The Politics of Mean; Pundits like Bennett, Lowry, Coulter, Robertson, will often couch militant or racist remarks, but what are they trying to do?

Dori Smith, September 30, 2005

On September 28, 2005, Talk Nation Radio aired an interview with Paul Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Waldman discussed the often extreme kinds of remarks that have been made by conservative pundit Richard Lowry, the editor of the National Review. Lowry debated David Corn of the liberal Nation Magazine in Connecticut on September 13th.

Richard Lowry is often introduced to audiences as if he were a scholarly figure who will discuss U.S. policy. In many of his debates and speeches though he does not focus on scholarly research into the facts about U.S. policies. He does not delve into political analysis. Instead he makes highly suggestive and mean spirited comments and statements he would insist are jokes. His more conservative audiences tend to laugh.

Before a sympathetic Republican student audience, for instance, Richard Lowry joked that he and his New York friends put “run Hillary (Clinton) run” bumper stickers on the fronts of their cars. The “joke” in case you don’t get it, is that they might run Clinton over.

Lowry has also “joked” Syria’s “only exports –are terrorism and pistachio nuts.” He “jokingly” compared Al Gore’s behavior to that of a “mean monkey.” More recently, when bloggers raised the horrifically militant idea of nuking the holy Muslim city of Mecca, Richard Lowry did not respond by saying this would be a horrifying idea. Iinstead he mentioned a list of other cities in the Middle East that could be targeted.

It is the politics of far out and far right mean and Lowry is a veteran of high stakes combat. His vitriol always comes down on the side of the hard Republican right and often the Christian right which is one of Bush’s political support bases.

As we were preparing to post the transcript of the Talk Nation Radio interview with Paul Waldman his watchdog group put shocking comments by Bill Bennett on their web site.

Like Lowry, Bennett is thought of as a scholar, yet such mean and racist statements do not seem scholarly and it is not the first time Bennett has spoken this way. Bennett was Education Secretary under Ronald Reagan. He told a caller to his right wing radio show “[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

Media Matters has the audio and text of Bennett’s remarks on their web page. This media watch group of journalists and true scholars have been calling the statements of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, and others, to the attention of the U.S. Press since 2004. You will find Pat Robertson’s remarks that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated on their web site too.

Robertson, the founder of the Christian Broadcast Network, (CBN) said: “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. –It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

Media Matter’s Paul Waldman explained that purveyors of mean like Lowry and Pat Robertson, fly under the radar and are not well monitored by mainstream reporters. “When {Robertson} made those comments about advocating the assassination of Hugo Chavez,” he explained, “we put up an item about it on our web site and told reporters about it and most reporters probably don’t watch the 700 club so they would never have known, then it began to get some attention and Republicans felt that they had to distance themselves from him and he was discredited all over America.”

Robertson’s words have set off a firestorm of media activity and discussion on the internet, and the same thing is happening in the case of Bill Bennett, whose remarks have been criticized by a variety of Democrats. White House press spokesperson Scott McClellan said Bush found the remarks “inappropriate”.

On CNN Live September 30, 2005, columnist Tom Oliphant said Bennett was opening a scab over an American wound left by racism. The question is, were his remarks intentionally divisive? Was Bennett intentionally provoking a controversy in order to call attention to his radio show and win over far right wing listeners? And perhaps most importantly, why have the Christian corporations airing programs by Bill Bennett and Pat Robertson not distanced themselves from their atrocious remarks?

When the BBC asked a spokeswoman for the Christian Broadcasting Network about Robertson’s remarks about Chavez she said: “We are at a time of war and Pat had war on his mind when he made the comments.”

Charles Mefford, Operations Manager at Salem Communications, which syndicates Bennett’s program defended him, said “we support his program,” and that Bennett would not be fired. Mefford said “liberal blogs distorted the news coverage” and asked me if I had watched Bennett’s remarks on Hannity and Colmes.

Here is what Bill Bennett told FOX’s Hannity and Colmes on September 30th
“–People need to follow the argument and the argument I was making here is entirely plausible. The causes of crime are very complicated. But there is a very big literature, as you know, about single parenthood in crime, about race in crime, and about poverty in crime. And we’ve been talking about all these things lately in the context of New Orleans and other things.”

Yet Mefford insisted that Bennett’s follow up remarks about aborting all of the black babies in America were “taken out of context,” and not at all racist. “He is not advocating [aborting black babies] at all,” Mefford explained. He said Bennett was merely “quoting a book,” saying, “these arguments about abortion need to be argued on the basis of morality, -this was a scholarly debate.”

Educators beware. The Salem Communications web site featuring Bennett’s program “Morning in America” has a link to his web page for K12, an educational resource for schools and those doing home schooling. Bennett is the founder of K12 and its web site features a picture of an African American child with the caption; “Every Child is Unique and Precious.”

At the moment purveyors of mean such as Bill Bennett, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, and Richard Lowry, are counting on a support network within the Bush Administration and various conservative news outlets. They see the Republican FOX News network and Salem Communications as safe havens that will bring continued success for their right wing statements about America or Iraq. People like Hannity and Colmes are not merely sympathetic to Bennett. Bennett in fact declined to appear on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room on CNN because of a contract he has with FOX. There is money in being a conservative pundit, money and access to power and the increasingly conservative leaning U.S. Press.

Still, as Americans keep discovering the details of a Bush Administration rip off in the setting up of reconstruction contracts for Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Baghdad, they will become more disillusioned with the President’s policies. As the Iraqi people face civil war instead of the democracy Bush promised, Americans will become more disillusioned with the President’s policies.

At the moment, the American people do not appear to accept the kind of rationales Bill Bennett has offered about “morality” as the real topic, not “aborting black babies to prevent crime”. When he explains himself to Hannity and Colmes, viewers may see through him to the mean spirit within. And hopefully members of right leaning Christian audiences will start to see through the kind of mixed messages they have been given by those who would move them farther to the right to support candidates like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Comments are closed.