Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Politics

Tension brews over race and media outlets at RNC

On the surface, it sounds like a simple, if horrifying, event.

Two attendees at the Republican National Convention who pelted a black CNN camerawoman with peanuts Tuesday — saying "This is how we feed animals" — were ejected by security amid apologies to the news channel staffer.

But the way in which CNN and the GOP have responded to the incident has brought more questions from journalists, revealing a tension between race and media outlets at the RNC that also has enveloped Yahoo News and MSNBC.

CNN has posted only an online story on the incident, refusing to comment beyond a two-sentence statement. The RNC had its own release, which read: "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

At an event where the GOP is filling its convention stage with black and brown people to show its diversity, details matter. Were these people delegates, alternates or guests? Were they ejected for the day, able to return later? Were they heckling CNN, the camerawoman or both?

One can't help thinking, if this incident had happened to anyone but a CNN staffer, Wolf Blitzer and his crew would be putting RNC officials in the Situation Room until somebody gave up details.

Truth is, there's a basic tension here. Despite its success in filling its speaking slots with a wide diversity of Republicans, the RNC seems to present much less diversity among delegates and those on the convention floor.

Pointing that out, amid heated debates over the racial impact of voter ID laws and talk of Barack Obama as a "food stamp president," is proving a delicate minefield for some media outlets.

Yahoo News fired its Washington bureau chief David Chalian on Wednesday after he was heard on an open microphone during an online video broadcast from the RNC saying, "They're happy to have a party with black people drowning," referencing Hurricane Isaac possibly impacting New Orleans during the convention.

On Wednesday, Chalian also released his own statement of apology, saying, "I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics."

Liberal friendly MSNBC kicked off the issue Monday morning as Hardball host Chris Matthews accused RNC chairman Reince Priebus of "playing the race card" in party rhetoric about Obama pushing a "European-style" health care plan and presidential nominee Mitt Romney's joke about no one asking to see his birth certificate.

Now conservative media analysts have complained that MSNBC ignored speeches by several people of color at the RNC on Tuesday, without noting that right-leaning cable channel Fox News omitted almost all the same speeches during its coverage.

It's obvious now: There's already a subtle image war under way at the RNC over racial issues. And the only way news media outlets are likely to win is by talking directly and transparently about the issue before it explodes again into another messy scandal.

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