CNN Features Guest Who Charges 'Regressive White Right' Has 'Declared War' on Progress
Don Lemon tossed softballs at leftist writer Tim Wise on Sunday's
Newsroom, mostly reading back excerpts from his latest column, which the
anchor labeled a "withering rebuke of...the 'white right.'" Lemon even twice emphasized how Wise has apparently received death threats over the column, where he slammed "conservative old white people [who] have pretty much always been the bad guys."
The CNN anchor interviewed Wise for nearly eight minutes during a segment 10 minutes into the 7 pm Eastern hour. Lemon began with "withering rebuke" label and continued that the author "begins with a disclaimer that he is not referring to all white people, and that his essay is not anti-white. He says it is addressed to- quote, 'The white community that is right-wing.'" He then turned to his guest and seemed to compliment him before asking his first question: "I was actually- I have to be honest- a little bit stunned when I read this because your language is unusually rough and raw. We know that you tell it like it is. You called the election results a temper tantrum and you sound mad as hell....do you regret using any of this fiery rhetoric?"
The leftist writer emphatically stood behind his incendiary column:
WISE: Well, no not really because I think- look, the right wing in this country, which is disproportionately- if you look at the exit polls- being fed by older white folks, has more or less declared war on the last 100 years of liberal and progressive progress. I mean, Glenn Beck calls himself a 'progressive hunter' and says the main goal for Republicans should be to undo the legacy of progressivism, which is like the last century of human progress: civil rights laws, environmental laws, labor laws. So I think when you have a group that have declared war on that legacy, which is by and large a very positive one for this country and the world, the rest of us have to fight back, and sometimes, the rhetoric does have to be raw. We can't always be friends and cooperate.
Lemon continued with his first mention of the apparent death threats
and kept up the softballs, while his guest continued to unleash on
LEMON: Tim, do you regret- you've gotten death threats because of this, haven't you?
WISE: Sure- yeah, sure.
WISE: I mean, (laughs) I don't like that, but you know- but the reality is the death threats are coming from people who very clearly don't have the capacity for reading comprehension. They are the ones who seem to think that, in this piece, I'm blasting all white folks or calling for the death of white people. My goodness, I'm white, my wife is white, my kids are white, my entire family is white. It doesn't make any sense that I would do that kind of thing. What I'm saying is, there are a lot of us white folks who reject the right, and in about 40 years, when half of the country are people of color, who definitely lean progressive- even if they're only 25 or 30 percent of us in the white community who are progressive, that is going to be a political majority-
LEMON: Okay, so Tim-
WISE: And my point in this letter was they need to enjoy their victories while they can because they're not going to last forever.
LEMON: So it's not sour grapes and it's not satirical.
WISE: Oh no. Oh, it's not satirical and it's not sour grapes, primarily because- look, I'm not a shield for the Democratic Party. I've been very critical of the Obama administration, as you know. I'm very critical of Democrats. What I'm saying is that the right wing's time is limited unless they can figure out- and I don't think they have figured out how to appeal to people of color and young folks when your rhetoric is, 'We want to take the country back.' Black and brown folks don't want to go back for obvious reasons, by and large, and young people want to go forward. So I think it's a limited political trajectory.
During the second half of the interview, Lemon merely read back several excerpts of Wise's anti-conservative column, with the leftist expanding on his thoughts:
LEMON: The reason I asked you about the satire part, is because you usually blast people for language like that and you- you've blasted people before. And here's- let's read some of it.
LEMON: You said, 'I know, you think you've taken your country back with this election- and of course, you have always thought it was yours for the taking, 'cause that's what we white folks are bred to believe, that it's ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise- but you are wrong'- Tim!
WISE: Yeah, well, that is what- now, look, I've been white a long time and I've got to tell you that white folks in this country have long been led to believe that this is our country, that we are the proto-typical American. I've done experiments with folks in workshops where you ask people to envision what's an all-American boy and all-American girl, and virtually everyone has this image in their head of a white person. Now, that may be changing and I think there are some folks on the right who don't like the fact that they have to share the designation of American with folks who pray different, look different- have different cultural traditions, but that's the truth and that's the future, whether they like it or not.
LEMON: All right, let's go on. You said, 'In the pantheon of American history, conservative old white people have pretty much always been the bad guys, the keepers of the hegemonic and reactionary flame, the folks unwilling to share the category of American with others on equal terms.'
WISE: Right, and particularly- look, I think if you look at history, who are the folks who have been the most reactionary and regressive? It's usually been older white folks. Younger white folks often are in the front lines of the fight for social justice, and we should always remember that. What I think is especially dangerous about the older folks and the Tea Party movement in the white community is they are the last generation of white Americans who can nostalgically look back on the pre-civil rights era and think, 'Those were the good ol' days.' The reality is, those of us in the post-civil rights era thankfully can't remember those days enough to be gripped by nostalgia and longing for them....and I think the country will be better off when we are in a position of multi-cultural, multi-racial America. That's the America of the future, not the America of the past.
LEMON: And you write about that. This is about the 1950s. You say, 'There won't be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good ol' days because there won't be any more white folks around who actually remember them. We'll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly without hurting your precious feelings.' Okay, so you talked about that. This is one I wanted- you talked about Ronald Reagan here. You said, 'You thought you had secured your position permanently after the overthrow of Reconstruction in the wake of the Civil War, after the elimination of the New Deal, after the Reagan revolution, after the Republican electoral victory of 1994. And yet, those you thought you had cowed and defeated are still here.'
LEMON: So, I mean these are- people are going to accuse you of racism here. The word they'll use is reverse racism. We know there's no reverse racism. Racism is racism no matter who it comes from.
WISE: Right. Well, I mean I think people need to read more carefully. The reality is- and I've written about this many times- there have always been white folks who have stood shoulder to shoulder with people of color to make this country a better place. And so, clearly, if I am critiquing the white right, I am, by definition, excluding all of those white folks who have fought for justice. The good news is, there have always been those people and there still are. The better news is that in 40 years, when half the country are folks of color and half the country is white, it's going to be much harder for the right- with their anti-immigrant rhetoric, their anti-Islamic rhetoric, and their rhetoric of taking the country back to a fictitious past- to actually appeal to that increasing black and brown America, and I think that's going to be a good day for those of us who believe in progressivism and social justice....
LEMON: Tim Wise, thank you sir. Best of luck- I know you've gotten death threats, so we hope that you're around.
It should be pointed out that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper condemned Alabama State Representative Hank Sanders on November 1 for using race baiting similar to Wise's and the network profiled several young conservative activists
during their recent "Right on the Edge" documentary, running counter to
the leftist's claim that conservatives are bunch of "older folks."
Later that hour, Lemon actually raised Wise's comments during an interview of conservative African-American Allen West, who was just elected a U.S. representative in Florida. West rebuked the leftist's race baiting:
LEMON: He [Wise] had some really harsh things to say about what he calls the 'white right.' It was really a scathing sort of op-ed or open letter in his blog post. What did you make of what he said?
WEST: Well, I think he's totally out of touch. I think when you look at the fact that here in [Florida] Congressional District 22, I was able to win a congressional district that is in the top five per capita income in the United States of America. It has a population that's 92 to 93 percent white. So this is not about color- this is definitely about people being able to articulate the right principles of governance, being able to present viable solutions, and it really does come down to character. It has nothing to do with color of skin. And I was very concerned about when he started with his 'taking our country back' rhetoric that he was addressing. It is not time-oriented. It is not about going back to a certain period in the United States of America. But it's about going back to constitutional principles, understanding the right and proper mandates of our federal government, and the interaction of the federal government with life and society, and how does it promote our free market and free enterprise.
LEMON: Do you- that's what it means to you, but do you understand, to some people, when you say, 'take our country back,' they go back to where? Back to a time when my people were enslaved or were subjugated? Do you understand to some people, when they hear those words, that's the meaning behind those words?
WEST: Well, that's one of the things that- you know, down here, I use the phrase (sic) 'bayonets,' and everyone thought that I was wanting to go around and stick people and stab people, when the word 'bayonets' came from the second day of Gettysburg, and it was a rally cry from Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, when he faced some very tough situations at Little Round Top. So I think that people have an ability to take anything that they want and twist it and take it out of context for their own practical gain, and I think that that's what Mr. Wise has done.
- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.