON: -and, and the resistance to Mr. Obama has been stark.
LAUER: -give you the last word here. Real quickly, how should Republicans handle this charge? How should Democrats in the White House handle the charge?
LUNTZ: I've interviewed almost a million people. I will tell you, point blank, he's [Dyson’s] wrong about this. It's up to the Republicans to offer an alternative and it's up to them to challenge the President in a civil way. But in the end, this, if they don't understand this, this isn't about Barack Obama. It's about fear of the future, fear of control, loss of freedom.
DYSON: Fear of a black planet and fear of a black man?
LUNTZ: Please, c'mon.
That’s as rough as Luntz got: "Please, c’mon." Dyson’s charge that Obama is portrayed as a Nazi and a chimpanzee is easily matched by President Bush being portrayed as a Nazi and a chimpanzee. (Hasn’t Dyson seen the Bush-hater website The Smirking Chimp?)