In Front of Sharpton, MSNBC's Wolffe Says 'There Are People Who Enjoy the Politics of Race,' 'Helps Their Ratings'

A big irony occurred on Tuesday's PoliticsNation when MSNBC's race-obsessed host, Al Sharpton, devoted a segment to fretting over right-leaning talk radio hosts and FNC hosts who have complained about a recent comment by President Barack Obama about there being "some" who harbor racist sentiments toward him. 

But it was MSNBC political analyst and MSNBC.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe who made comments most directly applicable to Sharpton himself as he complained that some "enjoy the politics of race" and find that it "really helps their ratings," adding that they try to "shout 'racist' louder than anyone else."

WOLFFE: And there are people who enjoy the politics of race, right? They find that speaking to the kind of sense of victimization really helps their ratings in this case, or maybe it helps them in their particular district. And that to me is much more interesting than what these people are actually arguing. There is nothing more preposterous or predictable than having this cast of characters say it's about racism. Their whole game is to shout "racist" louder than anyone else.

Sharpton, who repeatedly talks about race on his show and has made a career of racial politics, was appalled at reaction to the President's words by some conservatives. Before a commercial break, he teased:

Still ahead, right wingers trot out one of their favorite attacks on President Obama, that he's playing the race card. I'll trump their arguments tonight.

Sharpton then began the segment: "The right-wing spin machine is running on overdrive tonight because President Obama had the nerve to talk about race." After quoting Obama and calling his comments a "fairly obvious noncontroversial statement," the MSNBC host added: "But for the right wingers, it was a chance to go back to one of their favorite talking points: President Obama is playing the race card.

After playing soundbites of several right-leaning hosts, he continued: "Ugly stuff. But we've seen it before. When in doubt, right-wingers trot out their race card headlines."

At the segment's conclusion, Sharpton ended up whining:

Well, all I can say is that when someone says to even mention race is pulling the race card, you have to ask the accuser: What is your problem with race that we can't have an intelligent, balanced conversation without you overreacting? It says more about the accuser than it does the accused.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, January 21, PoliticsNation on MSNBC:


SHARPTON, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK: Still ahead, right wingers trot out one of their favorite attacks on President Obama, that he's playing the race card. I'll trump their arguments tonight. And the GOP's new push to take down progressive hero Wendy Davis. They won't get away with it, and it's tonight's "gotcha."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The right-wing spin machine is running on overdrive tonight because President Obama had the nerve to talk about race. In a published interview the President said, quote, "There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black President. Now the flip side of it is that there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of a doubt precisely because I'm a black President." Now, it seems like a fairly obvious noncontroversial statement. But for the right-wingers, it was a chance to go back to one of their favorite talking points: President Obama is playing the race card.

SEAN HANNITY, FNC HOST: Why at this point would the President use that and seemingly play in the race excuse?

NEIL CAVUTO, FNC HOST: It just demeans this President when he offers his race as an excuse for not doing better in the same position.

GLENN BECK, TALK RADIO HOST: It is a strange like double standard racism that I think keeps him elected.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO HOST: Obama is living in this fantasy land where he's the greatest President ever, and it's just those bitter clingers, bitter clinger pro-life racist pigs.

SHARPTON: Ugly stuff. But we've seen it before. When in doubt, right wingers trot out their race card headlines. The Wall Street Journal thinks the President has a race card. The New York Post says there's one for ObamaCare. Was the Obama administration playing a race card in Alabama? The Weekly Standard wants to know. Did Obama ask Oprah to play the race card? That's a good question, too. Apparently they think Michelle Obama plays the race card. And of course Eric Holder has one, too. Right wingers see a race card every time the President or his allies talk, but the truth is they're the ones who are dealing from the bottom of the deck.

(...)

SHARPTON: Goldie, why does the right go in such a panic when the President talks about race?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's an itchy conversation. It's an uncomfortable conversation, I think, for people on the right and for people on the left. But to raise the spectrum of race at all for some on the right, you know, really means to play the race card. And it's unfortunate because this President has really fought and tried very hard to strike a meaningful balance when he talks about those kinds of very sensitive issues. But the fact is some on the right are very comfortable in this position.

I think Sarah Palin is literally playing a game of 52-card pickup here. You know, any time, you know, some issue comes up, a national holiday like MLK Day comes up, you know, she is fast to trot out and try to whip the President over the head with the very notion that he is African-American and has really fought very, very hard to be very sensitive about these issues, to come to them with a balance for, you know, how, you know-

SHARPTON: But Richard, it's not just Palin. I mean, Palin is Palin. I'm talking about some of the established Republican leadership and journalists. And this is the most noncontroversial-

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: -balanced statement-

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: -and they made this the race card. I mean, I've been in many meetings with the President with other civil rights leaders, and he has never encouraged anybody. In fact, in many ways, we would say things, and when I said on Morning Joe, we'd say things that he didn't encourage and in fact wouldn't even go along with because he happens to really believe everybody, maybe not judging things on race always as much as we did. They distort what I said. So, I mean, it's race any kind of way they want it. He's either got tensions with black leaders, or he's playing the race card or both at the same time.

WOLFFE: Too black, too white. Remember that whole discussion?

SHARPTON: Never just right.

WOLFFE: So I've been covering this from the start, from the get-go when he first started running for President. And there are people who enjoy the politics of race, right? They find that speaking to the kind of sense of victimization really helps their ratings in this case, or maybe it helps them in their particular district. And that to me is much more interesting than what these people are actually arguing. There is nothing more preposterous or predictable than having this cast of characters say it's about racism.

Their whole game is to shout "racist" louder than anyone else. But the interesting thing is their audience actually feeds on this stuff. And that is something quite real. Not what the President is actually saying, but this idea that the country has slipped away from them, the culture has slipped away from them, and the President kind of encapsulates that. It's certainly nothing in what the President says. But that sense of victimization is very real. And that's what they're speaking to.

(...)

SHARPTON: Well, all I can say is that when someone says to even mention race is pulling the race card, you have to ask the accuser: What is your problem with race that we can't have an intelligent, balanced conversation without you overreacting? It says more about the accuser than it does the accused.

--Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Brad Wilmouth on Twitter.