CNN, a nominally respectable cable news network, invited an honest-to-god neo-Nazi on air today to represent those who think racism is good, actually, as part of a discussion about the president’s most recent racist meltdown. This is truly baffling, and it gets even worse when you see the actual segment.
On Jake Tapper’s show “The Lead,” CNN reporter Sara Sidner covered the reaction of white nationalists to President Trump’s racism against the congresswomen known as “the Squad.”
First, the network played an interview with Joanna Mendelson, a senior investigative reporter from the Anti-Defamation League, who warned about the dangers of normalizing white supremacist rhetoric like President Trump’s recent tweets.
“Essentially, it normalizes hate and it makes it acceptable,” Mendelson told CNN of the tweets.
Then, without missing a beat, CNN cut to a response from out-and-out white supremacist Richard Spencer, a man who has called for so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and was a key instigator of the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally where activist Heather Heyer was murdered. Incidentally, he’s also been accused of brutal domestic violence.
CNN’s hook? Spencer is actually sick of Trump’s “all talk and no action” white nationalism!
“He gives us nothing outside of racist tweets,” Spencer told CNN. “And by racist tweets, I mean tweets that are meaningless and cheap and express the kind of sentiments you might hear from your drunk uncle while he’s watching [Sean] Hannity.”
The credulity given to Spencer by CNN here, and the lack of context with which his comments are presented, is totally mind-boggling. Spencer wants a new Holocaust (a supposedly “peaceful” one) that would drive all non-white people out of the U.S. and create a white ethnostate in its place. Of course he doesn’t think Trump is going far enough by simply telling a few congresswomen to “go back” where they came from!
“The CNN anchors didn’t understand that Spencer was trying to position Trump as a moderate and to mock other white supremacists who supported Trump,” said Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Project at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, told The Daily Beast. “Spencer was saying that Trump was performing racism on Twitter, but that his policies do not go far enough to be considered support for white supremacists goals.”
The only person who could pretend that Trump isn’t enacting hideously racist policies is a hardcore Nazi like Spencer. Trump has separated thousands of migrant children from their parents and stuck them in horrific concentration camps. He’s promised mass deportations, and banned people from many Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. He is, by any reasonable measure, a racist.
“Spencer will turn this into a new wave of attention within his own media ecosystem, where CNN has now just legitimated a litany of white supremacists, many of who were relegated to online obscurity,” Donovan told The Daily Beast.
As The Daily Beast points out, Spencer has already posted the clip on Twitter, where it has received over one hundred retweets.
CNN hasn’t formally responded to the backlash to their segment yet (Splinter has reached out to the network for comment and will update if we get a response). But Tapper did attempt to defend it on Twitter, where Splinter writer Libby Watson called out the network’s stupidity.
Spencer has claimed that he’s not a Nazi, that he isn’t calling for violence, and that his beliefs are not extreme. But all of those claims are demonstrably false. If media is going to be responsible, it can not simply take these people at their word and let them spew their garbage to an audience of millions. Do some fucking reporting before allowing extremists a platform! That’s supposed to be your job, isn’t it?