Topic: Media

Get O’Reilly: Race-Baiting and Distortions from MediaMatters

Race relations in the United States are frequently undermined by unscrupulous ideologues willing to ratchet up the level of suspicion and distrust between black and white for tactical gains in the political wars. A recent culprit: MediaMatters, the George Soros-seeded left-wing attack website. Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy would have loved the methods recently employed by the self-proclaimed watch-dog organization that is so paranoid and intellectually dishonest that it can make reasonable people sympathize with even its least likable targets. They don’t get much less likable than Fox News bully Bill O’Reilly, but MediaMatters’ attempt to paint O’Reilly as a racist for what was obviously a well-intentioned appeal to reject racial stereotyping was absurdly unfair, misleading, and unethical to the core.

O’Reilly was telling NPR’s Juan Williams that white America tends to look at hip-hop and “gansta” culture as typical of African Americans. Speaking of a visit to a Harlem restaurant, O’Reilly said:

“And I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that’s really what this society’s all about now here in the U.S.A. There’s no difference. There’s no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment — people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you’re gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody’s skin.”

MediaMatters promptly blanketed the web with a condemnation of O’Reilly’s comments as “ignorant and racially charged,” when the real ignorance resides with a disturbing number of white Americans who think that most blacks are poor, uneducated, and on the way to prison. Shortly after MediaMatters’ attack on O’Reilly, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made this statement in response to a question at the MTV/MySpace Forum regarding national solutions to rising crime rates:

“We cannot build enough prisons to solve this problem. And the idea that we can keep incarcerating and keep incarcerating — pretty soon we’re not going to have a young African-American male population in America. They’re all going to be in prison or dead. One of the two.”

Edwards’comments reflect and reinforce the very same the misconceptions that the Fox pundit was trying address. As the National Review quickly pointed out, there are four times as many African American men between the ages of 18 and 24 attending college than there are in prison. So a conservative commentator says he is impressed with how closely middle class blacks mirror the behavior of middle class whites, and a liberal politician implies that virtually all young blacks are on the verge of conviction and incarceration for crimes. And which comment is characterized as “racist” by MediaMatters? O’Reilly’s appeal to racial understanding (admittedly not executed with particular verbal desterity) gave MediaMatters an opening for character assassination against a prominent conservative, and the resulting “is he or isn’t he a racist” debate made it all the way to NBC’s “Today Show.” Edwards’ comment, by far the more offensive, factually incorrect, and significant in what it says about the speaker’s assumptions about race, was not just ignored by MediaMatters, but most other media outlets as well.

MediaMatters apparently judges what it regards as racially offensive purely by reference to who is talking. To support its attack on O’Reilly, the group recited a ridiculous list of imaginary examples of his past “racially charged statements.” For example, MediaMatters was outraged that O’Reilly expressed surprise at the identity of a murderer by citing the fact that he was “a ‘white-bread’ guy.” To the literate non-paranoids of the world, the term “white-bread” is an inoffensive synonym for boring and ordinary (have the attack dogs at MediaMatters never tasted—blechh!—Wonder Bread?) and has nothing to do with race. But because the word was uttered by Bill O’Reilly (and not by, say, John Edwards), “whitebread” suddenly became a racist term. Next, MediaMatters quoted O’Reilly as favoring profiling at airports, a thoroughly justifiable and respectable opinion that is shared by many, many security specialists who are assuredly not racists.

Does MediaMatters really believe this nonsense? The Scoreboard is dubious. The founder of MediaMatters is David Brock, once a below-the-belt conservative smear-specialist who inexplicably morphed into a below-the-belt liberal smear-specialist. Clearly, integrity is not his defining characteristic. Bill O’Reilly, arrogant and doctrinaire loud-mouth that he often is, did nothing to earn the label of racist other than holding legitimate ideological opinions that MediaMatters’ constituents don’t like.

Honest and ethical reporters judge public statements by their content. Honest and ethical reporters apply the same standards of analysis to liberals and conservatives alike. And honest and ethical reporters are interested in revealing the truth, not distorting it.

MediaMatters, needless to say, is not honest and ethical. It simultaneously represents the worst of American journalism and politics, a truly revolting combination.

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