RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has called for RNC staffers to boycott the cable news network MSNBC after becoming offended over a tweet sent Wednsday night by a MSNBC employee. The tweet, referring to a new version of the 2013 Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family which provoked a deluge of racist comments on social media, stated that the “rightwing may hate it, but everyone else will go awww.”
Although the Tweet did not mention the GOP, RNC or Priebus by name, the Chairman seemed to interpret it as a low-blow attack against his organization and called on his party members to join the RNC staff in boycotting the network. In a letter to MSNBC President David Griffin, Priebus called the tweet “petty and demeaning” and referred to it being part of a larger pattern of unfair attacks against the Republican party.
Priebus called for Griffin to issue a personal apology, which the MSNBC chief did on Thursday, calling the tweet outrageous and unacceptable and indicating that the employee responsible for sending it had been fired. Priebus publicly accepted the apology, and it is unclear how long MSNBC will be on probation with the RNC.
This is the second major apology that MSNBC has issued this year, following in the wake of an apology by show host Melissa Harris-Perry over comments made referring to Mitt Romney’s adopted son. Harris-Perry gave the tearful mea culpa on her own program after the comments were made, and admitted that they were in poor taste.
The Harris-Perry situation notwithstanding, it seems clear that the RNC, the GOP and the extremists who live on the political right-wing enjoy being able to employ a double-standard. At the same time that they launch coded racial attacks on their opponents and court support from constituents who plainly extoll a racist agenda, they feign innocence any time someone pulls their card on the issue, and then accuse the other side of playing the infamous “race-card.”
It is irrefutable that there is a deep current of racial animosity running within the right-wing of contemporary American politics, and it is equally hard to argue that accusations of race-baiting and reverse racism made against the left are thinly veiled attempts at political subterfuge and obfuscation. This is not to say that there are no racists on the left, and even within the Democratic party leadership, only to say that they have not made it a sign of pride and a banner issue.
Griffin made a political calculation that he needed to issue the apology to Priebus, but he should have stood his ground. It is obscene what passes for political discourse in America today, and it is a disservice to those activists and lawmakers who carried the torch of equality this far to pretend that that racial dog-whistles and coded subtexts being employed by the GOP and its extremist subgroups are anything less than what they are, which is to say real, dangerous and offensive.
The current political climate has become such that any discussion of racial and social equality is immediately attacked as racist and socialist, with media spinmeisters able to use rhetorical jiu-jitsu to turn legitimate criticisms into attacks directed back on the source. This is not something that should be tolerated, and telling the truth about your opponents should not require the issuance of an apology for their hurt feelings. MSNBC should have allowed the RNC to boycott to their hearts content, or at least until the organization decided it wanted to get back to a normal level of media exposure. This was not a stellar moment for either side. MSNBC’s Griffin should have showd some moral fiber and stood his ground. And as for the RNC Chairman, with a name like Reince Priebus, one would have assumed the Chairman to have developed a thicker skin against name-calling. Sadly, this was not the case.
By Mark Clarke