It's been a heady two weeks for MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, but she found an unexpected ally in right wing talking head Glenn Beck. Following her show's controversial comments about Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson and tearful apology, Beck supported Harris-Perry on his own show and even chastised her attackers in the Republican party.
"She apologizes — for what? It was a break with comedians. Yes, it wasn't nice. Yes, it was hurtful and divisive if that was the intent, but it clearly was not. There are many dishonest, arrogant, and destructive people on MSNBC, but I really don't think that this, by any means, was an example of a person like that."
"Going after children, as she said, is not fair game, but that wasn't her intent. I truly believe that our side, now, is refusing to see her for what she is, and we are engaging in the worst kind of political destruction."
"I fear this time, our side sees blood in the water and is going after her and MSNBC. It's more than wrong than anything she said here, especially since their intent is to hurt and destroy, and hers was not."
I think the polar vortex is affecting all of us. Here's his kicker:
"If this is her big screwup, she's way ahead of me as a human being."
Wow, I'm pleasantly surprised and I've never written those words regarding anything remotely related to Beck. Look at 2014, already cranking out those miracles. Romney has also accepted Harris-Perry's apology and seems to have moved on, though right wing pundits — and Alec Baldwin — haven't. Baldwin, whose own MSNBC show was cancelled after he said something else problematic, tweeted "If I cry, will I be forgiven all of my transgressions?" He's since deleted the tweet, but he's still a jerk.
Elsewhere, The Atlantic dug into how Harris-Perry, who is also a Tulane University professor, became a lightening rod for the right wing.
"Harris-Perry has been a public laughingstock for some time now," wrote John Nolte. "P.S. The Duck Dynasty family has an adopted black child. Maybe this is why the media hate them so much." Nolte was writing for the site named for the man who engineered the "Shirley Sherrod is a racist" hoax. There has never been an apology for that and there won't be one. That is because the conservative movement does not believe that racism is an actual issue to be grappled with, but sees it instead as a hand grenade to be lobbed into an enemy camp. One week we find Sarah Palin defending a man who thought my father was better off living under state-sponsored terrorism. The next we find her arguing that history's greatest monster is one Melissa Harris-Perry.
Giving voice to an underrepresented section of American society, black women, Melissa Harris-Perry provides a space for interested parties to sharpen their intellectual swords and parse policy that affects not only people of color, but the whole of the 47 percent Romney and his team aren't so fond of. Romney, The Atlantic asserts, represents America's racist underbelly and his former presidential campaign stoked its very fire by referring to social programs like medicare and social security as handouts President Obama was giving away.
Racism is, among other things, the unearned skepticism of one group of humans joined to the unearned sympathy for another. Mitt Romney was born into a state whose policy was white supremacy, whose policy was to heap "gifts" upon people who looked like him, at the expense of people who looked like Barack Obama. Romney's familiarity with white supremacy was not passive and distant but direct and tangible. As a child he lived in a neighborhood which, by the employment of compacts, red-lining, and terrorism, was an exclusive white preserve.
As an adult, Romney worships in a church that as late as 1978 took racism not simply as policy but as the word of God.
Grappling with race, politics, public policy and social justice among other topics, MHP is the first of its kind and the host herself comes from a unique place as the adopted daughter of a bi-racial family.
Specifically in this instance, Harris-Perry is a black woman with a white mother. Through her mother, Harris-Perry has a Mormon ancestry that extends back through generations. This is not a fact recently produced to inoculate her against criticism, but a theme that she returns to regularly (h/t Mediaite):
My American story is both the story of enslaved ancestors, sold on the street corner of Richmond, Virginia, on my father's side, and of a persecuted religious minority in the American West on my mother's side.
Harris-Perry's diverse background gives her a vested place from which to speak, especially in apologizing for her guests' Romney remarks, and that makes her detractors like Ann Coulter, who called her MSNBC's "token," sound even more foolish. Not to mention, there are a number of black reporters and pundits on MSNBC, from Tamron Hall to Al Sharpton. But a pithy, ignorant quip is a pity, ignorant quip, ain't it Annie?
When I initially read the Atlantic piece, it crossed my mind that MSNBC's management might actually be considering canceling one of my favorite smart shows. But I know that would be kowtowing to all of this foolish bullying, which would be the real shame and tragedy in all of this.
image via Youtube