It’s Not Just One Tweet: MSNBC’s Despicable Record of Smearing Conservatives as Racists
On Thursday, MSNBC President Phil Griffin apologized for a Twitter post suggesting conservatives (“the rightwing”) are racists who would “hate” a cute new Cheerios ad because it featured a biracial family: “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.”
MSNBC took the post down after protests from other Twitter users. Griffin on Thursday issued a statement: “The tweet last night was outrageous and unacceptable. We immediately acknowledged that it was offensive and wrong, apologized, and deleted it. We have dismissed the person responsible for the tweet.”
Griffin’s statement was a good first step, but if an apology is owed for this tweet, then MSNBC owes conservatives many, many more. Just last month, weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry had to apologize after taking a cheap shot at Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson. “I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule,” Harris-Perry tearfully acknowledged a week later.
The Media Research Center has compiled a long list of instances in which the network’s anchors have committed character assassination disguised as journalism, unjustly smearing conservatives, Republicans and the Tea Party as racists. Here are just some of the many outrageous examples we have documented:
■ Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore: “This is still a pretty conservative country and people are upset about the policies in Washington and they don’t think the politicians are listening.”
Host Chris Matthews: “Okay, I think, I think some of the people are upset because we have a black President.”
— Talking about the town hall protests against ObamaCare on MSNBC’s Hardball, August 11, 2009.
■ “If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart, along with blind hatred, a total disinterest in the welfare of others, and a full-flowered, self-rationalizing refusal to accept the outcomes of elections, or the reality of democracy, or the narrowness of their minds and the equal narrowness of their public support.”
— MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on Countdown, March 22, 2010.
■ “The Republican Party in this country has been running on hate and division for the last 50 years....What black person, gay guy or girl, immigrant or Muslim American in their right mind would vote for the Republican Party? They might as well hang a sign around their neck saying, ‘I hate myself.’”
— Fill-in host Cenk Uygur on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, August 26, 2010.
■ Clip from RNC ad: “Stop Obama and his union bosses today. The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”
Host Lawrence O’Donnell: “The Republican Party is saying that the President of the United States has bosses, that the union bosses this President around, the unions boss him around. Does that sound to you like they are trying to consciously or subconsciously deliver the racist message that, of course, of course a black man can’t be the real boss?”
Ex-Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI): “Wow, I hadn’t thought about the racial overtones....”
— MSNBC’s The Last Word, February 25, 2011.
■ “The interesting question is: what is it about this President that has stripped away the veneer of respect that normally accompanies the office of the President? Why do Republicans think this President is unpresidential — unpresidential, and shouldn’t dare to request this kind of thing? It strikes me that it could be the economic times, it could be that he won so big in 2008, or it could be, let’s face it, the color of his skin.”
— MSNBC political analyst and ex-Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe talking about the brief contretemps over scheduling Obama’s speech to Congress, The Last Word, August 31, 2011.
■ “I get out of all of these things that many of these [Republican] candidates would rather take legislation to build a time machine and go back in time to where we had, you know, no women voting, slavery was cool. I mean, it’s just kind of ridiculous.”
— Daytime anchor Thomas Roberts on MSNBC Live, September 23, 2011, talking about the previous night’s GOP debate.
■ “Plus, what Mitt Romney has in common with the KKK. Details on a rare Romney campaign blunder ahead….So you might not hear Mitt Romney say ‘keep America American’ anymore. That’s because it was a central theme of the KKK in the 1920s. It was a rallying cry for the group’s campaign of violence and intimidation against blacks, gays and Jews.”
— Anchor Thomas Roberts on MSNBC Live, December 14, 2011.
■ Host Chris Matthews: “How does this guy [Mitt Romney] go from hard right, severely conservative, to this new regular mainstream character he’s portraying himself as?...He ran as a full mooner, Michael. You know, he was saying ‘There’s no such thing as science.’... How can he go from Flat Earth, ‘I don’t believe in evolution,’ to all of a sudden, ‘I’m teaching biology’?... It certainly was in the Grand Wizard crowd over there, okay?”
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “Wait, I resent that! No. Come on, what is this ‘Grand Wizard’ nonsense? Are you saying that we’re Ku Klux Klan?”
Matthews: “Okay, I’m just saying, the far-right party.”
Steele: “Give me a break! Don’t go there with me on that.”
— MSNBC’s Hardball, April 23, 2012.
■ “You notice he [Romney] says ‘anger’ twice. He’s really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama. The other-ization, he’s not like us. I know it’s a heavy thing to say. I don’t say it lightly. But this is niggerization, ‘You are not one of us,’ and that ‘you are like the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.’”
— Co-host Touré on MSNBC’s The Cycle, August 16, 2012.
■ Host Martin Bashir: “Of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s forthcoming oration, can I quote something [to] you? ‘For four years, Barack Obama has been running from the nation’s problems. He hasn’t been working to earn re-election. He’s been working to earn a spot on the PGA tour.’ How about that?”
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell: “Well, we know exactly what he’s trying to do there....These people reach for every single possible racial double-entendre they can possibly find in every one of these speeches.”
— MSNBC’s Martin Bashir, August 29, 2012, talking about McConnell’s speech at the Republican National Convention.
■ “They hate Obama. They want him out of the White House more than they want to destroy al Qaeda. Their number one enemy in the world right now, on the right, is their hatred — hatred for Obama. We can go into that about the white working class in the South, and looking at these numbers we’re getting in the last couple days about racial hatred in many cases. This isn’t about being a better president. They want to get rid of this president. That’s their number one goal and they’re willing to let Romney go to the hard center, even if it’s to the left on issues, as long as they get rid of this guy.”
— Chris Matthews during MSNBC’s post-debate coverage, October 22, 2012.
■ “I look at Obama as a perfect American. I don’t mean politically. We can disagree left and right on him. You can argue about the drones. Argue about the fiscal policy, all that stuff. But as a citizen. The guy went to school, he never broke a law. He did everything right. He raised a wonderful family. He’s a good husband, a good father. My God I don’t think he’s ever gotten a speeding ticket. The guy does everything right and these right-wingers — and he’s really been pretty moderate on guns until the horror of Newtown — and I don’t know what they’re so afraid of, except that he happens to be black.”
— Host Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball, March 6, 2013.
■ “What does your study tell you about the nature of the racial piece here of the Tea Party?...Is it sort of a resumption of the Old South, of the way things were before the Civil War, for example? Is it like that old dreamy nostalgia you get in the old movies, Gone With the Wind? Is it that kind of America they want to bring back or what? When there were no gays, where blacks were slaves, Mexicans were in Mexico? I mean, is this what they want?”
— Chris Matthews to author Christopher Parker on MSNBC’s Hardball, March 20, 2013.
■ “The problem is there are people in this country — maybe 10 percent, I don’t know what the number, maybe 20 percent on a bad day — who want this President to have an asterisk next to his name in the history books, that he really wasn’t President....They can’t stand the idea that he is President, and a piece of it is racism. Not that somebody in one racial group doesn’t like somebody in another racial group. So what? It is the sense that the white race must rule. That’s what racism is. And they can’t stand the idea that a man who is not white is President.”
— Chris Matthews appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, May 15, 2013.
■ “The IRS is being used in exactly the same way as they tried to use the President’s birth certificate...Despite the complete lack of any evidence linking the President to the targeting of Tea Party groups, Republicans are using it as their latest weapon in the war against the black man in the White House....This afternoon, we welcome the latest phrase in the lexicon of Republican attacks on this President — the IRS. Three letters that sound so innocent, but we know what you mean.”
— MSNBC host Martin Bashir, June 5, 2013.
■ “At least back in 1939, when Marian Anderson had to sing here, ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ rather than at the Constitution Hall, because — they said the reason was she was black. At least they were honest back then....[Today] you’ve got people talking about nullification of the law of the land [ObamaCare]. You got people talking impeachment like [Senator Tom] Coburn. You got Ted Cruz out there. They never say their problem with Obama is that he’s black, but look at the pattern....At least the Daughters of the American Revolution knew what they were saying and they said it out loud: ‘He’s black, she’s black, she can’t sing here.’ These guys today use all the techniques of nullification and talking about illegitimacy and accusing the President of being a crook, basically, for even being president, because he’s here illegally. And then they talk about impeaching him on grounds they can’t even come up with. At least in the old days they were honest about it. Today, they’re not.”
— Chris Matthews during MSNBC live coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2013.
■ “I want to talk today about a controversial word....A word that was originally intended as a derogatory term, meant to shame and divide and demean. The word was conceived of by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man, to render him inferior and unequal and to diminish his accomplishments.... Y’all know the word that I’m talking about: ‘ObamaCare.’”
— Host Melissa Harris-Perry on her eponymous MSNBC show, December 8, 2013.
— Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Rich Noyes on Twitter.