Geraldo Condemns Gingrich's 'Racialist' Conduct Toward Juan Williams

January 23rd, 2012 11:37 AM

Not "racist," mind you -- "racialist."

Turns out "racialist" is an actual word, though I had my doubts after hearing it on Geraldo Rivera's WABC radio show Jan. 19.  (video and audio clips after page break)

Here is how it's defined by my Random House Dictionary of the English Language, second edition, unabridged -- "ra-cial-ism, n. racism [1905-10; RACIAL + ISM] -- ra'cial-ist, n. adj. -- ra'cial-is'tic, adj."

Ah, a "racialist" is a racist engaging in racism. Wouldn't it be more straightforward to say "racist" and not split hairs?

Rivera was complaining about Gingrich's demeanor toward Fox political analyst Juan Williams during the Republican debate in South Carolina on Jan. 16 (audio) --

RIVERA: Here is the question I have for you listeners this morning. I believe, you know, and I've thought about it and I've thought about it, I really believe that what Newt Gingrich did to Juan Williams at that debate, at that presidential debate in South Carolina on Monday really was, if it wasn't racist it was racialist. Now, listen to this, folks, and you tell me when you listen to the way Newt Gingrich says Juan Williams's first name. He says it like it's a racial epithet, I swear to God, that's my impression. So here, you, you listen to Juan asking the questions, listen to Newt Gingrich's response.

WILLIAMS: You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as the food stamp president. It sounds as if you're seeking to belittle people.

GINGRICH (after booing from audience): Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. (cheers, applause) Now, I know among the politically correct you're not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.

RIVERA: All right, there is Gingrich being filled with disdain, utter disdain, for the only man of color maybe in that whole room.

Then I remembered where I'd seen a similiar version of hair-trigger paranoia about bigotry-laden enunciation ...

I seriously doubt Gingrich was the only conservative filled with "utter disdain" for Williams, due mainly to Williams's loaded prologue to his exchange with Gingrich. Naturally, Rivera did not include this in the audio he played for this audience (provided here in embedded video) --

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can't you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?

GINGRICH: No. I don't see that. (extended applause) You know, my daughter, Jackie, who's sitting back there, Jackie Cushman, reminded me that her first job was at First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Ga., doing janitorial work at 13. And she liked earning the money. She liked learning that if you worked, you got paid. She liked being in charge of her own money and she thought it was a good start. I had a young man in New Hampshire who walked up to me. I've written two newsletters now about this topic. I've had over 50 people write me about the jobs they got at 11, 12, 13 years of age. Ran into a young man who started a doughnut company at 11. He's now 16. He has several restaurants that take his doughnuts. His father's thrilled that he's 16 'cause he can now deliver his own doughnuts. (laughter from audience)

What I tried to say, and I think it's fascinating because Joe Klein reminded me that this started with an article he wrote 20 years ago. New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They'd learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They'd be getting money, which is a good thing if you're poor. Only the elites despise earning money. (extended applause)

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, the suggestion that you made was about a lack of work ethic. And I gotta tell you, my email account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking  if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church ... (where Rivera's audio clip began)

"At a minimum as insulting to all Americans"? To borrow from Sam Goldwyn, include me out. I wasn't insulted in the least, nor were the vast majority of people in the debate audience as shown by their standing ovation after Gingrich slam-dunked Williams. (Oh gee, can I write that?)

As evidence to bolster his premise, Williams cited his email and Twitter accounts "inundated" by like-minded people angered at the notion of school-age children getting compensated, in effect, for chores outside their homes.

It wasn't just Williams's loaded question that warranted Gingrich's withering response, but the structure of the debate itself. I watched it again over the weekend and was struck by an odd disparity.

When Williams asked Gingrich about his criticism of Obama as the "food stamps president," it was the 17th question in the debate from panelists Williams, Kelly Evans and Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, and moderator Brett Baier of Fox.

Of those 17, two came from Seib, three from Evans -- and six from Williams. Baier also asked six to that point, but again, he was the moderator.

Not only had Williams asked many more questions than the other two panelists, his food stamps slam of Gingrich was the fourth question he had asked in a row. Neither Seib nor Evans had asked more than one question in a row, while Baier as moderator did so twice, each time asking two consecutive questions.

Moreover, Williams had not only hijacked the debate, all three of his questions before he got to Gingrich played the race card -- 1), asking Mitt Romney about his opposition to illegal immigration and the DREAM Act ("Your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there"); 2) asking Rick Santorum whether Obama has "specifically addressed" high unemployment and poverty among blacks; and 3), asking Ron Paul if he sees "racial disparities" in drug-related arrests and convictions.

Might as well ask Paul if he has any qualms about the Fed. Less than 10 days earlier at a GOP debate in New Hampshire, Paul condemned the "true racism" of minorities getting arrested and jailed on drug charges at disproportionately high rates. Williams awoke from his week-long coma to ask Paul a question guaranteed to elicit the least surprising answer in two dozen GOP debates.

Rivera can comfort himself with code language intended to malign Gingrich as racist. But it clearly wasn't Gingrich who engaged in "racialism" in that debate.