NBC News seems to be having a difficult time calling white supremacy what it is after the network reportedly directed staffers not to label infamous racist Iowa Rep. Steve King’s latest remarks “racist.”
As HuffPost’s Yashar Ali reported on Tuesday, the NBC News standards department sent the directive in an email to staffers on Tuesday, telling them to “be careful to avoid characterizing [King’s] remarks as racist.” The email, sent by senior standards employee Susan Sullivan, also said it was OK if NBC News stories reported that others were calling King’s comments racist. The network didn’t return HuffPost’s request for comment. (Splinter also reached out for comment and we’ll update this post if we hear back.)
The email was sparked by King’s comments to the New York Times last week, where he asked when words like “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” suddenly became “offensive.”
“It is ok to attribute [labels of racism] to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that,” the email obtained by the site read.
This isn’t the first time NBC has grappled with this particular issue. In the past, the network has leaned on terms like “racially charged” or “racial controversies” to report on racist comments and racist behavior.
Take that along with the fact that any further attempt to parse King’s comments is a disservice to readers. It’s NBC’s transparent attempt to appear “objective” and “nonpartisan,” while deemphasizing the very real consequences of such racist beliefs going unchecked. King’s statements were, and have always been, racist, regardless of how much NBC News wishes to take the edge off this reality for its readers.
Update, 2:27 p.m. ET: Ali reports that NBC has “revised” its guidance on how to characterize King’s comments, now saying it’s “fair” to call the racist comments racist.