You know the drill: some crazy right-wing nut says something abominable, and then the media rushes to every Republican to demand that they “disavow” it.
For years, President Donald Trump was asked to “disavow” white supremacist nutcases like David Duke, and it didn’t matter how many times he had done it before: if he failed to do so even once, he was held responsible for everything Duke did or said.
Well, that game is over now, thanks to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
In fighting against the recall election that ended Tuesday, Newsom focused his attention on Larry Elder, the conservative talk radio host who surged to the fore among Newsom’s rivals, and who would have been California’s first black governor.
There is nothing inherently racist about an elite white man campaigning hard against a self-made black man. But Newsom and his supporters condoned the use of explicitly racist language against Elder, which eventually became physical violence.
It started in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, where columnist Jean Guerrero tried to link Elder to white supremacists. She was backed by the Times editorial board, which tried to sneak Guerrero into a meeting with Elder without informing his campaign.
Other columnists were even more incendiary. Erika D. Smith wrote a column titled: “Larry Elder is the Black face of white supremacy. You’ve been warned.” She followed it up with a similar column later in the election.
This was an explicitly racist campaign to demonize Elder, and it bled over into the news pages, where a reporter questioned Elder’s connection to the black community in which he was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles.
Had Elder been a Democrat, with the potential to be California’s first black governor, the media would have celebrated his success story. He would likely have enjoyed a bias in his favor. But the Times could not be bothered to treat Elder with even ordinary respect.
The rest of the media did not criticize the Times, nor did they ask Newsom to disavow the racial attacks on Elder. Instead, they joined the effort to demonize him.
Politico broke the story that Elder’s ex-fiancée, Alexandra Datig, who happens to be white, claimed that he had showed her a gun in 2015, and that she had been frightened. Politico‘s headline was that “he brandished a gun at her,” though that was not what she had claimed, and elements of her story began to unravel quickly.
Given the media’s professed concern for “systemic racism,” and “dog whistles,” you might expect them to handle claims by a white woman against a black man with a little more care. But the media went all-in.
CNN ran the chyron, “Candidate Larry Elder Under Police Investigation,” under footage of Elder. Suddenly, after years of “Black Lives Matter,” the police were credible to CNN.
Hours later, prosecutors announced that Datig’s claims were too old and too flimsy to pursue.
On Labor Day, the Newsom campaign held an event with black leaders in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. As Newsom stood behind next to the stage, a Black Lives Matter leader called Elder the “black face of white supremacy,” repeating the Times headline. Newsom never corrected her, nor did he respond to her, nor did he disavow afterwards what she had said.
Following Sen. @sydneykamlager, @DocMellyMel actually calls out the heretofore-unnamed recall challenger. “She didn’t say his name, but I will: Larry Elder is a Black face on white supremacy.”
— Kyle Stokes (@kystokes) September 6, 2021
Notably, the media never asked Newsom to disavow the remark, either, though it took place at his even, in his presence.
Then came the violence.
As he visited Venice, a community in L.A. that has become swamped by homeless encampments, Elder and his security detail were physically assaulted. One staffer was shot with a pellet gun. Elder himself was hit by an egg thrown by a white woman wearing a gorilla mask.
For years, the left and the media have claimed that racist violence follows racist speech, which is why they demand politicians denounce both. Here it was — the violence! And yet: silence.
Two people spoke out. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has become a gadfly to Democrats, called the attack on Elder a “hate crime.” And journalist Elex Michaelson of Fox 11 KTTV — one of the few unbiased and fair journalists in California — explicitly denounced the attack.
But that was it. Newsom was silent, and no journalist bothered to ask the governor to “disavow” the actions of people who made clear during the incident that they supported the anti-recall effort.
Newsom went on to defeat the recall by a landslide. In the aftermath, Newsom claimed he had beaten “bigotry.” The truth is the opposite. He refused to speak out against racist rhetoric, and racial violence, even when he was cruising to victory.
So these are the new rules. Republicans can disavow whatever they want — at their own discretion. They should never let a Democrat, or a journalist, push them into doing so. Newsom showed us how little the left cares about racism in America.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.