Pat Buchanan's dropped by MSNBC, which finally acknowledges his bigotry
At a press party in Los Angeles nearly two years ago, I gently confronted MSNBC president Phil Griffin about a controversial subject: The rhetoric of one of the channel's highest profile analysts, Pat Buchanan.
Years earlier, Buchanan had earned a "thumbs down" award from the National Association of Black Journalists, a worst practices honor given to those who most impede the cause of accurate and fair portrayals of black people in news reports.
One reason he earned that distinction was for a column called "A Brief for Whitey," in which he asserted America's enslavement of black people was the best thing to happen to them.
A sample: "America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known."
By that reasoning, if you move into a better neighborhood after someone breaks in your house, I guess you should go thank the burglar.
But back then, Griffin wasn't ready to consider dumping Buchanan, shrugging off the criticism like one might overlook the comments of a crotchety uncle. "I talk to Pat about a lot of these issues," he said back in 2010. "I don't think he crosses the line. I think sometimes he challenges us...I think Pat's part of the debate and I want him to bring it."
Apparently, the situation has changed, following Buchanan's own revelation that the channel has severed ties with him, following a four-month suspension.
In a column for the American Conservative website titled "Blacklisted But Not Beaten", Buchanan noted "The modus operandi of these thought police at Color of Change and ADL is to brand as racists and anti-Semites any writer who dares to venture outside the narrow corral in which they seek to confine debate."
MSNBC would only release a terse statement: "After ten years, we've parted ways with Pat Buchanan. We wish him well."
But the fact is, Buchanan has been playing both sides against the middle for a while now, offering garden-variety conservatism during his MSNBC appearances and indulging less ambiguous prejudice in his syndicated columns, books and outside appearances.
Buchanan has called America a "country built, basically, by white folks" and written in his biography admiringly of the days in the 1940s and 1950s when the nation was segregated by race, saying, "There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘Negroes’ of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.”
When a coalition of groups representing minority journalists demanded the news industry hire enough journalists of color to approach the community's diversity levels, Buchanan noted "Is there any evidence major news organizations in this country have engaged in systematic discrimination to keep out men or women of color this last half century?"
I guess he's forgetting that the segregation laws he lauded in the biography kept journalists of color from working for the nation's largest newspapers and broadcast outlets for decades.
For MSNBC, the final straw seems to be his book released last year, Suicide of a Superpower, in which Buchanan asserts that America's growing ethnic diversity is one of the reasons for its downfall as a great nation. The liberal-oriented website Talking Points Memo has a long list of awful statements made in that book about ethnic diversity and America's future.
I can understand MSNBC's problem here. Cutting Buchanan loose deprives the channel of one of its oldest contributors; a conservative voice they could always use to counter criticisms of blind partisanship. It also may give him the freedom to go to a rival channel like Fox Business Network, where hosts such as Don Imus and Lou Dobbs, who lost jobs for similarly prejudiced words in their work, have landed.
And, as always, Buchanan brings up a valid idea inside his horribly disingenuous defense, noting that behind-the-scenes agitating of advocacy groups such as Color of Change can leave the public unaware of the negotiations leading to a controversial commentator losing a job. Though, to be fair, Color of Change issued a press release when it collected 275,000 signatures from people who wanted MSNBC to drop Buchanan.
But I think Buchanan's departure is more about a failure of media outlets to police themselves. If MSNBC had listened to complaints years ago, it wouldn't have taken a massively embarrassing public campaign and targeted protest from advocacy groups to unseat a guy who has regularly tried to pass off prejudice as reasoned political commentary.
Buchanan himself has many chances to change his message and walk away from the ideas which have fueled institutional prejudice in this country for many years. Instead, he compares his argument that rising diversity will turn the nation into a "Third World America" to a piece in The Atlantic magazine more objectively imagining what the country will look like when white people are no longer a numerical majority.
The Atlantic story noted Buchanan's vision was laid out in his 2001 book The Death of the West, where he criticized then-President Clinton for giving a speech to college students celebrating the coming end of a majority race in America: “Mr. Clinton assured us that it will be a better America when we are all minorities and realize true ‘diversity.’ Well, those students [at Portland State] are going to find out, for they will spend their golden years in a Third World America.”
After that, the question for MSNBC shouldn't be why Buchanan is gone, but what took them so long?