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Lotts of Racism
Media holds Sports Figures to Higher Standards than our Leaders
Robert Manis, The Manis Report, December 9, 2002
Last month I wrote how the media’s slanted coverage of the Paul Wellstone memorial helped fuel the last minute Republican surge that won them both houses of Congress. I proposed a test case: the next time, say at a Republican funeral, a speaker went a little over the line, would the media make a big stink of it? Well, the test case has already happened. Last week at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott went a long way over the line. I would like to quote at length from Tamara Baker of American Politics Journal:
Dec. 7, 2002 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA (APJP) -- A little over a month ago, at Paul Wellstone's memorial service, Rick Kahn urged the Republican friends of the late Senator Wellstone to honor his memory by fighting for the things Paul fought for: aiding the poor and the average Joe/Jane, strengthening our health care system, caring for our veterans, and fighting racism.
This innocuous message so offended one Republican, Trent Lott, that not only did he walk up and leave, he talked Jesse Ventura and his wife into doing the same.
Now, we find that Trent Lott, in honoring the rabidly racist segregationist Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday, has said that he thinks that the nation would be better off if Thurmond had won the Presidency in 1948, when Thurmond's racism was at its height.
Here are his exact words:
"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
By "problems," Lott means the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act -- laws that finally freed black men and women from the racist Jim Crow laws enacted by people like Trent Lott to keep blacks enslaved.
Thanks to the Washington Post article linked above, here's a little taste of what Strom Thurmond was saying about black people in 1948, the year Trent Lott says Ol' Strom should have become President of these United States:
Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, was the presidential nominee of the breakaway Dixiecrat Party in 1948. He carried Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and his home state. He declared during his campaign against Democrat Harry S. Truman, who supported civil rights legislation, and Republican Thomas Dewey: "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
On July 17, 1948, delegates from 13 southern states gathered in Birmingham to nominate Thurmond and adopt a platform that said in part, "We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race."
Remember, Lott is a longtime ally of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, formerly the White Citizens Council, and has written columns for their newsletter, the Citizen Informer, in the recent past -- he only stopped when his role in their group was discovered a few years ago. (Do a Google search using "lott council conservative" and prepare to be disgusted.) And his early political life was spent working for the most racist Senators and Congressmen ever to stain the history of this country.
And, of course, when the Republicans asked George W. Bush to sic the IRS on the NAACP, the nation's most respected civil-rights group, it was none other than Trent Lott who made the gloating announcement of their plans for action.
So where was the outrage? Not at CNN. According to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo:
….on Friday, CNN's Jonathan Karl sat down with Lott for a brief interview which ran on Friday afternoon's Inside Politics. The questions? What Lott thinks about the firings of O'Neill and Lindsey; whether being Majority Leader made him happy and/or stressed; and whether or not he's going to gloat about the November election wins.
No question about whether having the majority back would up his budget for hair shellac. But more importantly, no question about the segregation comments.
On Inside Politics the John Kerry hair story made the cut, not the Trent Lott segregation story.
In the sports world, racist comments by public figures get tremendous media coverage. Witness the cases of John Rocker, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, UNLV athletic director Charles Cavagnaro, and Minnesota Vikings commentator Lee Hamilton, and others - all forced to resign and/or undergo counseling after media firestorms about their remarks.
I would argue that racism by our leaders is a lot more serious for society than by our sports figures. Republicans should demand Trent Lott resign as Majority Leader and repudiate his racism.