If you followed the toxic enthusiasm MSNBC hosts and guests displayed for hurling accusations of racism or racial insensitivity toward Republicans in 2012, then a recent segment on that cable news network involving comments made by Bobby Jindal should sound lamentably familiar.
During a segment on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner, Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, was asked to weigh in on Jindal’s claim that there are “no-go zones” inside European cities in which Muslim immigrants have refused to allow non-Muslims to travel. This claim is so controversial that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro issued an on-air apology after one of her guests made a similar assertion. Despite its controversial nature, Jindal is standing by the claim and that recalcitrance is apparently enraging the left.
What the issue of race has to do with anything here, however, is only knowable to MSNBC’s hosts and guests. “I think Governor Jindal is protesting a bit too much,” Iftikhar said of Jindal’s decision to stand by the “no-go zones” claim. “He might be trying to scrub some of the brown off his skin as he runs to the right in a presidential bid.”
One can only assume that Iftikhar and his MSNBC interlocutor, who made no effort to protest this claim or correct the record, believe that Jindal thinks his skin color is a disadvantage in a Republican presidential primary and is positioning himself as being aggressively opposed to unassimilated European Muslims so as to address this liability. This network’s compulsion to project racial anxieties onto Republicans is disturbing, but it is no longer shocking. Jindal should be ready to deal with all the insulting racial scorn with which former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain contended.
“I believe Herman Cain is in this presidential race because he deflects the racism that is inherent in the Republican party, the conservative movement, the Tea Party, certainly,” actress and comedienne Janeane Garofalo told former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann in the summer of 2011. “I feel like he’s being paid by somebody to be involved and to run for president so that they can go, ‘Well, yeah, they can’t be racist! It’s a black guy! It’s a black guy asking for Obama to be impeached!’ Or ‘it’s a black guy who’s anti-Muslim!’ Or ‘it’s a black who’s a Tea Party guy!’”
Her theory was so wildly popular that Olbermann invited Garofalo to return just weeks later. Then, she repeated the claim that Cain’s candidacy provided Republican voters with an indulgence that allowed them to support the candidate of their choice while also believing they had been absolved of racial transgressions.
“People like Karl Rove liked to keep the racism very covert. And so Herman Cain provides this great opportunity say you can say ‘Look, this is not a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-female, anti-gay movement. Look we have a black man!’” Garofalo said. “Look he’s polling well and won a straw poll!”
Just imagine how racist Republicans will be when Dr. Ben Carson wins the Ames Straw Poll.
Garofalo wasn’t the only MSNBC personality to accuse Republicans of backing Cain only to assuage their racial guilt.
“Cain comes along, offering salvation, liberation,” MSNBC host Touré theorized after accurately observing that most Republicans chafe at the notion that their criticisms of Obama are rooted in racial antipathy. “You’re not racist if you support Herman Cain.”
“So now they have this Herman Cain card they can throw at us anytime they are made to feel racist,” he continued. “So this is like a beautiful thing for them. So they need him to succeed as long as they can deal with him so that they can get their Cain card and make it as valuable as possible.”
While this successful businessman’s value as a candidate in 2012 was certainly debatable, it is highly insulting to suggest the impetus for his candidacy began and ended with his skin color.
It was, however, former MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor who makes a watertight case for the claim that the left’s racial criticisms of Republicans are rote, perfunctory, and issued without any intellectual effort.
When Taylor told former MSNBC host Martin Bashir in October of 2011 that Cain’s candidacy “placates the base” because he claimed that racism is no longer an impediment to African-American success, Bashir took it a step further. “You’re almost saying that he’s trying to denude and diminish his own ethnicity in order to win that base?” He asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying!” Taylor exclaimed. “If he could shed his ethnicity today – if he could become, what I would call, the color of water, he would do it.”
This is Iftikhar’s claim precisely. Everything old is new again.
The poisonous strain of racial agitation that overtook the left during the perfectly fractious 2012 election cycle should not be repeated. We are still reeling from the effects of that irresponsible, if not successful, effort to sever the nation’s bonds of comity along ethnic, gender, and generational lines. A second attempt by liberals to sow disunity for political gain would be disastrous.
Let’s hope MSNBC imposes a bit more discipline on their hosts when it comes to talking about race in the next election cycle. For the country’s sake.
UPDATE: Credit where credit is due. It looks like MSNBC is trying to impose some discipline on its overzealous talent. As a response to this controversy, the Comcast property revealed on Tuesday that Iftikhar will not be invited back on MSNBC anytime soon. Good for them.