Bernard: So What if Michelle Obama Were a Black Panther?

Not that she is, but if Michelle Obama were in fact a Black Panther, what's the big deal?  So seems to think Michelle Bernard.

Anyone who imagines that Bernard brings conservative balance to the MSNBC panels on which she regularly appears should think again.  Yes, Bernard is head of the Independent Women's Forum, an organization with strong conservative roots.  And true, Bernard served on the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee.  But as the Daily Howler has documented [see 1/3 down page], her pronouncements on Hardball have often been supportive of Barack Obama.  

More evidence of that was on display tonight when Bernard condemned the New Yorker cover in harsh terms and then, incredibly, seemed to say that there would be nothing wrong if the cover's caricature of Michelle Obama as a Black Panther were grounded in reality!

View video here.

MICHELLE BERNARD: Chris, I think the cover of the magazine is absolutely revolting. The only thing that could have been much worse for them to do would have been to depict Barack Obama as Sambo and his wife as Aunt Jemima.  I don't understand it, particularly given what happened in New York on 9-11, the fact that so many questions have been raised about their patriotism, whether or not he's a Muslim.  It all fits into this caricature and stereotype that we have seen that I really think borders on racism, it borders on being prejudicial religiously, I don't see the satire in it, I don't think that the rest of the country that looks at it will see any sort of satire, and I don't think there's anything funny about it at all.

When John Heilemann, of the New Yorker's rival magazine, New York, praised the cover, Bernard took strong issue, suggesting Heilemann's race was an impediment to his understanding of the matter.

JOHN HEILEMANN: I think it's brilliant, and it's right down the middle of the plate for the New Yorker's audience. I think everybody who looks at that magazine and reads it understands that it is in fact satire.  I think the only way in which these kind of cartoons work is when they play to an existing perception that's out there in the world. That is in fact as the New Yorker has been arguing all day long, that's what they're making fun of.  I can't possibly see the racism in this whatsoever, and I think Michelle's just completely wrong that there's any kind of racist overtones in this.  I think it's the kind of political commentary and satire that the magazine has long done really well. Of course it's provocative and it's going to sell magazines, and I think it works on all those levels.

BERNARD: But it only works when people get it, and you seem to be one of the only people I've heard all day long that actually gets it and sees the satire in it.  And maybe, if you were in a different skin, you could see the problem with being depicted as Aunt, you know--as this woman with this huge afro and AK-47 doing the fist pump and wearing this Muslim garb. There is a problem when you depict people in that type of a fashion. And also sort of saying, in a, I guess, as they say in a satorical [sic] way that there's something wrong with being a Muslim if he were to be a Muslim. Or his wife were a Black Panther.

Deconstructing, Bernard seems to be saying that just as "there is a problem," in saying "there's something wrong" if Barack Obama were in fact a Muslim, so it would be a problem to suggest there's something wrong if "his wife were a Black Panther."  Can Bernard possibly believe that?  Surely Bernard is aware of the organization's history of violence and other criminal activity, as described here, for example

In any case, Bernard's presence on MSNBC panels hardly provides conservative balance.  It is part of an MSNBC pattern of peopling its panels with unorthodox Republicans/conservatives such as frequent Bush antagonist Pat Buchanan, and Michael Smerconish, who not long ago proclaimed that he. . . might vote for Obama!

Note: And to think, just last week I was writing that Bernard "rarely seems to say anything controversial"!

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.