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Juan Williams Says Blacks Support Clinton Because Of “Patronage Politics”

Reported by Ellen - January 4, 2008 -

During special coverage of the Iowa caucuses on FOX News last night (1/3/08), African American Juan Williams, a FOX News contributor, spoke stirringly about what a historic night it had been for America that a predominantly white state had selected a black man as its leading candidate for a presidential nomination. But a few moments later, he smeared his own race with the dubious claim that the reason blacks love the Clintons is because of “patronage politics” that delivered money and other favors for their community. FOX News host Brit Hume approvingly agreed. With video.

In the first part of the clip below, Williams marveled over Obama’s win. “For a black man in America to win the Iowa primary is astounding… Race is part of the American story. This is now one chapter in that story. Very important.”

I was touched by Williams' comments - until a few minutes later. Referring to Williams' earlier remark, Hume asked if blacks in urban areas will switch their allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, now that he has won Iowa.

Williams responded, “It’s gotta introduce the idea that people saying, ‘Wait a minute. I can be a part of history, something very special going on here' and it introduces also identity politics to a new level, that you just take pride in the accomplishments of this incredible young man. But on the other hand, the reason that the numbers were reflective of a Clinton win so far among African Americans, is because Bill Clinton had practiced what I would call ‘patronage politics’ for so long. People had gotten money, they’d gotten paid, they knew exactly that they could rely on Clinton as a pipeline for support in the black community, in the black churches, all the way down to the community centers. They knew how that worked. They don’t know Barack Obama. They don’t know that they can trust him to deliver. They don’t know if he’s got to make a show of favoring whites or suburbanites in order to prove his bona fides with that part of the electorate.

Hume said approvingly, “Right, right.”

But Williams’ nasty and cynical assessment of Clinton’s popularity with blacks does not take into account many other factors, such as his personal knack for relating to African Americans, so much so that Toni Morrison was moved to call him the “first black president.” It also overlooks the fact that Clinton staked some positions that could hardly be seen as pandering to the black community: His support of welfare reform and the Sistah Souljah moment, for example.

In short, it was a cheap shot aimed at African Americans by one of their own.

NOTE: In the video below, the title erroneously states that the footage came from Hannity & Colmes. It did not. It came from a special edition of Special Report (aired during the usual Hannity & Colmes time slot).