PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley guest-hosted on CNN's Larry King Live on Tuesday night, and perhaps unsurprisingly, encouraged the view that there's racism in the congressional ethics investigations of Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters. "Facts are facts. The names that keep coming out happen to be members of the Congressional Black Caucus."
Smiley never seemed to consider whether the charges had merit -- on the content of these politicians' character -- only on the color of their skin. He asked actress Aisha Tyler about this alleged outbreak of racism in the Democrat-dominated Congress, and Tyler unleashed an attack on Rush Limbaugh for suggesting the media thinks Michelle Obama's entitled to a lavish vacation in Spain because of America's sordid racial past:
SMILEY: I wanted to raise this with Aisha. Maxine Waters on this radio show, on "The Tom Joyner Show" today -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- makes the point that this committee is established under Democrats, but the names that keep leaking out on the folks under investigation happen to be African- American members of Congress. Eight names of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including, of course, Charlie Rangel, including Maxine Waters, have leaked out. What do you make of that?
TYLER: Look, if I was a conspiracy theorist, or if I was a little bit more dead inside that I already am, if I had been deadened more by the political process over the last two years than I already have been, you would see a pattern of trying to besmirch the president's name by association. And I think what we have generally -- I mean, when you look at something like the FLOTUS trip to Spain and everyone criticizing her for not taking American trips -- she's already taken four American vacations this year! There is this ongoing effort to call regular kind of common behavior into question and associate it somehow with race.
Taking a lavish trip to Spain with 60 Secret Service agents isn't "common behavior," even if Mrs. Obama can't travel without an entourage. Limbaugh's brief commentary was addressed to the point that the liberal media have long defended the Obamas in everything they do, with the added psychoanalysis that the Obama deserve a different, more charitable standard of analysis because they are the historic first black family in the White House.
What was seriously phony in this conversation was Tyler and Smiley expressing oh-so-great reluctance to see racism in every criticism of a black politician:
TYLER: I hate to be in that want place. I don't ever want to be in that place mentally. It's not a fun place for me to be, to be always thinking about things being motivated racially.
SMILEY: But -- I think the R-word is over-used in this country. But facts are facts. The names that keep coming out happen to be members of the Congressional Black Caucus...You can't tell me that the only people on the Hill that are doing dirty deeds are members of the CBC.
STEPHANIE MILLER: As you know, it's a complete mistake when Fox News is talking about Shirley Sherrod and runs footage of Maxine Waters by accident, and talking about John Conyers and runs footage of William Jefferson by mistake. You know that's just a mistake.
TYLER: You don't even want to say what the subtext is in there. It's such a clam. You know what I mean? You don't even want to bring it up. I do think the word racism is overused in this country. At the same time, what I do think is happening right now is there's more of a subtext of racial-ism, where when you have somebody like Rush Limbaugh saying that the reason that Michelle Obama went to Spain is that black people are trying to get some of what white people have enjoyed. I mean, come on.
Smiley was so enjoying Tyler's attacks on Limbaugh that he returned to encouraging them after a commercial break:
SMILEY: Welcome back to Larry King Live, joined now by our panel. Before the break, Aisha, you were starting to lay out for us your formulation at least about the Michelle Obama trip to Spain. I want to go around the horn, but go ahead and finish your point.
TYLER: The thing that I'm really struggling with here -- and I'm not going to call Rush Limbaugh, but that is a racialist attitude to say that somehow black people have never traveled abroad until the First Lady got her shot at Spain. I mean, look, I speak three languages. I lived in Europe. I lived overseas. The idea that somehow she's getting back at white people for slavery by paying her own way to take her daughter to Spain is just extraordinary hyperbole of the highest order. And it's ridiculous.
Tyler was the one picking up the "extraordinary hyperbole" in alleging Limbaugh had said "black people have never traveled abroad" or that Michelle is "getting back at white people for slavery" with the Spain trip -- neither of which he said.