O'Reilly Remarks on Post-9/11 Racial Rapprochement Echoed -- by Frequent MSNBC Guest Harris-Lacewell

Occasionally a lefty gets it right. Then a conservative says much the same thing. Followed by liberals denouncing him for it.

Latest example -- Bill O'Reilly's remarks on race at the Sharpton-organized National Action Network conference on April 14 in New York City. Speaking after O'Reilly was liberal action hero Ed Schultz, who spun what was said at the conference on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" that night --

SCHULTZ: You would think that at a serious event to promote equality and civil rights that Bill would rein in the psycho talk. Well, no such luck. He showed zero comprehension of the venue and came out swinging, defending the tea partiers.

O'REILLY: The tea party is a largely white phenomenon, there's no doubt about that, because African-Americans overwhelmingly support President Obama. But it is an overwhelmingly white movement. And now we are seeing that it's being demonized as a racist thing too and the best example was that Capitol display where the African-American congresspeople walked through this gauntlet of protest and there were charges the n-word was used and spitting happened and this, that and the other thing. ... Even if the n-word was used, and it absolutely could have been, you don't demonize a whole group by the actions of one or two people. ... It's a much more interesting country, America, if we stop with the race business, I think. I mean, I'm not black so I don't know your struggle, and you don't know my struggle, all right, because you're not white. ...

But after 9/11, we pretty much dropped that race stuff, did we not? We pretty much were all Americans there, right? All right? I hear yes, I hear no (referring to reaction from audience), but to me, from my perch, there were blacks killed in that tower, all right? All right, look, if you don't think we dropped it, I do ...

SCHULTZ: Well, Bill had to cut and run after the speech so he missed hearing what I had to say. 

SCHULTZ (at conference): That's a big act to follow, but it's not a very truthful one. ... I am sad today that we have to report that a 14-year-old girl grabbed a microphone in a grocery store in northern New Jersey and decided to announce that all black people should leave the store. So I beg to differ with Mr. O'Reilly. He may have a bigger audience, but I know I have the truth. It is about race ...

I do not think that the president of the United States deserved to have an Adolf Hitler mustache put on his face. Because I know if I was in a group of people that were holding signs like that, I would have the courage to go over and say, I think you should take that down because that's not who were are. But I don't see any of the tea partiers doing that. ....

We have precisely the perfect time in history, the perfect leader, the perfect administration, to push forward and talk about race relations, all races, and how we have to come together to be a stronger nation.

Notice what Schultz does here? He accuses O'Reilly of deceit and fails to cite a single example, then  barely goes near O'Reilly's assertion about diminished racial strife after 9/11. Anticipating he'd be at a loss, Schultz called on New York Daily News columnist and radio host Errol Louis for backup --

SCHULTZ: Errol, the mission here by Al Sharpton is to do just that, bring people together and get a dialogue. How do you think Mr. O'Reilly was received there?

LOUIS: Oh well, my goodness, I mean, you could hear the howling. I mean, some of that, I think, was intended, frankly, just to sort of maybe create some footage for his show or just sort of get the goat of the people there. I think he would have liked it, frankly, if he had been booed more loudly. I think he was looking for a little martyrdom moment, you know, so that he could go back to his schtick about, well, I just tell it like it is, regardless of how strange it was to say those things.

I mean, I don't even know if he believes that stuff. He's from down here in the New York area, he grew up on Long Island. This is somebody who has dealt with and seen a lot of these issues played out. To say that after 9/11, for whatever reason, and who knows what period of time he was talking about, all of a sudden racism just vanished? I mean, I was there, and I don't remember it happening that way.

Someone whose memory aligns more closely with O'Reilly's than Louis's --Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American Studies at Princeton and frequent guest on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show.

Here are Maddow and Harris-Lacewell talking about Congressman Joe Wilson's "you lie!" outburst and the 9/12 march on Washington last Sept. 10 --

 MADDOW: What's the connection between disrupting the president in a speech to Congress about health care and the day after 9/11?

HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it's a particularly odd connection between if there's anything that we all were on Sept. 12, it was rallied behind our president, regardless of ideology, regardless of party. You know, I sometimes mention that African-American men were in the city of New York while Rudy Giuliani was still the mayor and they were wearing NYPD hats, right? So, despite everything that had happened on questions of race and that mayor, people were willing to, you know, really look to our national leadership.

Agreed, Sharpton probably wasn't one of them, nor Schultz and Louis.

By the way, Ed, I was one of several thousand people turning out for a tea party rally on Boston Common the same day you were at the National Action Network conference. In the hour I was there, the only racist and/or Nazi imagery I saw was about 100 yards away and over a hill from the rally, at a table set up by several Lyndon LaRouche supporters.

One of them, a young man of color, was wearing a suit and Hitler mustache and playing the role of Obama as he held up a bag of white powder and preached about "hopium" (see photo at right). Another LaRouchite had a pillow tucked under his shirt and plastic pig's nose for a snout and impersonated Barney Frank. A third held a sign that read, "Impeach Barack Obama" while the man at left depicted a drug pusher.

We chatted a bit and I told them comparing Obama to Hitler was a bit overwrought. Needless to say, they didn't agree.

LaRouche is a Democrat, having run for the party's presidential nomination several times. I recall seeing LaRouche backers at a Democrats' debate in New Hampshire in January 2004 when I was a political reporter.

Please tell Democrats to stop comparing Obama to Hitler, won't you, Ed?

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts