In an apparent fit of rage against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow took to Twitter to tell him to "stick that in your magic underwear" for supporting the idea that society ought to concern itself with the large numbers of children born outside of wedlock.
That sentiment apparently set off Blow who tweeted the following at 8:56pm ET on the 22nd: "Let me just tell you this Mitt 'Muddle Mouth': I'm a single parent and my kids are *amazing*! Stick that in your magic underwear." [Be sure to read updates below including Blow's apology for tweet]
Judging from a tweet Blow sent earlier in the evening, it seems as if he believed Romney (who was actually echoing remarks made previously by fellow candidate Rick Santorum) was trying to condemn single parents who are racial minorities. That wasn't what Romney was saying at all, of course. Instead, he was saying that when speaking of the life arrangements of children, it is undeniable that those who come from married parent households fare much better than those who come from single parent households and perhaps in light of this fact, society ought to reconsider ways in which it has unwittingly worsened the circumstances of children of single parents.
This type of thinking tends to send liberals, particularly wealthy educated ones like Blow, into spasms of anger, typically because they can't differentiate between nuanced social commentary from a legitimate, but different perspective and thinly couched racism--something many liberals desperately need to see in American society in order to reassure themselves of their own superiority to it.
Blow himself is actually not averse to talking about broken families, even among minority groups. In a 2008 column praising then-candidate Barack Obama for talking briefly about the issue, Blow emphatically stated that "more black men need to be present in the lives of their children. On that, there can be no argument."
Reading Blow's anti-Mormon tweet, I couldn't help but be reminded of the recent trouble that fellow black liberal pundit Roland Martin got into for making a joke during the Super Bowl which was construed by many in the media as offensive toward homosexuals. Martin's tweet earned him a suspension from his commentator spot on CNN. Here's what he said: "If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!"
Defending himself from attacks by the gay left, Martin repeatedly stated that he was not meaning to incite violence against gay men but rather making a joke against fans of soccer, the sport played by David Beckham in Europe (and briefly here in the U.S.).
Whether or not he intended to make an anti-homosexual joke, Martin was trying to be funny and light-hearted, something which is much harder to infer from the context of other tweets made by Blow during the debate, many of which were intended to be humorous but were much more venomous than Martin's ill-fated quip. Here is a sampling of remarks made by Blow during the debate:
Fact get caught in Romney's throat like marbles. Somebody give that man the Heimlich. Pick it out man, geesh!
When are they going to ask Rick "The Risen" about the devil? [This is one of three times where Blow used "The Risen" to refer to Santorum.]
Hey look, Rick "Niggerhead" Perry is in the audience!!! That's so sweet...
Panicking! Have to blog abt this debate and so far I have nothing. Can somebody check Santorum's head for 6's on TV? Give me something.
Santorum: We need a new president or "we are going to have a cataclysmic situation." < There he goes w the crazed/scary talk...
His attack on Romney for his church's belief in wearing religious undergarments is certainly far more disrespectful than any of these of course. The more interesting point about Blow's Mormon bashing this week is that just a few days earlier, he wrote a lengthy discussion of the Martin-CNN dust-up in which he sided with Martin's critics on account of abuses, both physical and verbal which gays have sometimes faced at the hands of bigots. An excerpt from his piece, headlined "Real Men and Pink Suits."
I follow Martin on Twitter. I know that he likes to joke and tease. I have even joked with him. So I can believe that, in his mind, he may have thought that these were just harmless jokes in which the violence was fictional and funny.
But in the real world — where bullying and violence against gays and lesbians, or even those assumed to be so, is all too real — “jokes” like his hold no humor. There are too many bruised ribs and black eyes and buried bodies for the targets of this violence to just lighten up and laugh.
We all have to understand that effects can operate independent of intent, that subconscious biases can move counter to conscious egalitarianism, and that malice need not be present within the individual to fuel the maliciousness of the society at large. [...]
Whatever was in Martin’s heart, what was in his Twitter messages wasn’t helpful. They may not lead directly to intimidation or violence, but they may add to a stream of negativity that feeds a culture in which intimidation and violence by some twisted minds is all too real. I don’t believe that Martin wanted that.
How someone who wrote the preceding column can turn around and tweet a joke about Mormon underwear is really rather baffling. Surely if Roland Martin's tweet can contribute to a "maliciousness of the society at large" against gays (a rather tenuous assumption) so too can Charle's Blow's quips against Mormon clothing choices do the same for the long-standing climate of intolerance and bigotry against Mormons.
Even if he isn't aware of the fact that it was legal in the state of Missouri to forcefully expel or kill Mormons until 1976, surely Blow, who writes frequently about the subject of public polling, must be aware of the fact that Mormons are the most distrusted Christian sect in this country, largely due to criticisms of their beliefs and practices.
Whatever his motivation, it's rather apparent that Blow's concern about pundits contributing to "a stream of negativity" is pretty limited, his grand rhetoric about tolerance notwithstanding.
Given the large helpings of hypocrisy which his editors at the New York Times opinion page serve fresh each day, we can't expect Blow's bosses to come down on him for making a mockery of his own moral standards. We should expect them to do so about his crass, unprofessional behavior.
Of course, since the Times has not asked Blow's colleague Paul Krugman to apologize for numerous offensive remarks that he's made over the years, that seems about as likely as seeing Roland Martin parading around next year's Super Bowl in a pink tuxedo.
Beyond Blow's hypocrisy and unprofessionalism, it's worth noting that it's highly unlikely he could've gotten away with making mockery of the religious garb of Muslims or Jews as Jim Geraghty notes:
We just witnessed ESPN firing an employee for using the phrase “chink in the armor” in a headline about the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin. While no one could prove a desire to mock Lin’s ethnic heritage, and the employee expressed great regret for what he insisted was an unthinking lapse, it was deemed unacceptable even as an honest mistake. Regardless of what one thinks of ESPN’s reaction, one is left to marvel at the contrast before us. Would the New York Times find it acceptable if one of their columnists chose to mock Muslim religious practices? Jewish faith practices?
But mocking some religions is okay? Doesn’t run afoul of any standards of the paper?
Hat tip: Ace of Spades.
Disclosure: I was raised Mormon but do not identify with that belief system any more.
Update 11:12. Earlier this morning, Blow apologized for his anti-Mormon tweet:
Btw, the comment I made about Mormonism during Wed.'s debate was inappropriate, and I regret it. I'm willing to admit that with no caveats.
It is also worth adding that the Times's "public editor" Art Brisbane, whose job it is to write about incidents like this one, told NR's Gergahty that he will not be penning something about this.
Blow's apology and Brisbane's announcement of nothing likely signals that the Times will take no further action on the columnist's insult of Mormons, almost certainly a different outcome from what would've happened had he insulted Muslims. At least he had the good grace to apologize, though.
Update 11:27. Romney was asked about Blow's offensive tweet by conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Here's an excerpt of the conversation:
HUGH HEWITT: Now I know you’re not surprised by hostility from the New York Times, and I know you’re not surprised by anti-Mormon bigotry. But are you surprised by anti-Mormon bigotry in a New York Times columnist’s tweets?
MITT ROMNEY: That is a little surprising, I must admit. I guess we’re finding out for the first time that the media is somewhat biased.
HEWITT: (laughing) But do you expect, a lot of people worry that if you’re the nominee, and increasingly, it looks like you will be, that the Obama campaign, operating with the mainstream media, will unleash a lot of anti-LDS stuff on you? How are you preparing for that, Governor?
ROMNEY: You know, I don’t think that will be particularly helpful for their cause. The truth of the matter is they’ve got a lot of ways to attack our nominee. They’re going to make their attacks on a personal basis. They really have a hard time defending President Obama on the basis of his economic record, on the basis of his foreign policy record, particularly given the developments in Iran, as well as just mismanagement of Iraq and Afghanistan. So they’re going to make personal attacks. I think it’s going to wear very, very badly, and the American people are not going to line up for that kind of, if you will, divisiveness and demonization of fellow Americans.