Thursday, March 08, 2007


Correcting My Own Record

Last night was my first appearance on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes Show," and I had one of those TV moments commentators often dread. I got bulled into saying something dumb and, even worse, that I don't believe. The damage is done, but one of the beauties of a blog is it at least gives you a chance to clean up your own messes, and this one warrants some sanitizing.

My segment was supposed to be about Wednesday's New York Times story about Barack Obama's investments, but even Sean Hannity and the conservative guest I was on with had trouble making hay over that non-scandal. So to fill the time, Hannity raised the issue of Obama's church and its precepts, which often used the word "black" in them, and challenged me to explain why those statements were not racist. (This happens to be a Hannity hobbyhorse, as you can see here.)

I started making the point I wanted to -- that there is nothing racist about black churches calling for empowerment for and accountability from its members, for talking about, as Obama himself has said, "the African-American community strengthening families or adhering to the black work ethic or being committed to self-discipline and self-respect and not forgetting where you came from." In fact, as I tried to tell Hannity, those sound a lot like the conservative values that the right often preaches about and sometimes criticizes the black community for lacking.

But Hannity cut me off and pressed me to say that if you substituted the word "white" in those precepts, wouldn't that be considered racist? I pushed back by asking if he would have a problem if you substituted the word "Italian" for "black," because (as I would have liked to gotten a chance to say) this was an expression of community pride and responsibility, and not anything discriminatory. Then when Hannity pressed me again, I just stumbled, and left the impression that there would be nothing wrong with a white church talking about white pride and the like.

Let me be clear: I don't think that would be appropriate, and I know it would come off as racist. What I should have said, as Hannity's co-host Alan Colmes eventually did, is that this is a bogus comparison because whites as the majority have no need for empowerment or fighting for their freedom. And then I should have pointed out Hannity's hypocrisy in attacking a church that espouses many of the same values he does.

But I didn't. So my apologies to anyone who was put off by my fumbled comments and to Senator Obama for not giving him the defense he deserved.

Although it's refreshing to hear this from you, I think it would certainly mean more if it were reaching a wider audience.

Maybe try to call into the show and say it to those who were witness to the statements you made...
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