UPDATE: The Second Amendment Foundation reacts, Politico.com cites NewsBusters and gets MSNBC response.
On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: "A man at a pro-health care reform rally...wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip....there are questions about whether this has racial overtones....white people showing up with guns." Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black.
Following Brewer’s report, which occurred on the Morning Meeting program, host Dylan Ratigan and MSNBC pop culture analyst Toure discussed the supposed racism involved in the protests. Toure argued: "...there is tremendous anger in this country about government, the way government seems to be taking over the country, anger about a black person being president....we see these hate groups rising up and this is definitely part of that." Ratigan agreed: "...then they get the variable of a black president on top of all these other things and that’s the move – the cherry on top, if you will, to the accumulated frustration for folks."
Not only did Brewer, Ratigan, and Toure fail to point out the fact that the gun-toting protester that sparked the discussion was black, but the video footage shown of that protester was so edited, that it was impossible to see that he was black. The man appeared at a health care rally outside of President Obama’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Arizona Republic reported: "A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at Third and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault weapon) on a strap over his shoulder. ‘Because I can do it,’ he said when asked why he was armed. ‘In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.’" A picture accompanying the article showed the man was African-American.
Not being content with portraying all health care reform protesters as racist, Toure went on to predict an attempt on Obama’s life: "I’m not going to be surprised if we see somebody get a chance and take a chance and really try to hurt him or really....we’re going to see somebody, you know, some sort of Squeaky From, some sort of Mark [John] Hinckley figure, because there’s so much anger in the country about him, about what’s going on with government." Ratigan replied: "Angry at government and racism, you put those two together."
Recently, MSNBC host David Shuster similarly saw protesters at health care town hall meetings as a threat to the President’s life, asking Democratic Congressman Jim Moran: "Is this putting our president in some sort of danger because of some wacko that will see this stuff and say, ‘oh, yes, it’s fascism and the way we dealt with Adolf Hitler was to try to kill him, so therefore, let’s do this with our president.’"
At the end of Tuesday’s exchange, Brewer did observe: "Just to put a finer point on this, just because people are worried about the government getting too big and taking power where it should not, does not necessarily correlate to people being racist." Ratigan agreed but argued: "I would say people frustrated with the government raises the overall temperature....you would install a black president at a time when the temperature is higher and you just have a more volatile combination, where people have to behave in a more conscious manner or we’re going to have problems."
Here is a full transcript of the segment:
DYLAN RATIGAN: Still to come at the Morning Meeting, protesters packing heat at town hall meetings, it continues to happen. Is this freedom of speech or an implied threat? Even if it is legal? Guns at town hall meetings.
DYLAN RATIGAN: Alright, guns at town hall rallies, you’re probably familiar. Well, people continue to do it, packing heat at these health care protests. Contessa has the latest. What’s going on?
CONTESSA BREWER: Yeah, we are closely following here, Dylan, town halls and other events around the country today to see who shows up and what they bring with them. More than 20 town halls scheduled from east-to-west, Virginia to Washington state. Yesterday, as President Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix. A man at a pro-health care reform rally just outside, wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip. The Associated Press reports about a dozen people in all at that event were visible carrying firearms. And if the scene looks familiar, that’s because it should, last week a guy stood outside Obama’s health care town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with a gun strapped to his leg and police arrested a 62-year-old before that New Hampshire event for carrying unlicensed loaded gun. And the reason we’re talking about this, a lot of talk here, Dylan, because people feel like, yes, there are Second Amendment rights for sure but also there are questions about whether this has racial overtones. I mean, here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their waists or to their legs.
TOURE: It sounds simplistic when you put it that way, but it is real that there is tremendous anger in this country about government, the way government seems to be taking over the country, anger about a black person being president. Just several upheavals in the country over the last ten years from 9/11, to the economic tsunami, to the black man becoming president and, you know, we see these hate groups rising up and this is definitely part of that.
BREWER: So do you – do you think if Barack Obama were white, though, that you would not see people showing up – let’s say if it were Bill Clinton – you would not see people showing up with weapons strapped to their legs?
TOURE: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. That – I mean-
RATIGAN: I think it’s unknowable. The context-
TOURE: -that’s hard to say. It is unknowable. But you do see a rise in hate group activity throughout the country.
RATIGAN: But I think that the combination of the bank bailout coming through and the conversation where people know that they were stolen from in that. They may not know how, but they know that $14 dollars of American taxpayer money was used and a bunch of people kept the money and know the health insurance thing, they know all the – and then they get the variable of a black president on top of all these other things and that’s the move – the cherry on top, if you will, to the accumulated frustration for folks. I mean that’s-
TOURE: I’m not going to be surprised if we see somebody get a chance and take a chance and really try to hurt him or really-
RATIGAN: Of course.
TOURE: You know, and I mean it’s up to the Secret Service to make sure that it doesn’t actually become history, but, you know, I think we’re going to see somebody, you know, some sort of Squeaky From, some sort of Mark Hinckley figure, because there’s so much anger in the country about him, about what’s going on with government.
RATIGAN: Angry at government and racism, you put those two together.
BREWER: But also because when Democratic presidents take over – I mean, during the Clinton administration, we did see a weapons ban on these semiautomatic assault weapons and did you see people showing up with guns to prove a point? You know-
RATIGAN: No, but the economy was good then and they were, at that point, passing a law that allowed the largest financial ponzi scheme ever in ‘99. So times were good, right? In other words, when people have jobs and people are – feel like they can get rich and the credit is flowing and you’ve got a more comfortable white president, socially-
BREWER: But don’t you think a lot of people are just uncomfortable with guns, too?
RATIGAN: -the temperature is lower.
BREWER: I mean if you show up-
RATIGAN: Of course.
BREWER: A lot of people aren’t exposed to weapons.
TOURE: Look, we can’t separate the mood of the country, which is very uncertain, there’s a lot of tumult going on from there being a black president. And the two things fit and feed each other and so many people are happy about it and feel it’s a new post-racial America and so many people are still mad about a black person, and black people in general, reaching that level.
RATIGAN: And then again, you combine that with the reality of unemployment, the reality of health care, there are all of these sort of frust – real things that are frustrating people who feel the government’s not delivering to them what they feel it should. And then you create this-
TOURE: Look, I mean you can’t separate the health care debate from anger at government in general.
RATIGAN: Of course.
TOURE: We’ve seen these major government moves with the bank bailout, with what happened in Detroit, now here comes a third one. So people, when they talk about socialism, that is a real emotion of government taking over.
RATIGAN: And government taking over at the same time they’re allowing the so-called fat cats in the banks, everybody’s getting away – the status quo is getting away with it and that makes people frustrated, too, and they are.
BREWER: Just to put a finer point on this, just because people are worried about the government getting too big and taking power where it should not, does not necessarily correlate to people being racist. It’s not necessarily because of-
RATIGAN: That’s true, but I would say people frustrated with the government raises the overall temperature.
RATIGAN: Then, totally unrelated, you would install a black president at a time when the temperature is higher and you just have a more volatile combination, where people have to behave in a more conscious manner or we’re going to have problems.
TOURE: I mean, look, there’s no – I mean, you just know that there is a significant swath of the country that is still angry about there being a black person as president and will do whatever they have to do to show their anger.
BREWER: I do.
RATIGAN: But, again, there are different items that come together that can be a bad combination.