Thursday, April 26, 2018
Perspective

Political pundits err in talk about Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling

Political pundits turned from health care to basketball last week to discuss news surrounding racist comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

But they didn't always get their facts straight, PunditFact found.

Drudge: 'Sterling is a Democrat'

When Sterling was outed for making racist comments, conservatives leapt to dig deeper and came up with a surprising find. Sterling is a Democrat.

Or so they claimed.

Matt Drudge tweeted to more than 264,000 followers: "NYT informed the unwashed how Bundy is a Republican. Leaves out NBA Sterling is a Democrat."

A recording of Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring African-American friends to basketball games came on the heels of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy suggesting blacks would do better as slaves. Hence, Drudge's tweet comparing the two men.

But Sterling is a registered Republican, according to the Los Angeles County voter registry.

We rated Drudge's claim Pants on Fire.

As far as we can tell, the conservative website Daily Caller was the first to tie Sterling to the Democratic Party. It posted an item declaring, "Race hate spewing Clippers owner is Democratic donor."

That article listed Sterling's campaign contributions from more than 20 years ago. He spread a total of $4,000 among three Democrats, including former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, and California Gov. Gray Davis. According to public records, he has given no money to any candidate since.

Nearly 29 hours after he posted his tweet, Drudge deleted it without an explanation or issuing a correction.

Limbaugh: Wealth and African-Americans

Drudge wasn't the only person to call Sterling a Democrat.

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh also accused Sterling of being a Democrat on his show last week and said the only reason Sterling was in trouble was "he did not give enough money to (Barack) Obama."

The fiery Limbaugh also discussed how he thought things generally are going for African-Americans in the United States.

Limbaugh's diagnosis: pretty darn good.

"You've got a black president. You've got a black attorney general. You've got the wealthiest TV performer in American history is a African-American woman. That would be The Oprah," Limbaugh said. "Some of the wealthiest Americans are African-American now."

That last line is incorrect. We rated it False.

While there are several ways to compare wealth, the go-to source to learn about the wealthiest Americans is Forbes, which tracks the fortunes of the world's elite. It publishes an annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans and a list of the world's billionaires. The most recent Forbes list was released in March 2014. (Bloomberg also publishes a less expansive list of the world's billionaires.)

For some perspective, the folks at the bottom of Forbes' wealthiest Americans list are worth an estimated $1.3 billion. At the top is Bill Gates, who is worth an estimated $72 billion.

How many African-Americans make up the American Top 400?

One, according to Forbes.

Oprah Winfrey is worth an estimated $2.9 billion — ranking her 184th on the list.

For the record, it isn't only rare for African-Americans to be billionaires in the United States. According to Forbes, there are only nine black billionaires in the world.

So who are the wealthiest African-Americans besides Winfrey? We found two other lists using Forbes data that are a few years old. Here's a list, with the date of the last update:

• Entertainer Sean "Diddy" Combs, $550 million (April 2012)

• BET founder Robert Johnson, $550 million (May 2009)

• Golfer Tiger Woods, $500 million (September 2010)

• Former basketball player Michael Jordan, $500 million (September 2010)

• Former basketball player Magic Johnson, $500 million (May 2009)

That means no African-American other than Oprah Winfrey is even close to cracking the Top 400 list.

Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.

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