'Today' Seeks to Stir 'Magic Negro' Trouble for Rush
NBC's Michael Okwu narrated the segment, aired during the second half-hour of this morning's show. He began by harkening back to Don Imus's MSNBC career-ending comments about the Rutger's women's basketball team. Fretted Okwu: "which leads some to wonder: has Limbaugh been getting a free pass?" Okwu described the creator of the parody [Paul Shanklin] as a "white" political satirist.
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To whom did Okwu turn to support his theory that "some" wonder about Rush getting away with things? None other than Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters [MM], only too pleased to opine: "this is basically the radio equivalent of a blackface minstrel show. I mean going back to Amos 'n Andy and all of those kind of racist shows of the past." While Waldman's MM affiliation was noted, NBC failed to inform viewers that MM describes itself as a "progressive" organization whose target is "conservative misinformation." MM has received funding from the George Soros-backed Moveon.org and Soros comrade-in-leftist-arms Peter Lewis.Later came a clip of Michael Harrison, publisher of "Talkers" magazine: "it's insulting, it's in bad taste, but it's legitimate political satire."
Okwu: Limbaugh declined an interview but in his broadcasts suggests [emphasis added] the song is simply a parody, based on a newspaper column written about Obama by a journalist David Ehrenstein.
"Today" then played a clip of Ehrenstein: "The 'Magic Negro' is chiefly a term used in talking about films in which you would have black characters suddenly coming out of nowhere, and come to the rescue of white characters."
Cut to a clip of "The Legend of Bagger Vance," in which Will Smith emerges out of the darkness to do just that, helping a struggling white golfer recapture his game.Then it was back to Waldman. Okwu let us know the MM man thinks "Limbaugh has no excuse." Said Waldman: "he's trying to get himself off the hook by saying, oh look, it's somebody else who did it, it's not really me.'"
Lamented Okwu: "Media watchdogs [MM, again, presumably] say there's no hue and cry to stop Limbaugh, because he speaks to a niche audience who either expects this or is willing to let him slide, and his target in this case is a public figure, a presidential candidate, not a college women's basketball team. Funny, or bad taste? Legitimate political satire, or something darker?"
- Okwu and NBC mislead not just in hiding MM's partisan identity. Rush doesn't merely "suggest" that the parody is based on the Ehrenstein column: he flatly states it and it obviously is. "Today" did play a clip of Ehrenstein discussing his column, but viewers are left to infer that the "Magic Negro" is something Ehrenstein wrote about only in the context of movie characters. In fact, the entire column, which was entitled Obama the Magic Negro, was a discussion of how Barack Obama embodies the "Magic Negro." Wrote Ehrenstein:
"it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the 'Magic Negro.'"
- The parody also relies largely on the language of Obama's fellow Democratic and presidential candidate Joe Biden, who famously referred to Obama as "clean" and "articulate."
- For Waldman to suggest that the parody had anything to do with minstrel shows is not simply wrong, it's an obvious attempt to mislead. For "Today" to have failed to disclose that MM is an organization with a left-wing axe to grind is an outrageous example of bad, biased journalism.
- What was Okwu's point in identifying the creator of the parody, Paul Shanklin, as "white"? Would Okwu have given Shanklin a pass had he been black?
- As for Rush having a "niche" audience: An estimated 20 million weekly listeners. Due a good part of the credit for bringing about the 1994 Republican revolution which took the GOP back to power in the House for the first time in 40 years. Some "niche."
- "Today" is a bit late to the bash-Rush party over the parody. Olbermann tried it a month ago.
- What are the odds "Today" would have an MRC or NB guest on the show without labelling him "conservative"?
Aside: according to this Washington Post article, NBC News president Steve Capus fired Imus after meeting with a group of African-American NBC staffers. Capus said he was "influenced most of all by the anger in his own shop." Was Okwu a member of that staffers group? Was this morning's "Today" segment news reporting, or part of a continuing advocacy operation within NBC?Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org