I hate to say, “I told you so” but Bill O’Reilly’s discussions about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin last night were exactly what I predicted: a move away from the inconvenient-for-Fox subjects of racism, gun violence, police malfeasance toward people of color and back to the more comfortable ground of blaming minorities for their problems. And while they were at it, questioning the racial integrity of our president. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that all this followed Geraldo Rivera’s comments about Trayvon Martin’s hoodie.
I wrote a few days ago that Geraldo Rivera’s scolding - that Trayvon Martin’s hoodie was “as much responsible for his death as (shooter) George Zimmerman” - would serve Fox News very nicely.
I’m going to make a prediction that just as Kirsten Powers’ leap into the Sandra Fluke debate fortuitously allowed Fox to change the subject from Rush Limbaugh to liberal hypocrisy over Bill Maher, Rivera’s sudden concern about Martin’s hoodie is going to grant Fox the opportunity to make the Martin shooting a debate over African American behavior.
What I meant was that Rivera had opened the door to start questioning Martin’s role in his own death. Perhaps because of the huge outcry against Rivera’s remarks, I have yet to hear anyone on Fox follow up on the hoodie. But Fox grabbed the gold ring Rivera handed the network. And suddenly, Trayvon Martin discussions became the top stories on both O’Reilly and Hannity.
I don’t want to give Rivera too much credit. Fox would probably have seized on any excuse. There are now reports from eyewitnesses who partially corroborate shooter George Zimmerman’s account that Martin attacked him. Also, a friend of Zimmerman has stepped forward to defend him as a victim in the tragedy as well. Plus, the New Black Panther Party (a perenially popular Fox News target) came out with a $10,000 bounty offer for Zimmerman’s capture. One of the spokesmen made the ominous statement to a reporter, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” But O’Reilly hit the exact markers that Rivera had laid down: Shifting the focus away from figuring out what happened to Martin and why and toward questioning African American behavior.
O’Reilly’s Talking Points emphasized evidence that Zimmerman had been injured by Martin (without noting that Martin might have been acting in self defense) before complaining about the “hysterical” reporting elsewhere in the media. O’Reilly was specifically referring to MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton for being too fired up for Zimmerman’s arrest.
Let me state unequivocally that I agree with O’Reilly on the substance. There should not be any rush to judgment or a demand for anyone’s arrest without an investigation. And I’m not a big Sharpton fan, especially because he has somehow overlooked the jaw-dropping race-baiting and bigotry that can be found regularly on Fox.
But it’s hard not to be skeptical of O’Reilly’s calls for calm. He’s the same O’Reilly who had an elementary school official ambushed because there wasn’t enough “Christmas” in the school’s holiday celebrations, the guy who hounded Professor Ward Churchill until he was fired by the University of Colorado and the guy who repeatedly demonized abortion provider Dr. George Tiller as “Dr. Tiller, the baby killer” – until he was assassinated.
That Bill O’Reilly also gave Geraldo Rivera a pass on his inflammatory comments about Martin.
O’Reilly did acknowledge the damning evidence against Zimmerman. But that was quickly followed up by dragging President Obama into the racial mud. We saw Obama saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Then came Newt Gingrich suggesting that President Obama only cared about the case because Martin is black. O’Reilly opined that Obama was not being racially prejudiced but expressing his outrage “in very personal terms.” Yet O’Reilly hinted that Obama had been foolishly too preferential toward Martin in using the “son context.” Why? Because it has now been reported that Martin was suspended from school for “drug activity.” Translation: With good intentions, Obama was too sympathetic toward Martin, a possible druggie. O’Reilly didn’t say why that might have been the case but I’ll bet his viewers got the racial hint.
O’Reilly offered no evidence to suggest that “drug activity” played any role in the Martin tragedy. If O’Reilly really wanted to be responsible, balanced and non-inflammatory, he would have hosted a dispassionate discussion and investigation into the life of Trayvon Martin. Instead, O'Reilly slipped a salaciously denigrating detail about the young man into the segment, used it to question the President’s judgment and racial outlook and then dropped it.
“News agencies have a responsibility, morally and professionally, to practice restraint in situations like this one,” O’Reilly concluded.
And I would probably never have written a word about this segment were it not for the slew of inflammatory, irrelevant and insensitive attacks on minorities spewed by Bernard Goldberg later in the show, when O’Reilly brought him on to discuss his “provocative” take on the Trayvon Martin case.
Goldberg said he wanted to make it “very clear” that he wants justice in the case, too. But the only thing he wanted to talk about was the “appalling” “hypocrisy” “sanctimony” of the press and “the civil rights establishment.”
If Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by another black teenager, Goldberg decided, nobody, including President Obama, would ever be talking about it. According to Goldberg, the only reason we’re talking about it is because Martin is black and Zimmerman is white. If Zimmerman had been black, Goldberg said, “The media would ignore the story the way it ignores almost every other story involving black on black crime… The reason is that liberals in the media like to show their good racial manners. They don’t want to shine a spotlight on dysfunctional behavior in some black neighborhoods and that’s also how the civil rights establishment wants it. ‘Cause they don’t want to air dirty laundry in front of a national media, in front of the whole nation, rather.”
Goldberg went on to tell an anecdote about a black baby killed as he slept when an AK 47 was shot into the house. Why didn’t anyone “fall in love with that story?” Goldberg said, “The only thing I can think of, Bill… is because in one case, the shooter had light skin and in the other case, the shooter had dark skin.”
Holy Kirsten Powers and Geraldo Rivera, Batman! What does failure to report on black-on-black crime have to do with Trayvon Martin? Nothing. The racial aspect of the Martin case is not that a white man shot a black, unarmed teenager for no reason, it's that a white man seems to have stalked, then shot and killed an unarmed teenager at least in large part because he was black. The black-on-black crime Goldberg cited had nothing to do with race.
Somehow, O’Reilly and Goldberg seemed blind to the other aspects of the case that have caught the public attention: the bungled police investigation that seemed to favor the shooter over the unarmed victim, the reconsideration of Florida’s “stand your ground” law that police cited in their decision not to charge Zimmerman. And the horror of a kid going to the store for iced tea and Skittles and being shot dead by an armed vigilante.
If Goldberg cares so much about black-on-black crime, why hasn’t he brought it up on his own in his regular O’Reilly segments? If I missed one, let me know. Meanwhile, I hate to say it, but it looks like Goldberg’s real beef is that Trayvon isn’t being painted as part of a “dysfunctional” culture
But don’t worry, Bernie. I’m sure there will be plenty of that on Fox in days to come.
1 – sexually harass fellow employee
2 – incitement leading to murder
3 – influencing NY police re. his squalid marital breakup
4 – suggest raped women get what they’re asking for
5 – suggested sexually abused 10 year old enjoyed it
6 – reported black people are almost human after all
OK Killer, what are you on about now?
It seems clear that Zimmerman’s chasing of Martin led to a fight between the two guys – one that Zimmerman was losing when he pulled his gun and killed Martin. The only confusion seems to be who initiated the fight – from the cellphone call of Martin to his girlfriend, it sounds like Zimmerman initiated it. But there’s no way to know for sure. Zimmerman’s voice is highly pitched enough that it could well have been him yelling for help. We’ll have to see if further investigation illuminates anything.