Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade's apology for intermarriage crack shows power of diversity in media
On the surface, Fox & Friends co-anchor Brian Kilmeade's admission that he "made comments that were offensive to many people" when he noted "(Americans) keep marrying other species and ethnics . . . Swedes have pure genes" while discussing a medical study, was just a bonehead getting his due.
But for me, it was a perfect example of how diversity in media is supposed to work.
I first saw Kilmeade's comments a day or so after he made them, in a post on the snarkiest of media/showbiz/celebrity Web sites, Gawker. Their work inspired my post on the whole mess, which tied Kilmeade's ramblings into other incidents in the show's past that made me question whether Fox & Friends had a history of airing stereotypical or borderline racist material.
Rafael Olmeda, an assistant city editor at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and president of the UNITY journalists of color group, contacted me through Twitter (@deggans) after reading my post, angry at the implications of Kilmeade's words and concerned that I hadn't whacked the anchor harder on the awfulness of his comments.
He convinced the UNITY group -- which brings together organizations representing black, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and American Indians -- to issue a petition on the matter, demanding Kilmeade apologize and the channel offer a substantive discussion on intermarriage. The National Association of Black Journalists, where I serve as chair of the Media Monitoring Committee, issued its own statement of criticism. Obviously, the growing mass of attention had some impact.
Following Kilmeade's apology, the typical backlash will assert political correctness gone amok -- Fox News soothing ruffled feathers among journalists of color. But the real truth is, there's much more at stake here than hurt feelings.
As a black man in America, I've seen how harmful a stereotype can be when it echoes through media unchallenged. And as black man married to a white woman, I don't want my kids having to face the fallout a knucklehead like Kilmeade can generate, by airing his stunningly backward comments on the most-watched cable newschannel on TV.
My only questions left: Will Fox make good on the other part of UNITY's demand, and air a real discussion of this issue at a time when most viewers can see it? Will that discussion feature any of the journalists of color who helped spark the discussion in the first place?
And, if Fox had some diversity on its anchor desk, would Kilmeade have felt free to voice such a stupid opinion in the first place?
Here's the actual apology followed by the original comment:*