Former DNC spokesperson Karen Finney
has been leading the effort at MSNBC to turn the Trayvon Martin shooting
into a political story implicating conservatives. It began with her smear of
Rush Limbaugh and GOP presidential candidates while filling in as host of
So, when Newt Gingrich, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich
says that, quote, "really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no
habits of working and have nobody around them who works. They have no habit
of I do this and you give me cash, unless it's illegal," or Rick Santorum
says, "I don't want to make black people's lives easier," or Rush Limbaugh
calls a presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama a magic negro, or Mitt
Romney says nothing at all, the effect is dangerous because they reinforce
and validate old stereotypes that associate the poor and welfare as criminal
behavior with African-Americans and people of color, calling us lazy,
undeserving recipients of public assistance. In the case of Trayvon, those
festering stereotypes had lethal consequences.
There are numerous problems with Finney's litany of complaints against the
right. Newt Gingrich never singled out a particular race in his comments;
rather he was focused on a class, "really poor children" a class that could
involve children of any race.
As for Rick Santorum, the quote Finney uses to
smear him is false, as I noted
here two months ago. Santorum never said "I don't want to make black
people's lives easier." He mangled a word in the midst of a sentence which
CBS and others falsely reported as "black." Listen closely to the clip, and
you find he did not say the word "black" at all.
Rush Limbaugh did use the
term "magic negro," but it didn't originate with him. The phrase came from an
LA Times column published in 2007.
Romney did comment on the Trayvon case just hours after President Obama
weighed in yesterday. Given that this case is a month old, a few hours
doesn't seem like enough of a difference to insinuate some kind of racial
motive on Romney's part.
In short, all of Finney's complaints are either
false or misleading in various ways.
Beyond the specifics, Finney is making a long and irresponsible leap from a
handful of (misleading) statements spanning five years to the killing of a
young man in Florida. Finney is presuming a motive in this case when, in
reality, we still don't know exactly what happened that night.
is new information today from an eyewitness, backed up by
a police report, which suggests the circumstances that led to the shooting
are more nuanced than they first appeared.
Finney also appeared as a guest on another MSNBC show Friday. In this case,
she once again made a leap from
assumptions about the Trayvon case to an indictment of the NRA and
"Republican governors and legislatures":
You know so you can put a graphic on over those states [with
stand your ground self-defense laws] and then many of them line up with a
lot of the very dramatic extreme things we've been seeing passed in the
states by Republican-controlled governors and legislatures.
No one who has looked at this believes "stand your ground"
laws would allow an armed man to stalk an unarmed man, shoot him, and then
The left has a bad habit of assigning political blame in the wake of
tragedies long before the facts become clear. We saw the same thing after
the Tucson shooting. In that case it was only a few hours before Paul
Krugman and others had placed the killings at the feet of Sarah Palin. When the
facts finally came out, we learned that Jared Loughner was an apolitical
schizophrenic whose only known affiliation was to the left-wing Zeitgeist
movement. Karen Finney apparently didn't learn any lessons from that
experience. Or perhaps she learned the lesson that smear tactics work, all too often.