The cable television battle rages on, as Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly continue to trade nasty race-based attacks with MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton, who was ably assisted over the weekend by host Melissa Harris-Perry and professor Michael Eric Dyson.
The battles began in the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal and the widespread outrage that followed – particularly in the black community—and the unwillingness of many white commentators to accept the anger, pointing continually to a need for folks to a”accept the verdict.”
After President Obama weighed in, giving an impromptu speech on race and memorably saying, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” the right-wing hate parade went ballistic.
O’Reilly continued the assault last night, calling on “civil rights folks to stop maligning the country and face up to a huge problem that is directly harming millions, primarily, in the African-American community.”
O’Reilly continued to blame these problems mainly on the collapse of the black family unit, repeating that the civil rights leaders ignore it, along with an entertainment industry that embraces “gangsta culture.”
O’Reilly again went after Sharpton, who he said “attacked the messenger, implying that I am a racist.” In response to Sharpton airing O’Reilly’s infamous admission that when he had lunch at Sylvia’s restaurant with Sharpton in 2007, the black people acted just like they did at white restaurants, O’Reilly accused him of taking it out of context.
He said Sharpton and other TV pundits are “attacking me because I am a threat to them.”
“The day of the race hustlers is coming to an end,” O’Reilly said, adding that people like Sharpton aren’t interested in solving the real problems of the black community, leaving it to “honest, courageous people” like CNN host Don Lemon, who took his own shots at African-Americans.
On his own show, Sharpton was practically giddy over the announcement by Cumulus Media, the second-largest radio broadcaster in the country, that it will be dropping Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations by the end of the year.
Sharpton proceeded to air some of Limbaugh and Hannity’s “greatest hits,” and to wonder how this potential shake-up in the radio lineup could affect Obama’s vision for the country.
“It’s the talk that pollutes the political conversation and undermines the president’s agenda, but the president might be closer to winning the fight for ideas in this country,” he said.
Reminding viewers of particularly controversial statements both conservative hosts have made, he noted that those type of remarks made their way into the halls of Congress and asked, “What would a radio shake-up mean for the president’s vision?”
Harris-Perry brought Dyson onto her weekend show to blast O’Reilly.
“There is one high-profile white man who is willing to talk about race,” Harris-Perry said, airing the O’Reilly clip where he talks about “gangsta culture.”
“Why is it that when we say we want to have a conversation on race, you want to have a conversation on blackness?” Dyson said in reaction to the clip. “You don’t want to have a conversation on white privilege, on conscious bias. You don’t want to talk about the collective world we’ve made, black, brown, red, yellow and white people. You want to lecture black people.”
Dyson said O’Reilly could not understand the issues facing black people because he is too far removed from the community, citing O’Reilly’s comments about his Sylvia’s lunch with Sharpton.
“So, Mr. O’Reilly, I’d love to have that conversation about protecting yourself behind white picket fences and Fox News and having digital courage,” Dyson said issuing a challenge. “Come in the streets where you went to Sylvia’s and you were surprised that black people don’t throw bananas at each other or swing from trees.”
Michael Hardy, attorney for Sharpton’s National Action Network and one of Sharpton’s closest friends, went on Hannity’s Fox News show to explain that people like Sharpton “felt that you and others sort of tried to change the script” on the race conversation by talking about black-on-black crime in Chicago and other issues. While acknowledging its importance, Hardy said “it’s not necessarily the same discussion as having the discussion about exactly the effect of Trayvon Martin” on the national discourse.
But Hannity wanted an apology from Sharpton for Earl Ofari Hutchinson calling him a racial “assassin” on Sharpton’s radio show.
When Hardy argued that it wasn’t Sharpton who said it, Hannity insisted, “It was on his show! He knows better than that, and I deserve an apology!”
“If Reverend Sharpton got an apology for everyone who’s been a guest on your show–said something outrageous about him–you guys would be apologizing to each other every day!” Hardy said.
On his show, O’Reilly has even accused Sharpton of hypocritically being “in business with people who put out entertainment harmful to children,” because rapper Lil Wayne’s company, Cash Money Content, is distributing Sharpton’s upcoming political memoir, “The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership.”