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FOX News Uses Louis Farrakhan To Play The Race Card

Reported by Ellen - October 18, 2005

Why is FOX News, particularly Hannity & Colmes, fixated on Louis Farrakan? While persistently ignoring the views of mainstream African-Americans on Hurricane Katrina, there are regular discussions (once a week or more, by my reckoning) on H&C in which both hosts criticize the latest "shocking" statements from Farrakhan. Last night, Sean Hannity played the race card no less than three times with his guest, Hashim Nzinga, representing Minister Farrakhan. When Nzinga finally responded to the bait, both Hannity and Colmes accused him of doing the race-baiting.

The segment with Nzinga was introduced as a discussion about Farrakhan's Millions More March on Saturday. Colmes made plain his disdain for Farrakhan's group right from the beginning when he opened by asking why the demonstration had a lower turnout than the original.

Comment: While it seems true that the second event drew fewer people than the first, it was still a very large crowd. The IndyStar called it huge , and said that "participants spread for blocks along the lawns of the National Mall." Without providing an estimate of the crowd size, the Star reported that Washington transit officials counted about 150,000 more subway riders than the average for the day. So even if only half that amount went to the Mall, that's still a large number in attendance.

Next, Colmes criticized Farrakhan by reading an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune editorial saying that Minister Farrakhan has shown "little follow-through since 10 years ago" and, instead of building a political self-help movement has promoted himself as an Islamic voice in visits to Iran, Libya and elsewhere. It was clear from both Colmes' tone and the substance of his questions that he had little respect for Farrakhan.

Comment: I, too, am no fan of Farrakhan but a man who draws a hundred thousand people or more deserves a fair discussion. Since he has become a favorite H&C topic of late, there should at least be an exploration of his appeal. Instead, he is just repeatedly demonized on Hannity & Colmes leaving us with the impression that everyone who attended Saturday's event was just a crazed extremist.

That was bad enough but when it was Hannity's turn, he blatantly and deliberately played the race card by attacking Nzinga as a racist for not criticizing the mayor of New Orleans. Despite the fact that the discussion was supposed to be about Farrakhan and the Millions More March, Hannity's first question was, "Where was the criticism of the mayor of New Orleans, an African-American... over a thousand buses sat there empty. 30 years-plus warning of what would happen if this type hurricane came and five days notice that this strong hurricane was coming. Why didn't Mr. Farrakhan, if he wasn't so political and everything wasn't race-based, why didn't he mention the mayor?"

Comment: Is Hannity a congenital liar, chronically misinformed or just oblivious to the truth? As Media Matters has pointed out numerous times, there were NOT a thousand buses just "sitting there empty." As the host of a national news show (especially on a network that calls itself "real journalism, fair and balanced"), Hannity should have learned the facts by now, yet he keeps repeating this falsehood. One can only conclude that he doesn't care about the truth and only wanted to use that assertion as a way of race-baiting his guest and bashing the mayor of New Orleans at the same time. The fact that FOX News allows him to continue to promote these distortions shows just what kind of "real journalism" they provide.

I don't know anything about Nzinga nor does he strike me as the kind of guy I'd have a lot in common with. But the truth is, he made a real effort to avoid taking Hannity's race bait. Instead, Nzinga made the reasonable argument that the mayor was overwhelmed and that it was the federal government's obligation to step in and help.

But Hannity refused to have a reasoned discussion with Nzinga. Apparently bound and determined to trap Mr. Nzinga into "proving" his racial bias, Hannity started yelling,"Did the mayor have a responsibility to open those buses and get people out of there?"

Nzinga still didn't fall for it so Hannity played the race-card again: "When Louis Farrakhan said 'if the people had blonde hair and blue eyes, something would have happened,' Louis Farrakhan once again, like he does every other point in his life - he's playing the race card."

Nzinga's answer was to ask why Hannity didn't advocate sending any money to any black mayors instead of to the Red Cross.

That doesn't sound like such a racially-charged remark to me, but Hannity shouted that Nzinga was the one playing the race card.

Finally, Nzinga addressed the race-baiting by saying he didn't have a deck of race cards and that Hannity is the racist.

Hannity answered, "That's the difference between you and me. I love all Americans."

Nzinga (who, don't forget, was there to talk about the Millions More March, but had been ambushed by Hannity into discussing Hurricane Katrina) said that it was Hannity playing the race card and called him a devil.

Then Colmes stepped in to chide Nzinga. "You'd do a lot better for yourself if you stopped calling people like Sean Hannity and other people you don't agree with racists simply because you have a different point of view and stop throwing the "R" word around because that's unfair and that's a low blow and that's playing the race card from the bottom of the deck."

Comment: I watched this segment twice in its entirety and several bits of it over and over to be sure I had the sequence, the nuance, and the essence of the exchanges correctly and in context. There's just no doubt in my mind that Hannity baited Nzinga into a race-based discussion, that Nzinga tried to avoid going there until the end, after much browbeating from Hannity. I'm no fan of Clarence Thomas but the term "high tech lynching" comes to mind.

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