Former DNC spokesperson Karen Finneyhas been leading the effort at MSNBC to turn the Trayvon Martin shootinginto a political story implicating conservatives. It began with her smear ofRush Limbaugh and GOP presidential candidates while filling in as host ofthe MartinBashir show:
So, when Newt Gingrich, presidential candidate Newt Gingrichsays that, quote, “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have nohabits of working and have nobody around them who works. They have no habitof I do this and you give me cash, unless it’s illegal,” or Rick Santorumsays, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives easier,” or Rush Limbaughcalls a presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama a magic negro, or MittRomney says nothing at all, the effect is dangerous because they reinforceand validate old stereotypes that associate the poor and welfare as criminalbehavior with African-Americans and people of color, calling us lazy,undeserving recipients of public assistance. In the case of Trayvon, thosefestering stereotypes had lethal consequences.
There are numerous problems with Finney’s litany of complaints against theright. Newt Gingrich never singled out a particular race in his comments;rather he was focused on a class, “really poor children” a class that couldinvolve children of any race.
As for Rick Santorum, the quote Finney uses tosmear him is false, as I notedhere two months ago. Santorum never said “I don’t want to make blackpeople’s lives easier.” He mangled a word in the midst of a sentence whichCBS and others falsely reported as “black.” Listen closely to the clip, andyou find he did not say the word “black” at all.
Rush Limbaugh did use theterm “magic negro,” but it didn’t originate with him. The phrase came from anLA Times column published in 2007.
Finally, MittRomney did comment on the Trayvon case just hours after President Obamaweighed in yesterday. Given that this case is a month old, a few hoursdoesn’t seem like enough of a difference to insinuate some kind of racialmotive on Romney’s part.
In short, all of Finney’s complaints are eitherfalse or misleading in various ways.Beyond the specifics, Finney is making a long and irresponsible leap from ahandful of (misleading) statements spanning five years to the killing of ayoung man in Florida. Finney is presuming a motive in this case when, inreality, we still don’t know exactly what happened that night.
Indeed, thereis new information today from an eyewitness, backed up bya police report, which suggests the circumstances that led to the shootingare 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 fromassumptions about the Trayvon case to an indictment of the NRA and
You know so you can put a graphic on over those states [withstand your ground self-defense laws] and then many of them line up with alot of the very dramatic extreme things we’ve been seeing passed in thestates 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 thenclaim self-defense.
The left has a bad habit of assigning political blame in the wake oftragedies long before the facts become clear. We saw the same thing afterthe Tucson shooting. In that case it was only a few hours before PaulKrugman and others had placed the killings at the feet of Sarah Palin. When thefacts finally came out, we learned that Jared Loughner was an apoliticalschizophrenic whose only known affiliation was to the left-wing Zeitgeistmovement. Karen Finney apparently didn’t learn any lessons from thatexperience. Or perhaps she learned the lesson that smear tactics work, all too often.