The Danger in a Hasty Apology

Ahead of the Super Bowl, an MSNBC employee tweeted that he expected that a Cheerios commercial featuring a bi-racial couple would provoke outrage from the Far Right.

GOP national chairman, Reince Priebus, denounced the tweet as an inflammatory mischaracterization of the Far Right. MSNBC President Phil Griffin then apologized for the tweet, describing it as “outrageous and unacceptable,” and terminated the tweeter’s employment.

But, for Priebus, those actions were not quite proportionate to the offensiveness of the tweet. So he announced that his office would be monitoring MSNBC and discouraging GOP lawmakers from making appearances on it unless and until it corrected its obvious bias against the party.

Wow. I felt that I had to read that tweet. Given that legislators, governors, and commentators on the Far Right have been a literally font of offensive remarks, I assumed that the tweet must have exceeded even Martin Bashir’s suggestion that someone defecate into Sarah Palin’s mouth (I’ll resurrect that controversy in a future post). But here’s what the tweeter wrote: “Maybe the right wing will hate it, but everyone else will go aww; the adorable new #Cheerios as w/biracial family.”

I was stunned, of course, but not by the tweet, which is so innocuous that it is incomprehensible that it could have sparked any outrage—but by the fact that Priebus had the balls to complain that such an innocuous statement was racially inflammatory and, even more, by Griffin’s acceptance of that characterization and his decision to fire the tweeter.

The GOP is, after all, the party that has almost never apologized for its commonplace, hateful, racially charged characterizations of President Obama, which have not just been expressed on signs and in on-the-street interviews by “regular folks” at every public appearance by the president (see my previous post, “Hating a Black President Isn’t Necessarily Racist”: https://academeblog.org/2013/08/18/hating-a-black-president-isnt-necessarily-racist/; and that post was actually prompted by the appearance of the “Obama rodeo clown” at the Missouri State Fair) but in public statements by a whole slew of GOP officeholders and commentators. One could start with the rhetorical inversion that has defined attention to racist expression and behavior as “race obsession,” or an equally reprehensible form of “reverse racism.” World Net Daily, the media source of choice for the extreme Far Right, has labeled this “race obsession” as “Negrophilia.” WND repeatedly features news items on “rampaging Blacks” (more on that as well in a future post). Yet, I have never once heard anyone on the Far Right issue any sort of apology for–never mind an unequivocal denunciation of–any of that.

Indeed, although very little attention was paid to the biracial Cheerios ad, one suspects that the relative lack of attention to it can be explained primarily by the virulent attention to the Coke ad in which “America the Beautiful” is sung in a variety of languages—to suggest the international appeal of the soft drink, which represents the reach of American culture and, by extension, American values—and in which a gay couple is briefly featured.

Here is a series of tweets from regular Fox News commentator, Todd Starnes:

“Couldn’t make out that song they were singing. I only speak English.”

“So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?”

“Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.”

I did a Google search for “Fox News’ Reprimand of Todd Starnes,” and it won’t surprise you that I found not a word.

Phil Griffin should rehire the fired tweeter, with restored back pay and some sort of extra compensation for emotional distress, and he should threaten to run video of the blatantly racist Right-wing crowds at the President’s public appearances until Reince Priebus starts apologizing. But, of course, if Preibus were ever to start apologizing, where would it end?

By the way, I am sure that the “mainstream media” has downplayed the racism of the demonstrators at the President’s public appearances because the GOP would complain that showing them mischaracterizes the whole party as if it were so extreme. But if the party does not denounce—and vigorously denounce—such extremism, then it is itself inviting that sort of characterization.

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