Sean Hannity knew exactly whom to blame. When two police officers were shot last week during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, talk radio host Hannity went right after the usual suspects: Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and the protesters themselves.
How, Hannity wondered, could Ferguson residents be protesting when a Justice Department report cleared Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of wrongdoing in the shooting of Michael Brown, whose death last August sparked ugly protests? Outside agitators like the president must be to blame.
Wilson does appear to be an innocent victim in this case. Racism claims many victims, not all of them black.
But in the two hours I listened to Hannity’s radio program last Thursday, I never once heard him suggest that racial unrest in Ferguson may have been the result of the Ferguson Police Department’s own actions.
In a separate report, the Justice Department laid out a grim history. The report gives dozens of examples and pages of depressing statistics that make a compelling case that Ferguson police relentlessly targeted black residents. Maybe those cops aren’t racists, but if actions matter more than thoughts, then they might as well be.
The report found that in December, for example, in a city with a population of about 21,000, more than 16,000 people had outstanding municipal court arrest warrants against them. In emails, police officials described the totals as “staggering.”
During a six-month period last year, 256 people were booked into the Ferguson City Jail after being arrested for an outstanding warrant, mostly because they missed court appearances or failed to pay a fine for a routine traffic violation. Ninety-six percent of them were black.
From 2012 to 2014, black residents were more than twice as likely to have their vehicles searched during a traffic stop, but they were 26 percent less likely to be found with contraband. Of citizens who had police force used against them from 2010 to August 2014, 88 percent were black.
Then, of course, there were the blatantly racist emails sent on government accounts during work hours. Perhaps the least offensive of those cited in the report was one that depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.
“Until the 1960s,” the report says, “Ferguson was a ‘sundown town’ where African Americans were banned from the City after dark. The City would block off the main road from Kinloch, which was a poor, all-black suburb, ‘with a chain and construction materials but kept a second road open during the day so housekeepers and nannies could get from Kinloch to jobs in Ferguson.’”
Should it be any surprise that race problems persist in Ferguson today?
But not in the world of Sean Hannity. To him, racism is something that black people do to white people.
If there has ever been a racially volatile case in which Hannity did not take the side of the white person involved, I have not found it. Even uncloseted racists like Cliven Bundy and Ted Nugent, who once called Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” won Hannity’s support until it become too embarrassing to continue.
Why? Hannity claims to be a conservative, and conservative politicians regularly appear on his show. But there is nothing conservative about defending government oppression.
Could it be that Hannity is a racist? I’m sure he doesn’t think so. So volatile has the charge of racism become that few people will admit, even to themselves, that they are racists.
No doubt even the University of Oklahoma students who were expelled last week for shouting racist doggerel believe they are not racists. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said recently, “I do not believe that the president loves America” because Obama was not brought up like you and me, denies he is a racist. How could he be? After all, Obama’s mother was white.
Depressingly, on the day that Giuliani was on the Hannity radio show defending his comments, what he said about the president may have been the nicest thing said about him all day. From the talk show hosts came yet another endless day in the six-year battle to brand Obama as a liar, a socialist, an America hater, a pro-terrorist ideologue, a dictator and a stooge.
I was born during the Truman administration, and I can’t remember a president who took such a public beating from day one, even before he moved into the Oval Office.
As recently as last year, 28 percent of Republicans said they were sure that Obama was not born in the United States. He has had a congressman call him a liar for saying something true during a State of the Union address. The Senate has filibustered legislation, including delays of noncontroversial but critical appointments, at rates unprecedented in American history.
Leaders of foreign nations, more popular here than in their own countries, have been invited before Congress to attack Obama’s foreign policy without bothering to inform the president.
Now 47 U.S. senators, including our own pale flower, Sen. Steve Daines, have sent a letter to a foreign government aimed at disrupting delicate negotiations involving our strongest allies and our most threatening foe. The letter was not only disrespectful of a president who wasn’t brought up like the senators were, it was downright stupid, pushing us ever closer to a war that we don’t want or need.
The infamous 47 earned bipartisan contempt. Leslie H. Gelb said they hate Obama more than they love America. The New York Daily News branded them with a one-word headline: “Traitors.”
Are they racists? Surely not. But they might as well be.