Last night, as the results of Republican and Democratic party primaries in several states rolled in, the normally calm and thoughtful tenor of 24-hour cable news was interrupted by a fight.
Van Jones, activist and CNN commentator, and Jeffrey Lord, former Reagan administration official and current Trump fan, got into it over Donald Trump's stance on the Ku Klux Klan:
The fight began after Lord took issue with S.E. Cupp, also in attendance, saying GOP frontrunner Donald Trump had "tried to otherize" other candidates in the race, interrupting her to say "that's liberal speak," and going on to bring up Trump's recent failure to speedily disavow the support of David Duke and the KKK (Lord refers to this as "what he said about the KKK.")
Lord talked about the GOP establishment and their view of civil rights briefly, before Jones interjected to note that Trump has said and done "horribly offensive" things both in the current presidential race and in the decades before. Jones said, along the way, "when he is playing funny with the Klan, that is not cool."
Lord in turn, declared that the Klan is "a leftist terrorist organization," declaring that statement "important history." (Lord is wrong.) He also referred to the KKK as having been "the military arm of the Democratic party," which would be loosely true if we were living more than 100 years ago, when the Democratic party was, to put it gently, slightly different.
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That leads into this exchange:
Lord: This whole attitude of dividing by race is still here, and this is how Democrats do the deal.
Jones: I don't care how they voted 50 years ago, I care about who they've killed.
Lord: I care about American history, it counts.
And then, this one :
Lord: What you’re doing here is dividing people. We’re all Americans here, Van. You are dividing people. This is what liberals do. You are dividing people by race. This is what liberalism is all about. You have to divide by race.
Jones: The Klan divided people by race! The Klan killed people by race.
Lord: And they did it to further the progressive agenda!
Jones rightly calls Lord's position absurd.
But this is Jeffrey Lord's stock-in-trade. Since leaving his job as an aide to Jack Kemp in the first Bush Administration, Lord has trafficked as political strategist and "journalist," largely for conservative outlets. He's been particularly prolific over the past few years, comparing President Obama to Mao Zedong, asking Democrats to apologize for slavery, and most recently backing Donald Trump to the hilt.
Despite his self-proclaimed respect for history, his entire schtick is twisting it into sophistic knots. What's more, CNN loves his schtick. He told CNN commentator Ana Navarro she wasn't Latina, but "American" on air and over her objections—but they brought him back. He invoked someone else calling Obama a "magical negro" to defend Rupert Murdoch—and they brought him back. There is always a thinly veiled excuse, and Lord continues to return.
CNN's own Dylan Byers wrote about the Jones-Lord fight late last night, saying, "If the racial tension underlying the 2016 presidential race could be distilled into a single cable news moment, this was it." That may be so, but it's a tension CNN never ceases to capitalize on. If there's any doubt about that, the channel was promoting "Round 2" this morning:
I've asked CNN if they have any comment on the confrontation, and I'll update this post if they get back to me.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org