Double Standard! CNN Rips Allen West's 'Plantation' Remark, Ignored Leftist Cornel West Using Same Metaphor

[UPDATED BELOW] CNN showed a complete double standard by smacking Republican Allen West for his "plantation" remarks while giving liberal Cornel West a pass for the same offense.

On Tuesday morning, anchor Carol Costello played a clip of West decrying the "21st century plantation" for blacks and suggested that such a statement hurt the GOP's minority outreach. However, when liberal Cornel West ripped the "Obama plantation" and said Al Sharpton was its "head house Negro" on Sunday's New Day, neither CNN co-host called him on it.

Hitting Obama from the left, West said that "we witnessed yesterday the coronation of our dear brother Al Sharpton as the house Negro on the Obama plantation," because Sharpton was spouting "Obama propaganda" instead of criticizing him.  Yet West has been a welcome guest on CNN before, and neither of the CNN co-hosts challenged his inflammatory "plantation" remark after he made it.

In fact, only liberal CNN contributor LZ Granderson has challenged West for his rhetoric. Back in July, Granderson noted in a CNN.com op-ed that West said Sharpton was "on the Obama plantation," on Tavis Smiley's radio show.

Anyhow, on Tuesday Costello dug up Republican Allen West's remark that blacks were on a "21st century plantation" with black leaders as "overseers." He had added that "I'm here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility."

Costello tied those comments to the GOP's minority outreach efforts: "But as Priebus cris-crosses the country in an effort to repair minority relations, people like West and others could be hurting his efforts with statements like these."

She added that "It's hard to take back words, though, from anyone." Then Costello hosted a liberal, HLN contributor Jason Johnson who had met with RNC chair Reince Priebus, to give his analysis of the party's outreach to minorities. Johnson predictably cast the GOP as divided and full of "schizophrenia."

CNN couldn't even bring on a Republican or a conservative to provide the counter-balance for Johnson's liberal bias. Johnson is a CNN regular and usually appears on a CNN panel to provide the liberal side of a debate.

Costello absurdly asked why Colin Powell wasn't invited to the RNC luncheon along with Allen West. Perhaps she forgot that Powell twice voted for President Obama.

[UPDATED: 8/28/13 2:40 p.m. ET] The video of Allen West's "plantation" remark was actually two years old. The clip was of West's August 17, 2011 appearance on Fox News's Hannity. Yet Costello implied that current GOP minority outreach was somehow being undercut by such remarks, even though they occurred over two years ago.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on August 27 at 9:42 a.m. EDT:

[9:42]

CAROL COSTELLO: The fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington is bringing together Americans of all backgrounds, including political parties. Republicans kicking off the week with their own commemoration. At a luncheon attended by RNC chairman Reince Priebus and prominent black Republicans like South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former Congressman Allen West of Florida. But as Priebus cris-crosses the country in an effort to repair minority relations, people like West and others could be hurting his efforts with statements like these.

(Video Clip)

ALLEN WEST, former congressman (R-Fla.): You have this 21st century plantation that has been out there where the Democrat party has forever taken the black vote for granted and you have established certain black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of the plantation. So I'm here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.

Rep. STEVE KING (R-Iowa): There are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing that they were breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law, we have to do something about the 11 million. And some of them are valedictorians.

For everyone who is a valedictorian, there is another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO: In fairness, Republicans did condemn Congressman King's immigration statements. Speaker John Boehner calling them ignorant and not a reflection of the party. It's hard to take back words, though, from anyone. Joining me now from Washington, HLN contributor and Hiram College political science professor Jason Johnson. Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON, HLN contributor: Hi, there.

COSTELLO: OK. So Mr. Priebus asked you to sit down with him so he can find a way to repair relations with minority groups. Tell me what that was like.

JOHNSON: It was really interesting. It was – it was a small number of African-American journalists and pundits and – and I can tell you, if you do the eye test, Reince Priebus, he's sincere. He really does want the Republican Party to reach out to African-Americans. He wants to do a long-term plan, hiring people within the black community to reach out and talk about what the GOP has to offer. The problem is, the rest of his party outside of that room probably disagrees with almost everything he was trying to do. But I think he, and most of the people there, were very sincere.

COSTELLO: So, his biggest problem is members of the Republican Party?

JOHNSON: Exactly. A perfect example is, Representative Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin said yesterday, got in front of this entire crowd of people and said, the number one priority of the Republican Party needs to be replacing Section Four of the Voting Rights Act. And people in the room cheered. And yet when we got into the room later on and talked to pundits and journalists, there were many conservative Republicans there who said they would go to war with him over that. And so that's the sort of, you know, schizophrenia they've got in the party.

COSTELLO: Well, it's interesting you bring that up because Colin Powell, who is an African-American and, of course, a Republican, said that the fight against voting rights in this country would backfire on the Republican Party. Let's listen to what he said.

(Video Clip)

COLIN POWELL, former Secretary of State: But here's the – here's what I say to my Republican friends. The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute the majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote and then give them something to vote for that they can believe in.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO: So, you know, I'm just wondering, Allen West was invited to this luncheon. Was Colin Powell? Why wasn't he there?

JOHNSON: Yeah, there were a lot of prominent names that weren't there, and I thought that was interesting as well. Colin Powell wasn't there. Allen West was there. I had a chance to chat with him.

I think one of the other things about who wasn't there is it was a majority black room and that's not really the demographics of the Republican Party. I think it would have been better if you would have more white members of the party there, as well. This can't be an effort by just black people and Reince Priebus. This needs to be an effort by the total party to really reach out to black voters. They can never win another national election if they're getting less than 10 percent of the black vote.

COSTELLO: But if it's in your mind -- African-Americans voted for President Obama, what 93 percent of African-Americans voted for President Obama? So if it's in your mind that African-Americans will always vote for a black candidate over a white candidate, then what's the answer? If that's in your mind?

JOHNSON: Well, see, and that – that's the problem. There's too many Republicans who think that and they just dismiss 47 percent of the vote. You look at Bob Dole. Bob Dole got 14 percent of the African-American vote and that was against the first black President, Bill Clinton.

So there is a message out there that the Republican Party can use, but they've got to stand up like Ken Mehlman did, you know former RNC chair. He stood in front of the NAACP and said, "Look, I'm going to have a zero tolerance policy towards racist comments." That's what Reince Priebus needs to do. He needs to shut down the members of the party who keep saying racist and offensive things that scare African-American and Latino voters away from the party.

COSTELLO: Jason Johnson thanks so much.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014