Anti-Semitic Remarks on CNN Slip Under Currently Elevated Racism Radar
CNN’s Kyra Phillips invited comedian Paul Mooney and radio talk show host Roland Martin on to “Newsroom” Tuesday to discuss the Michael Richards (“Kramer”) issue (hat tip to NB member MyKindaSpam). During the conversation, both guests made what many would perceive as being rather anti-Semitic remarks.
This was Martin’s:
Another piece is when you really examine what he said, he not only said 50 years ago we'd have you hanging upside down from a tree. Well, guess what, 50 years ago, Michael Richards would have been in some oven in Germany being baked because he's also Jewish.
Yikes. Mooney must have felt he needed to top that, for later in the discussion, he said:
Excuse me. He's not a Jew. He's not a Jew…So people make that mistake. He may look it, but looks are deceiving.
Double Yikes. Now, both of these comments could easily be perceived as the same caliber of anti-Semitism that got Mel Gibson in trouble. Yet, this happened on national television four days ago when both of these folks were seemingly sober and not being arrested. And, this is likely the first most people are hearing about it.
Taking this a step further, we can’t say Mooney’s remark is acceptable because he’s a comedian, or that would let Richards off the hook. And, Martin is a radio talk show host, as well as the author of “A Black Man’s View of America.” One certainly wouldn’t envision Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Michael Savage getting away with these kinds of statements.
As such, what gives these men a pass for such comments?
What follows is a partial transcript of this segment.
PHILLIPS: Well, many who were appalled before are still appalled, apology or no. Joining me from the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, where Richards is no longer welcome, comedian Paul Mooney. And from Chicago, radio talk show host Roland Martin. He's also executive editor of "The Chicago Defender."
We just lost Paul. We had an IFB connection issue. We're getting that hooked up, Roland.
Paul, can you hear us now?
PAUL MOONEY, COMEDIAN: Yes.
PHILLIPS: OK, good. I've got you both. I was watching it from off there on the camera, I saw that you got hooked in. You heard the whole apology on Letterman, right, Paul?
PHILLIPS: OK. And, Roland, you heard it, too.
ROLAND MARTIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, I did.
PHILLIPS: Let's start with you, Paul. Your reaction to the apology?
PHILLIPS: Why weak?
MOONEY: It's not enough, because it doesn't match what he did. I saw the video. I think on David Letterman's show, they should have showed the video. They should have showed it in freeze frame and went step by step. That would have been good therapy for him, because he was like a raving maniac, and he had a complete nervous breakdown on stage. He outed himself. I think that's really his feelings.
MOONEY: He said it on stage, now you know how I feel.
PHILLIPS: Interesting. So, Paul, you don't think he got kind of caught up -- you know as a comedian, you get into your schtick. MOONEY: Yes, he didn't get caught up, no.
PHILLIPS: OK, this was the real deal?
MOONEY: You don't do that. If you're going to be funny, you're funny, racially or otherwise. You have a punch line and you deal with the situation right there, right then. You don't walk off stage. You don't do that and leave the audience. The audience is the -- I mean, come on, we're needy. Comedians are needy. We need that love. That's who you love. You don't walk away from people you love.
PHILLIPS: Roland, your reaction?
MARTIN: Kyra, Paul is correct when he says it was a weak apology. First and foremost, the "Letterman" show was the wrong forum for that kind of apology. He was not going to get the kind of questioning that he needed. If you heard the audience, they were laughing. They weren't quite sure whether to laugh at what he was saying, to be serious. And it was Seinfeld who had to say, hey, guys this isn't funny.
Not only that. Another piece is when you really examine what he said, he not only said 50 years ago we'd have you hanging upside down from a tree. Well, guess what, 50 years ago, Michael Richards would have been in some oven in Germany being baked because he's also Jewish. He also said that in his comments, that I'm a white man. I can go get the cops and have you arrested. And so, his comments went beyond that.
But Kyra, we're also making a very big mistake. He has said -- he said, he was heckled. In fact, the people who were there say he was not heckled. There was a large group that was talking. He was angered by them talking. Then after he addressed them, then a couple of the guys said, hey, my boy doesn't think you're funny. Darryl Pitts, who is from Chicago, who was on CNN on Sunday, he gave an eye- witness account. And so, trying to say, well he was being heckled when in fact he wasn't. He was angered because they were talking.
PHILLIPS: All right. Just to step aside for a second, I want to ask you about the 'N' word for a minute. Paul, I remember ...
MOONEY: Can I say something before you say this. Excuse me. He's not a Jew. He's not a Jew.
He's either Catholic or atheist or something. He's not that. And as far as blacks and Jews are concerned, I don't think that two men in a burning house have time to argue. That's my point.
MARTIN: I agree.
MOONEY: So he's not a Jew. So people make that mistake. He may look it, but looks are deceiving. Bush looks like he's sane, but anyway go ahead, ask what ...
PHILLIPS All right. I knew Paul had to get something in there. I was waiting for the ...
MOONEY: Of course.
PHILLIPS: all right, hold on. We'll step aside from that for a minute. I'm seeing two issues here. I want to get back to the 'N' word in just a second. But, let's get back to the anger part. Let's start with this. Sinbad talked about the issue, about what Michael Richards should do. Let's take a listen.