Erroneous Claim of Southern Racism in Voting Draws No Criticism

June 25th, 2013 6:00 PM

Guest-anchoring the June 25 edition of Now with Alex Wagner, MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid took the opportunity to react to a 2-hour-old Supreme Court ruling with an appropriate amount of sky-is-falling bluster.

Reid's overwhelmingly liberal panel was distraught at the decision and agreed that this would lead to a “slow but steady erosion of voting rights in the South.” When asked his opinion about the ruling, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, had this to say:

One of the people on this show just said that the south was perhaps not the only place where there's voting discrimination, and that's true. But the reality is the south is still very, very different than other parts of the country. Just one statistic to prove the point. You know, in the last election, 40% of white voters in the country opted for an African-American president, in Alabama, that figure was 15%. I think that tells that you something's very, very different in my home state and in other states in the Deep South still. 

Such a remark should have drawn at least a comment to provide a context for such a claim or some condemnation for being poorly researched. However, Reid simply added her agreement with what was said and moved on.

[Indeed, it was only AFTER this panel segment was over that Reid thought fit to bring on NBC chief justice correspondent Pete Williams to actually report on the content of the Court's ruling. For his part, Williams avoided adding any of his own commentary or political evaluations of the ruling.]

The matter of contention is Cohen’s use of the statistic that showed that only 15 percent of white voters in Alabama voted for Obama in 2012 despite 40% of all whites voting for him. Cohen used that statistic to claim that racism in voting is still prevalent in the South and that the Supreme Court should not have made the ruling they did.

While the both statistics are accurate, Cohen errs by implying that this discrepancy in percentage was due to the fact that Obama was African-American. He obviously did not look farther into his own state’s voting history; one does not even need to look back farther than the last election where both candidates where the same race, 2004.

According to CNN election results for the 2004 presidential race, only 19 percent of white voters voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry while 41 percent of Caucasians nationally voted for Kerry. These numbers are eerily similar to the statistics that Cohen cited a proof that race plays a major role in Southern voting.Simply put, white Alabama voters are more conservative and more partisan Republican in their presidential voting than whites nationwide.

Unfortunately, it is almost expected that a liberal like Cohen would jump to such an unsupported conclusion, but what is really disheartening is that none of the panel of “experts” or any of the journalists on the network -- including Pete Williams -- bothered to point our Cohen’s fallacy in reason. This clearly illustrates that MSNBC only seems to be concerned with advancing its own liberal agenda. Facts are a secondary consideration, at best. Advancing the victim narrative of the modern left is primary.