MSNBC's Thomas Roberts on Wednesday hyped an attack on the "racist" Tea Party by the left-wing Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR). Roberts never once mentioned the liberal slant of the group, instead passing it off as a "human rights group."
The News Live host interviewed Ben Jealous, the President of the NAACP, who wrote the forward to the report. Roberts parroted, "The Tea Party, the Racism Within. That is the provocative headline of a new report out today by a human rights organization. And some of its findings are pretty troubling."
What, exactly, does the IREHR believe? According to the group's website, it's focus is on promoting abortion rights, gay rights and fighting bigotry and racism from religious Americans.
Nevertheless, racial discrimination against people of color, and housing and social segregation are facts of daily life. The overwhelming majority of white people continue to take for granted the relative privileges accruing to their skin color. Our government's many broken treaties with Native American Indian nations remain unrepaired, and anti-Indian racism plagues the individual and collective lives of this continent's original people. Bigotry, both the theologically based and the ordinary secular kind, continues against gay men and lesbians. Despite the many strides towards gender equality, women remain underpaid at work, too often mistreated at home and subject to the strictures of a patriarchal society. Reproductive rights remain at risk in many parts of the country. The worse aspects of nativism have become manifest in vigilante action, hate crimes on the streets, and mean-spirited legislation. Anti-Semitism continues to bedevil our society, both in its most overt swastika-emblazoned form as well as in the far more frequent assertion that the United States of America is, or should be, a Christian nation.
Wouldn't a fair journalist at least put an ideological identifier on IREHR? Roberts didn't. Instead, he simply explained, "You know, [the report] was not written, as I say, or researched by the NAACP. But it was done by a human rights group."
At times, Roberts simply quoted from the organization's study: "It says 'Confederate battle flags, signs that read 'America is a Christian nation,' racist caricatures of President Obama have been in presence in Tea Party events in local events and Washington, D.C."
To his credit, Roberts did press Mr. Jealous: "But you paint a pretty wide brush, with a pretty wide brush here because you're not specifically naming names so much as you are labeling an entire party."
But, the host didn't challenge Jealous when he seriously said of the NAACP: "We're a non-partisan organization." Additionally, the segment contained condescending graphics such as this back-handed compliment: "Report: Not All Tea Partiers Are Consciously Racist."
A transcript of the October 20 segment, which aired at 3:07pm EDT, follows:
GRAPHIC: The Tea Party, Race & Racism: Human Rights Group Issues New Report on Tea Party
THOMAS ROBERTS: The Tea Party, the Racism Within. That is the provocative headline of a new report out today by a human rights organization. And some of its findings are pretty troubling. Benjamin Jealous is the president of the NAACP. And he wrote the foreword to that study. Mr. Jealous, it's good to have you with us. You know, it was not written, as I say, or researched by the NAACP. But it was done by a human rights group. The name of that group is Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. But, explain why you would want to write the foreword for this and put your name and your group on top of this report.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS (NAACP): Because we want to affirm the basic values that hold our country together of civility in our great town square in this country. We saw a real progress [sic] made when we put out a call this summer for Tea Party leaders to take responsibility and deal with the outspoken racists. At first, folks denied it. They said, oh, it just doesn't exist. Then they said we're calling the Tea Party itself racist, which was a lie. We were just saying- and then they started to deal with people. They got- you know, they held Mark Williams responsible for his most recent racist, uh, uh, statement. He made several others that they had stood silent on. You know, then they threw out a Ravendal who was with the Big Sky Tea Party and seemed to be calling for the killing of gay people. You know, then- and then you saw Dick, Dick Army really going to action. You saw many black tea party leaders out there. All of those were good signs. Quite frankly, we- we are hoping that by shining a bigger spotlight that more people will stop denying the problem and start solving it.
ROBERTS: All right. Let's just read one of the excerpts that come from this report. It says "Confederate battle flags, signs that read 'America is a Christian nation,' racist caricatures of President Obama have been in presence in Tea Party events in local events and Washington, D.C. The venom and spittle directed at African-American congressmen during the health care debate carried an unmistakable racist message. It is not the contention of this report that all tea partiers are consciously racist." But you paint a pretty wide brush, with a pretty wide brush here because you're not specifically naming names so much as you are labeling an entire party.
JEALOUS: We do name names in this actually. Folks can go to the website and see account after account. You know, again, that Confederate battle flag, that wasn't being thrown in a place that was part of the Confederacy. We're talking about it being flown in Washington State. That's as far as way from the former Confederacy as you can get. What we're saying here is, look, you've- you've got to make a choice. You know, and what we hope the choice will be is that people will affirm the basic values of this country and call for civility. We don't care- we have NAACP members in the Tea Party. We want them to feel comfortable in the Tea Party. Who benefits if they do what we ask? Just like who benefitted this summer is the Tea Party. The Tea Party benefitted when they threw out Mark Williams. The Tea Party benefitted when they threw out Mr. Ravendal The Tea Party benefitted when they started putting people of color out there as spokespeople. They need- And they know this. This should not be controversial. They need to go further. At the end at the day, we'll end up with a better country and they'll end up with a better Tea Party.
GRAPHIC: Report: Not All Tea Partiers Are Consciously Racist
ROBERTS: Mr. Jealous, the civil rights leader, the reverend Joseph Lowery has recorded a radio ad for the Democratic National Committee. And it's playing on pretty much black-dominated media. It's aimed at getting African-Americans to vote in the November election. I'm want to ask everybody to take a listen, then I'm going to ask you about it on the other side.
JOSEPH LOWERY: That's why we're counting on you to vote. in 2008, we changed the guard. Now we guard the change. This is Reverend Joseph Lowery asking you to stand on the shoulders of those who came before you.
ROBERTS: All right. It's in a direct reference to getting out there and voting for President Obama, a man that you voted for in '08, asking the African-American community not to be silent during the midterms. So, what is your reaction to that? And also, are African-Americans supposed to vote for what President Obama wants just because he's black?
GRAPHIC: Democratic Natl. Cmte Appealing to Black Voters
JEALOUS: We fought for freedom in this country. You know, we- and that includes the freedom to vote for whomever you want. You know, we fought for greater -- you know, we fought for the Democratic Party distance themselves from racism during the 1960s. We pushed the Republican Party, as we did in the 1970s, when the started to create room for the old Dixiecrats, you know, to embrace civility and Break with old patterns. You know, and we're pushing the Tea Party now -- again, you know, here, you know, one of the victories here is that black people will feel more comfortable in the Tea Party. We want civility. We're a non-partisan organization. We've been out for 101 years. When we started, most black people were Republicans. Today most black people are Democrats. But, when we've made most progress is when civil rights has been a focus of all the major parties. And you saw that in the 1960s. We had the high watermark of blacks distributed between both parties. So, you know, that's what we're in this for. You know, this is not a commercial from the DNC as you just played with Mr. Lowry. This is from the heart of the NAACP saying we need basic civility. We need freedom for people of all colors to feel like they have a place in all parties in this country and all parties need to be clear that people who espouse racism and xenophobia have no place in our great town square.