A magnanimous way to start the new year, although he seems to think what she’s guilty of is different from what MSNBC does as regular practice. Is it? There was no intent to harm, he says; she was riffing with some comedians, they did what comedians tend to do, and before you know it she’s on TV in tears apologizing to the Romney family. (“She apologizes — for what?”) And he’s right that some of the criticism was overheated, especially the accusations that she and her panel were making fun of the baby specifically. They weren’t, but the rules of outrage dictate that the more sympathetic the victim, the more justified the outrage is. If the baby’s the target then the outrage can go to 11.
What they were amused by wasn’t the baby himself but his inclusion in a big white family helmed by the last Republican nominee for president. That’s the “joke” — it’s Mitt Romney and he’s got a black grandson. The man who represented a racist party has a black infant in his family! You can imagine them marveling at the same photo if it had been, say, the Boehner family instead but it’s impossible to imagine them doing it if had been the Reids or the Pelosis. The need to denormalize a prominent Republican’s acceptance of a black child is why this ended up on air; that’s what makes the segment mean-spirited, not any of the lame jokes the panel made afterward. And that’s absolutely in keeping with MSNBC’s view of the GOP. Harris-Perry isn’t a dependably nasty character like Martin Bashir and her apology was affecting and seemed sincere, but this was all part of a common message. In fact, according to Eliana Johnson’s piece on MSNBC at NRO today, the network now has an exec reviewing scripts before they’re filmed to make sure nothing too offensive is said. The panel remarks on Harris-Perry’s show were unscripted but the decision to show the Romney photo obviously wasn’t. It made it to air anyway. Go figure.
Needless to say, Beck’s graciousness towards an opponent won’t be repaid the next time he says something controversial. Which he knows, of course. This is an argument about decency for its own sake, not some proposed truce in the outrage wars which everyone understands won’t last a day.