NBC Uses Attacks on Bush at King Service as Chance to Critique His “Record on Race”

Some speakers at Tuesday's memorial service near Atlanta for Coretta King used the opportunity to blast from the left the racial, budget and foreign policies of President George W. Bush, who was himself amongst the speakers. Yet Wednesday's NBC Nightly News managed to turn the event into an indictment of Bush and imaginary “deep cuts” in social programs, without mentioning the vitriolic hatred directed toward him by the very black organizations and leaders NBC's Andrea Mitchell suggested he has snubbed. Anchor Brian Williams noted how the service included “criticisms of President Bush's domestic and foreign policies.” But then he framed the story around how it supposedly “raised fresh questions about the Bush administration's record on race.”

Mitchell began with a back-handed slap at Bush: "It was an in-your-face rebuke rare for any President, especially one who doesn't often surround himself with critics." Mitchell at least pointed out how Andrew Young considered it an inappropriate forum for attacking a President, before she recited Bush's mistakes: “After five years in office, deep cuts in social programs, and searing criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush is still struggling to explain himself to African-Americans.” Of course, there haven't even been mild cuts in social programs, never mind Mitchell's ludicrous claim about “deep cuts.” Mitchell also relayed how “critics, often Democrats, remember that he has not attended an NAACP convention since taking office.” Maybe that's because a few months after he attended one in 2000, the NAACP produced a TV ad narrated by the daughter of James Byrd, the black man murdered by being dragged behind a pick-up truck, which charged that since “Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.” And Mitchell also skipped how just last week NAACP Chairman Julian Bond alleged that the Republicans' “idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side-by-side" and he asserted that “Republicans draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics." (Transcript follows, as well as video of the 2000 NAACP ad)

What exactly Bond said at a February 1 appearance at Fayetteville State University has come under some dispute, but for Tuesday's Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer a reporter listened to an audio tape (large mp3 linked to the posted article) and recounted the two quotes cited above. In Tuesday's “Best of the Web” on OpinionJournal.com, James Taranto provided an overview of what Bond said and how the Fayetteville paper at first ignored his incendiary remarks.

The late October of 2000 NAACP ad featured a semi-re-enactment of the infamous and brutal James Byrd murder: Black and white video of a pick-up truck's door closing and the pick-up then dragging a long chain down a dirt road. In her own voice, Byrd's daughter recounted:
"I'm Renee Mullins, James Byrd's daughter. On June 7, 1998, in Texas, my father was killed. He was beaten, chained and then dragged three miles to his death -- all because he was black. So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again. Call George W. Bush and tell him to support hate crimes legislation. We won't be dragged away from our future."

Video: At the time, the MRC posted a RealPlayer clip of the ad (700 KB at a low-quality 34 kbps recording rate) as played on the October 24, 2000 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC. The clip lasts 2:40 and contains both the 30-second ad in full followed by some comments on it by Morton Kondracke, Bill Sammon and Mara Liasson.

As for Mitchell's lunacy about “deep cuts in social programs,” the Heritage Foundation's Brian Reidl pointed out in a report (in PDF format) posted Monday: “Anti-poverty spending has surged 39% under President Bush to a record 16% of all federal spending.”

At the four-hour Tuesday memorial, Reverend Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter took these shots at Bush:
Lowery: "She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there [lengthy applause]. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor."

Carter: "It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps....We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, those who are most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

The February 8 NBC Nightly News story, with the closed-captioning corrected against the video by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
Brian Williams: "There has been a lot of reaction today to yesterday's funeral service for Coretta Scott King. The six-hour celebration of Mrs. King's life included quite a few political statements, including criticisms of President Bush's domestic and foreign policies. And it raised fresh questions about the Bush administration's record on race. Here is NBC's Andrea Mitchell."

Reverend Joseph Lowery, civil rights activist, at the memorial service: "Will words become deeds that meet needs?"

Andrea Mitchell: "It was an in-your-face rebuke rare for any President, especially one who doesn't often surround himself with critics."

Lowery: "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there."

Mitchell: "And at a funeral. But just as the churches of the South were crucibles for the civil rights movement, Coretta Scott King's funeral seemed to capture the political divide between George Bush and many African-Americans."

Professor Ronald Walters, University of Maryland: "The opposition is to both the conservative temper of the times and the man who is now leading it."

Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian: "One of his ambitions was to renew the ties between African-Americans and the Republican Party. Critics at that funeral yesterday were saying you haven't done enough."

Mitchell: "The White House today ignored the controversy, saying the Bushes were honored to attend. And one of the speakers, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, said the political barbs were inappropriate."

Andrew Young, former U.N. Ambassador: "Martin Luther King or Coretta King would not have done it. They were far more gracious. That's the reason they were successful."

Mitchell: "In fact, some of the most pointed criticism came from a white former President."

Jimmy Carter, at the memorial service: "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, those who are most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Mitchell: "But after five years in office, deep cuts in social programs, and searing criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush is still struggling to explain himself to African-Americans. In December, with Brian Williams:"

George W. Bush, on Air Force One with Brian Williams: "You can call me anything you want, but do not call me a racist."

Mitchell: "He has tried to reach out, proposing ownership society initiatives, and forging links on social issues with conservative black preachers. But critics, often Democrats, remember that he has not attended an NAACP convention since taking office, and met with the Congressional Black Caucus only grudgingly."

Lowery, in interview, not from service: "Personally, you know, with him, I have problems. It's the policy that I have problems with, of which he's the spokesperson, and the buck stops with him."

Mitchell: "No one expected George Bush to match the rock star status of the man once described as America's 'first black president.'"

Bill Clinton, pointing to casket: "I don't want us to forget that there's a woman in there."

Mitchell: "But while many who watched remarked at the President's at times revealing facial expressions, many critics also gave him a lot of credit for simply showing up. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center