To answer Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's claim that racism is not a big factor in African-American unemployment, CNN brought on radical left-wing activists Professor Cornel West of Princeton and Tavis Smiley of PBS, both of who co-host a public radio talk show.
Not-surprisingly, West and Smiley, both African-Americans, ripped Cain's comments. West griped that Cain needs to "get off the symbolic crack pipe" and added that he has "mediocrity, mendacity, mean-spiritedness toward the poor, and now mean-spiritedness toward black people fighting for their lives in this very ugly economy."
On CNN Sunday, Cain had maintained that racism is not to blame for poverty in America, and that "People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve."
Smiley, who hinted last month that Republicans don't want to help the jobless, also teed off on the GOP candidate Cain. "The numbers are clear that there is disparity based upon race," he insisted. "In every aspect of our human endeavors in this country, there is a racial disparity element that's a part of it. It's almost silly to respond to, because the evidence is so overwhelming."
Even anchor Suzanne Malveaux expressed mild discontent with Cain, emphasizing that he believes there's many African-Americans on a level economic playing field with others "despite the Labor Department's statistics showing African-American unemployment almost double the national average."
In fact, Malveaux gave Smiley a podium later on in the interview to recap the mission of his "Poverty" tour. The left-wing activist obliged.
For Professor Cornel West, it was not the first soft interview he has received from CNN. The radical leftist was asked this softball question by CNN's Anderson Cooper just this past Friday, at 8:26 p.m. EDT on Anderson Cooper 360:
ANDERSON COOPER: So, professor – how do – and you're not a leader, but you are an eloquent spokesperson, at this point one of many – how do you translate the central idea of being against greed on Wall Street – how do you translate that into demands on paper or demands that actually allow a movement to grow beyond just people on the street camping out to actually effect change?
A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 10 at 11:25 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain again tackling the race issue. You may remember the African-American businessman sparked controversy when he told CNN late last month that black voters had been brainwashed into not even considering a conservative point of view. Well, he was back on CNN over the weekend, this time saying that blacks are not being held back by racism. Take a listen.
HERMAN CAIN, Republican presidential candidate: I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way. Is there some – are there some elements of racism? Yes. It gets back to, if we don't grow this economy, that is a ripple effect for every economic level. And because blacks are more disproportionately unemployed, they get hit the worst when economic policies don't work. That's where it starts.
I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America. They weren't held back because of racism. No. People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.
(End Video Clip)
MALVEAUX: So Herman Cain points to his own credentials as former CEO of Godfather's Pizza to make his case that many African-Americans have a level playing field when it comes to economic issues. That is despite the Labor Department's statistics showing African-American unemployment almost double the national average. Princeton Professor Cornel West and PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley, they're joining us from Los Angeles.
Thank you for being here with us. I know you just wrapped up an 18-city "Poverty Tour," and your week-long series on poverty starts today on PBS. Professor West, I'd like to start off with you. What do you make of what Herman Cain said? He did acknowledge that racism exists, but he says, you know, it doesn't matter that much. That more of it is about actually working hard and making opportunities happen for yourself.
CORNEL WEST, Class of 1943 university professor, Princeton University: Well one, black people have been working hard for decades. I think he needs it get off the symbolic crack pipe and acknowledge that the evidence is overwhelming.
I think he also knows that if brother Anthony Davis, a brother who was just put to death, were a white Wall Street banker brother, that the response in the nation would have been very different, as opposed to being a poor black brother. And that's just one small example, one very small example of that, of racism still at work holding people back.
MALVEAUX: Do you think – I want to go to you, Tavis. Do you think he has a point, that there are some African-Americans who will use it as a reason, as an excuse for not getting ahead, and not getting ahead as far as they'd like to go?
TAVIS SMILEY, host, PBS's Tavis Smiley: Um, it's not so much whether or not he has a point. Herman Cain is trying to get the GOP nomination. When you're running for the nomination of the Republican Party, and you have a talk show background that was a part of the conservative citadel in radio, these are kinds of statements that you make that play to your base. And that's – it's politics. And it just troubles me, respectfully, Suzanne, that CNN and MSNBC and Fox News and all these cable channels go for this nonsense.
They fall for – if I can quote Eddie Murphy from "Beverly Hills Cop," you fall for the banana in the tailpipe. And every time that Herman Cain says something ridiculous or crazy, blaming poor people for being poor, calling protesters anti-capitalists, or suggesting that racism doesn't hold people back, there are disparities in this country in every factor that we follow, every social economic factor that we follow.
The numbers are clear that there is disparity based upon race. There's disparity in health care, there's disparity economically, there's disparity culturally and socially. In every aspect of our human endeavors in this country, there is a racial disparity element that's a part of it. It's almost silly to respond to, because the evidence is so overwhelming.
MALVEAUX: Well, Tavis, I certainly don't think CNN is falling for anything by simply bringing up this discussion and bringing up what he has to say. That's his point of view --
SMILEY: But – but my point respectfully – but my point –
MALVEAUX: – and he certainly is very rising in the polls among the Republican candidates there. I mean, people are going to talk –
SMILEY: But Suzanne – but –
MALVEAUX: – about this issue and debate about this issue in a serious way.
SMILEY: My point respectfully – my point, respectfully is anyone who listens to what Herman Cain says and asks a question, does he have a point – a point about what? The numbers are so – it's so evident, it's so abundantly clear, there's such great clarity here that race is still a factor.
You covered the president and the White House. Why does President Obama have a Secret Service detail that – there's no comparison in history for any president that's had a budget the size of the Secret Service budget now just to protect Barack Obama. And we're talking about whether or not he has a point about racism in America, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Well, certainly when you talk – he's bringing up the fact that his own family, his own experience that he believes that that is an excuse for other people to use racism for not getting ahead. But you bring up President Obama. Let's listen to President Obama, what he said at the black – at the Congressional Black Caucus just a couple of weeks ago because he also, he was accusing black leaders in particular for being lackluster for fighting for the poor. I want you to listen in.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do.
(End Video Clip)
MALVEAUX: Dr. West, I'd like – I'd like you to – I'd like you to tackle that.
WEST: Well, I mean it's fascinating to juxtapose on the one hand Herman Cain who has – who's got mediocrity, mendacity, mean-spiritedness toward the poor, and now mean-spiritedness toward black people fighting for their lives in this very ugly economy. And then on the other hand we have President Obama, who is much better than any of the Republican candidates no doubt, but at the same time disrespectful, arrogant, condescending, acting as if black people have been walking around in their bedroom slippers as opposed to working very hard – not just leaders, but also the everyday people.
So it's a reflection of the two-party system. Mean-spirited on the one hand and still-too-arrogant on the other. Who's going to really speak for poor people? Who's going to really speak for working people? That's very much what I think the "Wall Street Occupy" movement is all about – "Occupying Wall Street" movement is all about.