In this seemingly endless presidential campaign, parsed through the drama and hyperbole of media, it is a rare and welcome occasion when reason and honesty eclipse tantrums and untruths. It is particularly rare when pundits buck the popular trend and speak truth to corporate power. Such an occasion, or mitzvah as some might say, occurred on March 20th (2008) on CNN, when veteran political analyst David Gergen, renowned reporter and author Carl Bernstein, and CNN commentator Roland Martin, shredded the race card and taught a lesson in truth to neophyte Anderson Cooper.
For the past several days, Anderson Cooper, an unseasoned political observer, has been pushing the race card as far as possible on all things Barack Obama. It's not that Cooper is any worse at assailing Obama than his counterparts at Fox, MSNBC and conservative talk radio. It's just that Cooper as a political anchor, is sorely unskilled. He's fine traversing the planet, reporting from rugged terrain. He loves pitting himself against nature -- be it a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or drought. He's terrific in stories on wildlife, and daring in the throes of war. But a savvy political anchor he is not. Nor is he a host much concerned with the ramifications of his remarks. Sadly, CNN in this election cycle, is nearly as treacherous as Fox. But on one brilliant evening in March, three media pundits put Cooper in his place by refusing to derail Barack Obama.
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Here's how it happened:
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On his March 20th "A.C. 360" show on CNN, Anderson Cooper was reporting on Barack Obama's depiction of his grandmother as a "typical white woman." Behind Cooper in the background was a huge image of Obama (see video above) with a prominent graphic that read, "New Race Problem." Cooper played the video of Obama explaining his grandmother's concerns and similar cross-cultural fears existing in America for years.
As stated by Obama:
"Some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were responses that I know many people feel. She's [my grandmother's] not extraordinary in that regard... Good people, people who are not in any way racist are still subject to some of these images and stereotypes."
Anderson Cooper's inflammatory response:
"Well, those [Obama's] comments touched off another uproar on the blogs and on some cable commentators who accused him [Obama] of calling all white people racists."
"CALLING ALL WHITE PEOPLE RACISTS"?! How can Cooper imply this from Obama's explanation? Realistically he cannot. But what he can do, and did do, is use the hyperbole of others to divert the furor from himself. The fact is, real journalists don't report hyperbole. Real journalists report fact. Cooper isn't a journalist. He's an adventurer with a prime time slot - and he got caught. Cooper could have easily taken the high road and accepted the cogent explanation by Obama. Instead Cooper dove head first into the gutter and exploited Obama in tabloid terms. As a result, "host" Anderson Cooper was instantly repudiated by seasoned political analyst and CNN Senior Correspondent, David Gergen, who was guesting on Cooper's show. Gergen responded with:
"Anderson, I have to tell after listening to all this and what he [Obama] further said, I sort of think YOU OUGHT TO GET A GRIP ON REALITY HERE. I mean, he's [Obama's] RIGHT about the fact that certain people have stereotypes in their heads!"
Thank you, David Gergen! What a breath of fresh air! What a remarkable moment when a corporate media pundit FINALLY tells the truth. David Gergen, the adult in the room, refused Cooper's race bait and set the record straight. With corporate media seemingly hell bent on derailing Obama, the importance of Gergen's candor cannot be overlooked. But it didn't stop there. It got even better!! After David Gergen's statement, Cooper turned to renowned journalist Carl Bernstein, a new contributor to CNN. Just like Gergen, Bernstein embraced the veracity of Obama's explanation and echoed Gergen and Obama's contention that stereotypes exist. Bernstein went on to tell Cooper that a higher standard for journalism was in order. Like Gergen, Bernstein deflected the race card and instead spoke the truth. As Bernstein stated:
"The race genie is out of the bottle and Obama has called for an elevated conversation about race - and what we are seeing here is the bottom of the barrel conversation - a talk show nation hysteria... As long as we keep pulling these threads out, we're not going to have any kind of meaningful debate in this campaign. And David's absolutely right. He [Obama] spoke a truth! ... "
Throughout Bernstein's criticism of the nit-picking surrounding Obama, Cooper appeared embarrassed. Looking perplexed (as always), Cooper turned to CNN commentator, Roland Martin, who was also on the show. Cooper, clearly uncomfortable, remarked to Martin:
"It's interesting, you know Roland, that these are not the kinds of conversation that television or radio programs... in this heightened atmosphere does very well. It's a difficult conversation to have and it's a very nuanced conversation to have in a political environment which is all about sound bytes and people yelling on television."
To which Roland Martin responded:
"But we don't have to do what they do. We can call for something different... "
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Cooper was completely shut down!
Thank you David Gergen and Carl Bernstein, with support from Roland Martin. You did as Barack Obama suggested and elevated the discussion. Rather than lowering the discourse to the race baiting and mischaracterization that Anderson Cooper wanted, you provided a rare opportunity for truth. Thanks to all three of you. Hopefully Anderson Cooper, the not ready for prime time host, will follow your lead. "A.C. 360" has a segment called "Keeping Them Honest." Perhaps Mr. Cooper will apply that standard to himself!
Linda Milazzo was a Managing Editor of Opednews until Fall 2014, and a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time between the entertainment industry, government organizations, community development (more...)