Is Charles Krauthammer the first right-wing pundit to declare, unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter?
Maybe not. However, it was extraordinary to see the veteran Washington Post columnist push back against Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly’s relentless demonization of these civil rights activists on July 18. Considering Krauthammer’s decades of demagoguery (remember, this is the guy who claimed that critics of the 43rd President suffered from “Bush Derangement Syndrome” in 2003), it was jarring to witness Krauthammer debunk O’Reilly’s smears of BLM.
I have to admit that when I first saw the footage of Krauthammer objecting to O’Reilly’s suggestion that BLM tacitly supports the slaughter of law enforcement officials by self-styled vigilantes, I assumed he was just trying to ensure that he still had a seat at the Fox News table in the event Lachlan and James Murdoch of 21st Century Fox try to steer a post-Roger Ailes channel in a less wingnutty direction. Krauthammer is no fool, and he’s certainly not going to screw himself out of a sinecure.
Then I watched the footage a second time, and I saw something different in his demeanor. This wasn’t an act or a put-on, I concluded. Krauthammer seemed legitimately concerned about the implications of O’Reilly’s invective.
Perhaps Krauthammer was moved by the words of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who recently described, in harrowing detail, just how hard it is to win when society scorns the shade of your skin. Presumably, Krauthammer would have dismissed as “victimization” claims of racial profiling coming from the mouth of an African-American progressive Democrat, but when an African-American conservative Republican testifies to tough treatment, he simply cannot wave it away.
Or, perhaps, Krauthammer was motivated by an even larger concern. He knows that America is on the edge, and close to going over it. Even if he denies the reality of white privilege, he cannot deny the reality of white resentment. He knows that incendiary words that enter irrational minds can lead to irresponsible actions. He may fear that O’Reilly is using excessive rhetorical force on BLM–the same excessive rhetorical force he once used on George Tiller.
If this is indeed the case–if Krauthammer stood up to O’Reilly because Scott made him face the reality of racism, or because he is concerned that a profoundly disturbed individual may also blame BLM for the deaths of police officers–then Krauthammer deserves as much praise for this act of courage as Gretchen Carlson does for confronting Fox’s culture of chauvinism. He didn’t have to push back against O’Reilly’s outrageousness. He could have nodded his head. Instead, he raised his voice.
Contrast Krauthammer’s relative grace with the racial ghoulishness of fellow Fox firebrand Brit Hume that evening:
To Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the tense relationship between black communities and the police officers who patrol them require as the president said that, quote, “police organizations and departments acknowledge they have a problem.” Is that problem the fact that the black crime rate in America is about triple the national average? Of course not.
Though the president does occasionally mention the disproportionately high arrest rates among African-Americans, he mentions that in support of his view of cops as racist, and not just racist but trigger happy. That’s what he meant when he spoke of things ending, quote, “in tragedy” for well-bred black children who are, quote, “being stupid and not quite doing things the right way,” end quote. He of course was not talking about the nightly black-on-black gun carnage on the streets of Chicago and elsewhere. Mr. Obama almost never talks about that. Given his effectiveness in dealing with that problem, it’s easy to see why.
Hume is the hater who infamously suggested that Tiger Woods change his religious views in the aftermath of the golf great’s sex scandal. One wonders if Hume has ever prayed for the victims of police brutality. Somehow I doubt it.
The demonization of BLM by O’Reilly and his right-wing pundit brethren is among the most repulsive trends in modern politics. I still remember the horror I felt reading about the literal near-death experience of former Boston Celtics player Dee Brown, who was almost shot by police in Wellesley, Massachusetts in September 1990 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. Coming less than a year after the widespread profiling of black men by Boston Police in the weeks following the notorious Charles Stuart case, the Brown story reaffirmed the resilience of racism.
I’ve had my share of disagreements with Krauthammer, but here I must recognize the magnitude of what he did. It’s not easy to tell an emperor he’s naked, and it’s certainly not easy to tell the emperor of cable TV that he’s engaging in naked stereotyping. Krauthammer has earned a modicum of my respect. As for O’Reilly, I’m surprised he didn’t react to Krauthammer’s erudition the same way he reacted to his colleagues years ago on Inside Edition.
UPDATE: More from Media Matters.