Something ugly happened the other day outside the Capitol in Washington just before the vote on healthcare reform.
Or it didn’t.
Angry anti-ObamaCare Tea Party demonstrators shouted racial epithets at several black members of congress.
Or they didn’t.
By now, you’ve heard the story. As congress was about to vote on the president’s healthcare plan one or more demonstrators (no one claims to know how many for sure) supposedly shouted “nigger” at two black congressmen. Upon hearing the reports, leaders of the Tea Party demonstration denounced the incident and the leader of the House Republicans, John Boehner said it was “reprehensible.”
But did the incident ever really happen? It certainly is possible, that in a crowd of thousands, a few morons shouted out racial slurs. Apparently it was quite a scene. Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and veteran of the civil rights movement, told reporters that the angry crowd “reminded me of some of the pictures you saw in newspapers and magazines in the 1950s and ’60s when little black children were trying to integrate schools. It reminded me of Central High (Little Rock, Ark.) in 1957.”
So it’s especially interesting that despite all the cameras and microphones at the scene, not one picked up the nasty remarks, even though they supposedly were being shouted, and even though another congressman, Andre Carson, a Democrat from Indiana, said that the demonstrators yelled “nigger” at least 15 times.
This, of course, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. As I say, it may have. Would I be shocked if it did. Honestly? No! So, let’s just assume the worst. And let’s see how the so-called mainstream media handled the story.
Even though journalists are normally skeptical of what politicians say – and pride themselves on accepting nothing without proof – there was no nuance, no hint that they might not know the whole story, in the headlines which shouted “Racism.” Never mind that not a single reporter actually heard the slurs that supposedly were being yelled out — repeatedly.
There was this, from a newspaper in Sydney, Australia no less: “Black congressmen run gauntlet of racist slurs”
And this closer to home, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Republican Party is stained by the racism of its fringe”
At least the Journal Constitution included the word “fringe” – a word missing from the Chicago Sun Times headline: “Racism simmers below surface on health care”
The most irresponsible headline ran over an opinion piece in the Baltimore Examiner (and other publications in the Examiner family): “Tea party turns into Klan rally”
The (New York) Daily News said, “They might want to think about renaming it the Nastea Party.”
But why tar so many angry but peaceful demonstrators with such a broad brush? Why link them to a small group – it if existed at all – that was out of line?
Simple. It fits the storyline that liberal journalists like to pursue. These are news people (not all, of course, but way too many) who believe conservatives in general and tea partiers in particular, are bigots. Simple as that, friends.
Yet these same fair-minded journalists would never tar the entire environmental movement because a few angry screwballs burn down an SUV dealership in the dark of night. Or link peaceful environmentalists to the maniacs who put nails in trees that are about to be cut down hoping to maim the tree cutters. Nor would they tar the entire anti-war movement because Bill Ayers and a relatively few other radicals tried to blow things up to protest the Vietnam War.
But the tea partiers can’t catch a break. Twenty bigots at a rally, or maybe only two or three, or maybe just one … is enough to give tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators a bad name. As Keith Olbermann, the fearless and courageous Howard Beale (without the charm) of MSNBC said: “If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart.”
And when it comes to hatefulness of the heart, there is no one more expert than Keith Olbermann.