Black reporter attempts to prove he can be just as crazy stupid as Michael Richards; Kyra Phillips demonstrates why the Late Show may be a better source of news than CNN

November 21st, 2006 → 4:48 pm @

Earlier this afternoon, CNN’s Kyra Phillips spoke with comedian Paul Mooney and Chicago Defender editor Roland Martin about Michael “Kramer” Richards’s insane, racist rant and subsequent apology on last night’s Letterman show.

This was one of the very few times I didn’t have a pen and notebook on me — I was at the gym, which is the only reason I was watching CNN in the middle of the afternoon — so I don’t have the exact phrasing here (there should be a transcript posted on CNN’s site soon), but Roland Martin did nothing so much as demonstrate that people can make incredibly stupid comments even when they’re not having a nervous breakdown on stage (or getting pulled over for drunk driving). Apparently riffing off of Richards’s on-stage explosion, which began, “50 years ago we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork in your ass,” Martin said, “50 years ago he would have been in an oven in Germany.”

Impressive — Martin managed to be both as ridiculously offensive and as poorly informed as Richards: the Germans surrendered in May 1945, which is actually more than 60 years ago; what’s more, Richards, according to Paul Mooney (and the Interweb) is not Jewish (or a gay Gypsy). (* – see correction below.) (To be fair to Martin, the hook nose and frizzy hair would confuse anyone.)

This kind of inanity doesn’t appear to be totally new ground for Martin. In February, the paper he edits ran a piece headlined “Farrakhan: Neocons, Zionists making America weak.” According to the story, at a recent public appearance Farrakhan “read from a verse from the Bible that refers to false Jews” as a way of “challenging those who refer to him as anti-Semitic.” The story did not have any opposing viewpoints — no quotes from Jewish leaders, no one pointing out that perhaps it’s not the “neoconservatives and Zionists” who have manipulated Bush “into actions that are bringing about the fall of America.” A few days before that piece ran, Farrakhan was included in the Defender‘s list of African Americans [who] have contributed mightily to American history. Needless to say, none of Farrakhan’s more colorful quotes — say, “The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road” — were included in the blurb highlighting Farrakhan’s achievements.

The rest of the segment wasn’t quite as offensive, but it did bring to mind Jon Stewart’s “stop stop stop hurting America” speech on CNN’s Crossfire. After the guests agreed that Letterman was not the proper forum for Richards to have made his apology, Phillips played the whole segment as if it was set to a laugh track. (Mooney, who didn’t get through a single question without cracking a one-liner, didn’t help matters.) And at the end of the segment, she playfully pointed out that Martin referred to her as “white chocolate”…which prompted Mooney to respond, “Oh, you’re that white black woman?” (Your guess is as good as mine as to what, exactly, that’s supposed to mean.) Richards’s appearance on Letterman was squirmingly uncomfortable — both Letterman and scheduled guest Jerry Seinfeld more or less just let Richards talk, and the audience’s laughing reaction was a pitch-perfect illustration of the discomfort so much of the country feels when discussing race — and Phillips et al did nothing so much as demonstrate why, if Richards had wanted a much gentler forum, he would have been well-served by showing up on Phillips’s show.

* A Defender article on the Richards contretemps reports that Richards’ spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, said that Richards is, indeed, Jewish.

Post Categories: CNN & David Letterman & Kyra Phillips & Louis Farrakhan & Michael Richards & Racism and anti-Semitism & TV News