Media Coverage of Racial Remarks Varies

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Talk of race relations in America is never simple. Amplified on a public stage by an intense mix of news coverage, speculation and commentary and the topic becomes complicated. Such is the case with the recent racially charged remarks made by a sports team owner, a rancher and a Democratic congressman, which have drawn scrutiny from critics who say that some news organizations could be guilty of a double standard.

In review: Among other things, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling warned a girlfriend not to associate with blacks. Nevada rancher Clive Bundy Nevada rancher suggested "Negroes" may have been "better off as slaves, picking cotton." U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, equated Republican criticism of President Obama with racism, and unapologetically declared that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is "an Uncle Tom."

Mr. Sterling and Mr. Bundy are white, Mr. Thompson is black. Have news organizations offered equal time to all three?

"As of Thursday morning, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows had devoted more than 165 minutes of airtime to the Sterling-racism story, all since Saturday night. In contrast, news that Mr. Thompson had branded Republicans as racist and Justice Thomas as an Uncle Tom had received no coverage from these same broadcasts," said Rich Noyes, research director for the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog that has tracked the content and slant of the coverage since it emerged on press radar.

"If the media really want to play the role of civility cops, they need to patrol both sides of the street. Incendiary language from a sitting member of Congress is at least as newsworthy as offensive private statements from a wealthy white businessman," Mr. Noyes continued.

"Even though Thompson is an elected representative, the news media clearly regard his comments, delivered on a radio program, as less scandalous than those of an NBA owner who was recorded in a private setting." Mr. Noyes said.

Such coverage could affect relations between black and white Americans.

Asked during a CNN interview if the "Uncle Tom" comment was a racial remark, Mr. Thompson himself replied, "For some, it is. For others, it's the truth. …