WashPost Columnist Richard Cohen's Amazing Boomerang of an Attack on 'Racist' Republicans

The Washington Post isn’t usually quick to publicize controversies about its own employees. But there’s an exception: when a Postie trips the left-wing race-gender-LGBT hate-thought alert. In that case, it didn’t take 24 hours for media reporter Paul Farhi to get the assignment on the "baying for Cohen's head."

Liberals were furious with Post columnist Richard Cohen for allegedly insulting the biracial family of new ultraliberal New York mayor Bill De Blasio. The amusing part is that Cohen was attempting to trash conservatives as the backward ones:

“Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”

In the Farhi recounting, the Post left out that first sentence, because Cohen largely goofed by writing “people with conventional views,” as if the majority of Americans didn’t like interracial marriages. In reality, the vast majority of Americans are supportive, and the election of a biracial president certainly should have placed that idea of “conventional views” on the ash heap of history.  But back to the left-wing freakout:

The baying for Cohen’s head on the Internet quickly ensued — primarily from liberals who might otherwise consider Cohen, who has been a left-of-center presence on the newspaper’s op-ed page for a generation, one of their own.

The Huffington Post slapped a big photo of Cohen, 72, on its media page and roared, “Dear Washington Post: Please Fire This Man.”

 Esquire.com columnist Charles Pierce fumed, “If Newspaper Stupid had a top 40, Richard Cohen would be the Beatles in 1965.”

There was more critical coverage, from, among others, the Atlantic, Salon, Gawker, Slate, MSNBC.com and even The Post’s Wonkblog, which helpfully pointed out that 87 percent of Americans in a Gallup survey this year approved of interracial marriage.

Cohen was left to sputter that he wasn’t expressing his own view, but he was trying to cast aspersions on the far right. (“Why can’t intelligent liberals see I’m only mirroring their loathing of the Tea Party?”)


“I don’t understand it,” said the columnist, who lives in New York City. “What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people. I don’t have a problem with interracial marriage or same-sex marriage. In fact, I exult in them. It’s a slander” to suggest otherwise. “This is just below the belt. It’s a purposeful misreading of what I wrote.”

He added, “I think it’s reprehensible to say that because you disagree with something that you should fire me. That’s what totalitarians do.”

...Cohen said he still enjoys writing his weekly column and intends to keep at it as long as the paper will have him. Or “until Gawker sends over a hit man,” he said.

This overreaction is based in part on Cohen’s history of upsetting the racially sensitive Left. Most recently, he provoked outrage by suggesting that Trayvon Martin was “understandably suspected because he was black”. And:

Perhaps his most infamous column was one in the Sunday Magazine in 1986 — Cohen has been writing a column for The Post since 1976 — that suggested that Georgetown store owners were justified in locking out young black customers because they were afraid of being robbed. That column helped inspire a campaign by local radio personality Cathy Hughes in which outraged readers dumped copies of the magazine at The Post’s front door.

Cohen wrote in 2010 that Sarah Palin couldn't be the president of black or Hispanic America. He certainly can't be their columnist. Only leftists profess to speak for an entire race, and assume that race is politically correct to a fault.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis