On Sunday's Meet the Press on NBC, former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw seemed bewildered and frustrated that race relations in the U.S. haven't improved as much as he hoped they would by now.
Brokaw didn't consider his own network's significant and largely dishonest contribution to this situation during the past nearly 11 years.
The video segment below opens with Brokaw talking about ridiculing a friend of his in Iowa for arming himself. He ends up bemoaning the current high level of hostility in the nation, while seeming to believe that there are millions of us among the law-abiding who are a hair-trigger away from committing acts similar to those committed during these past several weeks by people who decidedly rejected this nation's fundamental values:
Transcript (full program transcript is here; bolds are mine):
MEET THE PRESS HOST CHUCK TODD: Tom, I want to go to the question that I asked John Kerry, which is this sense of the last five weeks and what it's going to do to the American psyche. Orlando. We had watched what happened in Nice, we've had a terrorist attack at the Istanbul Airport and then, of course, the coup in Turkey. What happened in Saint Paul and Baton Rouge and Dallas. All of it collectively is going to have an impact on Americans in ways that I think the candidates haven't appreciated yet.
TOM BROKAW: Well, I couldn't agree with you more. I think that there is a sense of real terror out there. I mean, I have a friend in rural Iowa who is arming himself at this point and taking gun instruction. And I say to him, "They're not going to come and find you in a small town in Iowa." But that's representative it seems to me of the rising tide of fear.
And by the way, there's a mix here. What happened in Dallas was a black man who went wild against the Dallas Police Department. What happened obviously in Orlando was a whole different motivation altogether, none of which we have any way of getting our hands around.
Who are these people? What motivates them? And how do we respond to these lone wolves, which is effectively what they are? We're not looking at a big mosaic of an organization of some kind. It's somebody who goes completely off the rails and decides to take out whatever hatred he has in his heart against police, against a gay night club or whatever it is.
And that's a good reason to be unmoored. I do think that the country has to find a way of collectively coming together and dealing with this. And it's got to transcend party lines and cultural lines and everything else.
I grew up at the beginning of the civil rights movement, I really thought we'd be a different country by now. We have elected an African-American President, there is a lot of progress. But the hostility out there is really unsettling to me and it's based on pigmentation. People are making judgments on the color of his skin, bang, like that. And that's wrong.
I have three questions for Mr. Brokaw, based on his hand-wringing riff.
First, how "different" might things be right now if the so-called civil-rights community, with huge media assistance, hadn't turned something which did not occur, namely the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" narrative in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, into a national cause? But for that, the visibility and intimidating presence of the Black Lives Matter movement, greatly facilitated by your network and its cable sister MSNBC, might be relatively inconsequential.
Second, how different would things be now if your network, and especially your Nightly News successor, Brian Williams, hadn't dishonestly turned Hurricane Katrina in 2005 into a "George Bush is a racist" story for the express purpose of discrediting a presidential administration your people clearly disliked, paving the way for a cunning, dishonest, opportunistic racial divider like Barack Obama to become viable presidential material?
The truth about Katrina, for starters: Louisiana's governor rejected offers of assistance and refused to take necessary timely actions; Louisiana and New Orleans government officials allowed hundreds of buses to be submerged instead of having them used for evacuations; and those who died in New Orleans were disproportionately ... white.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given the decline in racial harmony during the 7-1/2 years of his presidency, how could you and most of the rest of the establishment press have put yourself into a position of admitted nearly complete ignorance about Barack Obama's uncivil, combative, and authoritarian nature just days before he was first elected in 2008?
After a nearly two-year presidential campaign, you're the one who proclaimed your ignorance as well as the ignorance of your own profession, Tom — that's what "we" means:
CHARLIE ROSE, PBS: I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is.
TOM BROKAW, NBC: No, I don't, either.
ROSE: I don't know how he really sees where China is.
BROKAW: We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.
ROSE: I don't really know. And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?
BROKAW: Yeah, it's an interesting question.
ROSE: He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational (sic) speeches.
BROKAW: Two of them! I don't know what books he's read.
ROSE: What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?
BROKAW: There's a lot about him we don't know.
By that time, New Media knew plenty about Barack Obama, his worldview, and his views on race relations, Tom. They knew that he had (and still has) a negative view of this country and its standing. They knew that he spent most of the preceding two decades as a member of a church with a race-baiting, America-hating ("God Damn America!") pastor.
But you, Charlie Rose, and the rest of the establishment press remained studiously, and I would argue in many cases (apparently not yours ... wow) deliberately ignorant — the better to keep that portion of the nation which wasn't closely following the news equally ignorant. It was much more fun to, among many other things, dig through Sarah Palin's trash in Alaska, and to invent an extramarital affair about John McCain that never happened.
Now, as President Obama's preacher stated in another context, thanks to your profession's misconduct, the chickens have come home to roost, i.e., the nation's racial hostility and class conflicts have been shrewdly ginned up by a President who is far more interested in division than unity, and whose Department of Justice proves that this is really his posture on a nearly daily basis.
The press's role in this has been far from inconsequential, and it will bear heavy responsibility for the results if we don't somehow pull back from the brink.
[Editor's note: In response to a Newsguard critique, old links have been removed from this post, including one that made claims about Obama's distaste for the national anthem from an article that was satirical and one that claimed Frank Marshall Davis was Obama's birth father.]