Andrea Mitchell: Is Rise In Extremism Due to 'African American President'?

Leave it to MSNBC to exploit a shooting by a pair of deranged extremists to push the notion that violence is on the rise as a racist reacting to having a black man in the Oval Office.

That's what MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell did in a segment of the Tuesday edition of her MSNBC program, asking political consultant and former Attorney General Eric Holder spokesman Matthew Miller if the shooting was in part fueled by the fact that “we have an African-American president.”

Miller gave the answer Mitchell was looking for, discussing the current rise in anti-government sentiment “combined with a gun culture” that has started to show up more often. He also cited a study done by the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center which claimed that there’s been an 800 percent rise in anti-government groups since President Obama assumed office. SPLC, you may recall, is the group which tagged the mainstream social conservative organization the Family Research Council as an "anti-gay" hate group.

Of course, for MSNBC, if there’s even the slightest chance a topic can be framed by race they are the first ones to attempt to make the connection. It is very apparent that the two shooters belonged to and espoused numerous views by numerous extremist groups, so for the MSNBC host there had to be some way to tie it to right-wing, racist dislike of the president. Miller indulged the host’s questions with a brief mention of “some of the rhetoric on the right” as not totally fueled by race, “but for some people it probably is the role.”

Apparently it doesn’t satisfy MSNBC enough to label these two shooters for what they were: psycho extremists. They simply have to find a way to bring it full circle to the president’s race and a blanket condemnation of "right wing" rhetoric, by which, of course, they mean to malign popular conservative talk show hosts, cable pundits, and bloggers.

The relevant portion is transcribed below:

MSNBC
Andrea Mitchell Reports
06/10/14

MATTHEW MILLER: There is really a toxic swamp out there right now. This dangerous situation where you have anti-extremist who are anti-government combined with a gun culture and often times the flames are stoked by people with cynical motives who gin them up for votes and ratings. By the time law enforcement can get involved it's really too late. Either because there's no way to tell what they were going to do or in a case like Las Vegas happens after there are already fatalities.

ANDREA MITCHELL: We certainly saw this all the way back with Waco and when Bill Clinton was president. But to what extent – and this is a sensitive question, but I need to ask it. To what extent was this -- did this escalate because we have an African-American president. Because there are so many racist sentiments interwoven with neo-Nazi sentiments.

MILLER: It’s a very difficult question. It's hard to know anyone’s particular motives always, especially someone who carries out this kind of activity. But the Southern Poverty Law Center, how you mentioned, has tracked that these types of anti-government groups have risen 800% since Obama took office. If you look at some of the rhetoric on the right, it's not all motivated by race. Bill Clinton dealt with the same stuff, he's obviously a white man from Arkansas. So it’s not all race, but for some people it probably is a role.

Jackie Seal
Jackie Seal is a 2014 summer intern with the MRC's News Analysis Division.