Olbermann Suggests 'White Wing' GOP Racist, Want to Re-Segregate

On Friday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann questioned why Democrats are not accusing Republicans of racism because of the decision by GOP presidential candidates to reject invitations to debate at black and Hispanic events, as he asked: "When the Republican presidential candidates refuse to debate at black or Hispanic venues, why are they not being asked if they're as racist as that seems?" As he discussed the issue with liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, during which the words "White Wingers" were displayed at the bottom of the screen, the Countdown host raised the possibility Republicans are interested in re-segregating schools by overturning Brown versus Topeka Board of Education. Olbermann: "Is it possible they're actually hoping to move backwards in this, that there is some part of the Republican party that says, you know, we got to roll back, those activist judges in Brown versus Board of Education, we got to get rid of them?" (Transcript follows)

Olbermann began the segment by bringing up criticism faced by Democratic candidates for their refusal to appear in a debate hosted by Fox News, as he recounted that they were asked, "If you can't stand up to Brit Hume, how can you stand up to Osama bin Laden?" The MSNBC host then raised the possibility of GOP racism as he continued: "Leaving aside the budding analogies ripe there, in our third story on the Countdown, when the Republican presidential candidates refuse to debate at black or Hispanic venues, why are they not being asked if they're as racist as that seems?"

After reading statements by former Congressman Jack Kemp and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticizing GOP candidates for avoiding minorities venues, Olbermann accused President Bush of having "a six-year record of dismantling minority initiatives and neglecting the plight of a minority city engulfed by a hurricane" as he introduced clips of the President encouraging Republican candidates to talk to minorities. Olbermann: "And a President with a six-year record of dismantling minority initiatives and neglecting the plight of a minority city engulfed by a hurricane, seemed even he to recognize the folly."

Olbermann then brought aboard Robinson and asked "how big a slap is this to black voters?" Robinson described Karl Rove's political strategy as being to "pay lip service to minority issues" and to "at least pretend to care about" minority issues to appeal to suburban voters who "don't like to associate with a party that's racist."

Although it may have been intended as some sort of bad joke, the MSNBC host then suggested the possibility that Republicans would like to re-segregate American schools by overturning Brown versus Topeka Board of Education. Olbermann: "Is it possible, are we giving them too much credit? Is it possible they're actually hoping to move backwards in this, that there is some part of the Republican party that says, you know, we got to roll back, those activist judges in Brown versus Board of Education, we got to get rid of them?"

After Robinson raised the possibility that Republicans have an instinct to "play to the antediluvian base of the party," Olbermann suggested that Democrats should be criticized for not attacking Republicans over the issue. Olbermann: "It's tough to criticize the Democrats on minority interests -- there's a black running, there's a Hispanic running, there's a woman running -- but do they deserve criticism for not pounding the Republicans for their disengagement of minorities the way the Republicans pounded the Democrats for something that seems a little bit more benign than not going on one offshoot of the Republican party in FOX?"

In Robinson's answer, he begged, "Somebody please take a shot. Somebody please point this out." As he concluded his answer, he remarked, "Wake them up, Keith."

Olbermann responded: "I do what I can. I was out sick. I'm sorry. I'll put my appendix back in."

Robinson complimented Olbermann: "Yeah, you know, you play hurt, and that's why you're an MVP."

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Friday September 21 Countdown show:

KEITH OLBERMANN: When the Democratic presidential candidates refused to debate on FOX, they were asked with some sliver of logic, "If you can't stand up to Brit Hume, how can you stand up to Osama bin Laden?" Leaving aside the budding analogies ripe there, in our third story on the Countdown, when the Republican presidential candidates refuse to debate at black or Hispanic venues, why are they not being asked if they're as racist as that seems? Candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain had committed to joining their rivals at five debates and forums from California to New Hampshire in the last six months. That is fewer debates than the Democrats, yet they say they are too busy to appear at a PBS forum for black voters next week. Last week, a forum for Hispanic voters was cancelled due to a lack of Republican interest. Only John McCain even answered the invitation. It's a pattern of minority avoidance that is alarming some Republicans, such as former vice presidential candidate and Congressman Jack Kemp. "We sound," he says, "like we don't want immigration. We sound like we don't want black people to vote for us. What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote." Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has noticed. "I think it is a terrible mistake," he says. "I did everything I could do to convince them it was the right thing to do, but we are in this cycle where Republicans don't talk to minority groups." And a President with a six-year record of dismantling minority initiatives and neglecting the plight of a minority city engulfed by a hurricane, seemed even he to recognize the folly.

GEORGE W. BUSH clip #1: My advice to whoever will be our nominee is to reach out to the African-American community, as well as other communities. I believe that we've got a very strong record when it comes to empowerment, when it comes to education or home ownership or small business formation.

BUSH clip #2: We've got a good record to run on, and my advice to our candidate would be to run on it.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson, of course, is a columnist and associate editor at the Washington Post. He's covered race, justice and politics there for 25 years. Good evening, sir. We'll get to that part of, which part of that last statement is wishful thinking and which part is delusion here. But let's begin with Tavis Smiley, who's hosting the Black Forum next week, who says if you're not going to talk to all America, you don't deserve to be a President. How big is what the Republicans have done here in not doing this, how big a slap is this to black voters?

EUGENE ROBINSON, Washington Post: You know, I think it's a, it's a huge slap, and it really surprises me, I mean, you know, that Jack Kemp quote about the country club. I think that, at this point, that's like an insult to suburban country clubs nationwide. They're more diverse than the Republican party seems to want to be at this point. I thought the Karl Rove playbook was that you at least paid lip service to minority issues, that you at least pretended to care about the issues that African-Americans or Latinos might want to discuss, as a way of not alienating white independent suburban voters whom you need to have a Republican president elected. Those people don't think of themselves as racists, they don't particularly like to associate with a party that's racist, so you make the gesture, you go, you talk. It just boggles the mind that they won't even show up this year.

OLBERMANN: Eugene, is it possible, are we giving them too much credit? Is it possible they're actually hoping to move backwards in this, that there is some part of the Republican party that says, you know, we got to roll back, those activist judges in Brown versus Board of Education, we got to get rid of them?

ROBINSON: No, well, I think it is indeed possible that there's this reflex this year is to play to the kind of, you know, antediluvian base of the party, which, you know, which has problems with diversity and multiculturalism and some problems with the way America is today, so, you know, maybe these candidates don't want to be seen, you know, quote, cowtowing to special interests, i.e., people who have brown skin.

OLBERMANN: People, special interests, people!

ROBINSON: People with brown skin. I mean, imagine that. We can't have that, Keith.

OLBERMANN: People! Listen, it's tough to criticize the Democrats on minority interests -- there's a black running, there's a Hispanic running, there's a woman running -- but do they deserve criticism for not pounding the Republicans for their disengagement of minorities the way the Republicans pounded the Democrats for something that seems a little bit more benign than not going on one offshoot of the Republican party in FOX?

ROBINSON: Yeah, exactly. Somebody please take a shot. Somebody please point this out. I can't, you can understand the Democrats not wanting to rip one another apart at this point, but I thought going after the Republicans was the whole point of it, and they are turning their backs on the two largest minority groups in the country. You'd think the Democrats would want to point that out. We've heard, you know, hardly anything from them. It's just, it's amazing. Wake them up, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I do what I can. I was out sick. I'm sorry. I'll put my appendix back in.

ROBINSON: Yeah, you know, you play hurt, and that's why you're an MVP.

OLBERMANN: Thank you. Last point here, the advice, and it was really delivered with a straight face, it seemed, from the President yesterday: The Republicans have a strong record on African-American issues, they should run on it, reach out to the African-American community. Do you think he meant "Don't talk to them, just reach out towards them"? What is he saying there?

ROBINSON: He's saying "Make the gesture."

OLBERMANN: Geez.

ROBINSON: "Make the gesture." I mean, you know, his strong record on African-American issues. Hello, Hurricane Katrina. I think that pretty much wipes that slate clean. But he's saying "Make the gesture. This is what Karl Rove, it worked for me, so this is what Karl says to do." But they're not listening.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, no, he, see, now, that's a very good point because when he was the owner of the Texas Rangers, when he traded Sammy Sosa, he traded him for Harold Baines, African-American athlete. So there you go. There's that reach out that we're talking about.

ROBINSON: There you go. Latino, you got Latino there, you got African-American. He knew what he was doing there.

OLBERMANN: Then. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, have a great weekend, Gene. Thanks for your time.

ROBINSON: You, too, Keith.