The “angry black male” is one of America’s enduring stereotypes. The image of the emotional and violence-prone black man goes back to the days of slavery (see Nat Turner), and reached its political zenith in the negative-imagining of Jesse Jackson during his runs for president. I’ll never forget a Newsweek magazine cover from the period that featured a picture of an impassioned Jackson, his faced contorted with emotion, in a way that no doubt scared the bejesus out of any white American who saw it.
Being called an angry black male is not a good thing.
Is it no wonder, then, that Fox News played the ABM card on Barack Obama? Witness this from a broadcast of Fox’s Cavuto on Business show on August 30, featuring writer/economist/actor Ben Stein:
Note that Stein says Obama is an angry black male without giving any reason or explanation for the charge. Show host Neil Cavuto did not challenge Stein’s claim; instead, he echoes it. Meanwhile, neither Stein nor Cavuto make mention of John McCain’s well documented anger management issues.
Interestingly, an African American who was on the show – Charles Payne, a Fox Business Network contributor – said nothing regarding Stein’s angry black male charge. Thanks, bro.
(Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who is an Illinois congressman, made the point in a Democratic Convention forum that Obama is like baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson — he must endure jeers and not to hit back “because no one wants an angry African American in the White House.”)
But there’s nothing new to Fox’s use of race-based and otherwise insulting attacks on Obama. Consider the following:
• In February, in response to a caller who described Michelle Obama as a “militant woman,” Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly offensively stated that he “didn’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence.”
• In May, Fox News’ Liz Trotta referred to Obama as “Osama” and then joked that both should be “knocked off.” Fox later apologized.
• In June, Fox News’ E.D. Hill described a fist bump between Obama and his wife Michelle as a “terrorist fist jab.” Fox later apologized.
• In June, a Fox producer described Michelle Obama by using the offensive slang term “Obama’s Baby Mama.” Fox later apologized.
• In June, Fox aired a smear/rumor from Republican operative Roger Stone that there was a tape of Michelle Obama using the term “Whitey.” The tape never surfaced, however.
• Since last year, Fox News has been echoing false rumors that Obama attended a so-called “madrassa” Islamic fundamentalist school as a child.
I have no doubt there are many more instances of unfair and unbalanced coverage of Obama by Fox.
With all of that in mind, I am among the many who are disturbed and even outraged that Obama is giving an interview to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Various sources are reporting that the O’Reilly interview that will air, in part, on Thursday (last day of the Republican National Convention).
I don’t mind that Obama has given an interview to Fox’s Chris Wallace, a newsman who maintains a respectable reputation despite the network’s reputation for being in the tank for Republicans. But I think this should be a case of “one and done.”
If Fox News doesn’t like Obama or his positions, that’s fine. It’s a free country, and they are entitled to their views. But Fox has gone beyond that. As documented above, that network has engaged in a series of of scurrilous, offensive, false, and misleading attacks on Obama and his wife.
My question is this: why should Obama reward a network that has smeared him, and will continue to smear him, with even one second of air time? And my answer is, he shouldn’t.
Sure, there are voters he might be able to reach by appearing on The O’Reilly Factor. But let’s be for real: the people who watch Fox are not going to vote Obama. Yes, I know that a portion of the Fox audience consists of self-identified Democrats. But if they’re steady viewers of Fox, they’re a lost cause, electorally speaking.
And rather than engage in a substantive discussion of the issues, I have no doubt that O’Reilly will want to talk about flag pins, Reverend Wright, bittergate, and other issues that have by now been laid to rest.
The Washington Post is reporting that three months ago, Obama and two advisors held a then-secret meeting with Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and network owner Rupert Murdoch to “clear the air” concerning any issues between the two parties. About the meeting, Ailes said that he noted that Obama was boycotting the network; and that Obama said that Fox wasn’t giving him a “fair shake,” and was making unfair attacks on him and his wife.
Well let’s see; three months ago would be June… around the time of several of the attacks mentioned above. I don’t know if Fox has gotten better, because I don’t watch them. But as the recent “angry black man” charge seems to indicate, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
The bottom line for me is, based on all they’ve done, Fox is irredeemable. Obama doesn’t need them; but they need him, for the sake of ratings, and especially if Obama wins… they don’t want to be in the position that an entire administration ignores them.
But that’s Fox’s fault and Fox’s problem. If they’re not going to treat Obama with respect, he should respond in kind. The message being sent by Obama’s going on Fox now is, they can say anything and do anything, with no penalty.
And that’s something to be angry about.