On November 8th, the Daily Beast published an article regarding an interview journalist Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast had with Senator Bernie Sanders. In the interview, Resnick and Sanders discussed the 2018 midterm elections. Throughout the interview, Senator Sanders highlighted the mass excitement provided by progressive candidates in contrast to more establishment Democrats. For example, Beto O’Rourke garnered an enormous amount of support and funding completely from small donors like Senator Sanders in his 2016 run for President, and, even though he lost, O’Rourke made a normally solid Republican Senate seat extremely competitive. In comparison, Democratic incumbents such as Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnelly, who legislated and campaigned as being “conservative democrats” that vote for policies such as deregulating the financial industry, all lost their seats.
However, the headline the Daily Beast ran with did not indicate the main theme of the discussion. Instead, the headline read, “Bernie Sanders on Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams: Many Whites Made ‘Uncomfortable’ Voting for Black Candidates.” In the article, Resnick quoted Bernie Sanders as saying:
“I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American, I think next time around, by the way, it will be a lot easier for them to do that”
From the quote, it seems as if Sanders is downplaying racism against candidates Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams in their respective races. Bernie Sanders seems to claim that being uncomfortable with black candidates is not racist. Consequently, several news publications and media figures jumped on the news. The Huffington Post published an article by Antonia Blumberg titled, “Bernie Sanders Says Not All Voters Who Feel ‘Uncomfortable’ With Black Candidates Are Racist” and the New York Daily Magazine published an article titled “Bernie Sanders and the Lies We Tell White Voters” by Zak Cheney-Rice. Rice goes on to use the exact quote from the Daily Beast article and says Sanders did not call out the racism displayed by white voters. As a result, many prominent figures on Twitter such as PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, CNN commentator Keith Boykin, and former DNC chair Donna Brazile, after reading these articles, criticized Senator Sanders.
Unfortunately for those criticizing Sanders, Resnick and The Daily Beast cut out an enormous part of the quote. This is the exchange between Senator Sanders and Resnick verbatim:
“Resnick: How difficult is it to be in that position when you have a midterm campaign led from the administration that is so heavily race-oriented and you know--
Sanders: --why don’t we use the right word, not use the phrase race oriented, why don't we say racist? How about that?
Resnick: Great. How difficult was it then? Is that what ended up with these margins?
Sanders: I think so. I think that, you know, I was involved with the Gillum campaign. I think it was a brilliant campaign. I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word. I think he ran a great campaign. And, he had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning. And, I think, you know, there a lot of white folks out there, who are not necessarily racist, who felt uncomfortable for the first time for the first time in their lives about, you know, whether or not they wanted to vote for an African American. I think next time around, by the way, it will be a lot easier--uhhhhhh--for them to do that.”
And, after receiving some of the criticism, Sanders’ clarified his remark saying, “There's no question that in Georgia and in Florida racism has reared its ugly head. And you have candidates who ran against Gillum and ran against Stacey Abrams who were racist and were doing everything they could to try to play whites against blacks… And that is an outrage, and we have got to continue doing everything that we can to fight all forms of racism.” Additionally, Sanders wrote on Twitter:
“Let me be absolutely clear: Donald Trump, Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis ran racist campaigns. One ad the Republicans put out was even rejected by Fox television because of its racist content. They used racist rhetoric to divide people and advance agendas that would harm the majority of Americans.
In Florida, Andrew Gillum, whom I was proud to stand with even during the primaries, faced week after week of racism from his opponent and allied forces. That’s just a fact. And in the end, I believe those craven attacks founded in ‘fear of the other’ had an impact on the outcome. Stacey Abrams faced similar attacks, in addition to unprecedented voter suppression. That’s a reality that has to change.
It is our job now to continue to offer an alternative to the hate-filled agenda of Trump and Republican operative. We need to offer a vision that all people, regardless of their race or country of origin, are part of a shared destiny as one people. We have to fight for the soul of our country at this critical moment. Part of that effort is to be honest about what our divisive opponents are trying to accomplish and how it is tearing at the very fabric of our democracy and our common humanity. We’ve got to continue doing everything that we can to fight all forms of racism.”
Bernie Sanders makes it explicitly clear that there were enormous amounts of unacceptable racism in the Republican campaigns against Abrams and Gillum. In fact, he interjects to stop Resnick from using the neutral term “race-oriented” to the objective term “racist” regarding the campaigns against the Democratic candidates. The piece of the quote that many commentators are latching onto reflects Sanders’ belief that there are many voters who can be turned to vote Democratic in future elections that did not this time.
Now, there is a difference between disagreeing with how Sanders’ made his last point and what much of mainstream media did. It is completely fair to have issues with Sanders phrasing; although, the lack of context and claiming Sanders’ doesn’t recognize blatant racism is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Moreover, individuals who have listened to the full interview, such as The Young Turks’ John Iadarola, disagree with Sanders’ phrasing, which he clarified in his statement thereafter. Though, at the same time, not a single article from mainstream publications used any resemblance of the full quote. It is as if the journalists did not listen to the entire interview and instead just read Resnick’s piece in The Daily Beast. Journalists have an obligation to be fully informed on what they write about and in this case they utterly failed at their jobs. Even worse, Resnick’s neglect to include the full quote was direct manipulation as he fully knew that there was a lot of context that was being removed from Sanders’ explanation. In fact, the Daily Beast tweeted its own article with the caption being the misleading quote.
To be fair, the manipulation of Sanders’ message and the blatant smearing of him by the mainstream press is to be expected. Moreover, during Sanders’ 2016 run for the Presidency, the mainstream press consistently wrote hit pieces on the Senator. At one point, the Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on Bernie Sanders in the span of only 16 hours. According to Adam Johnson, journalist for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), in March of 2016, “All of these posts paint his candidacy in a negative light, mainly by advancing the narrative that he’s a clueless white man incapable of winning over people of color or speaking to women.” Similarly, the Daily Beast twisted Bernie Sanders’ message to highlight the claim that he doesn’t represent African Americans. The irony of that message is that Senator Sanders has one of the strongest records regarding civil rights among any national figure, having marched with MLK in the 1960s, and, in solidarity, chained himself with African American women to protest the implementation of racist “Willis Wagons” in Chicago schools. Consequently, he was beaten and arrested. Additionally, Sanders, both in his 2016 campaign and today, has been helping lead the effort for criminal justice reform and the end of mass incarceration, which disproportionately affect African Americans. However, those facts don’t either draw much attention or agree with the establishment hatred for Bernie Sanders. More people will visit an article with a controversial headline rather than one with the often more bland truth. And, if the title and article content is negative towards Sanders the better because he threatens the status quo. In a speech to the National Press Club, Cenk Uygur, CEO of The Young Turks, explained, “They do not want to rock the boat. It is their boat. If you are a multibillion dollar corporation, you do not want change.” Sanders seeks to lessen the massive income inequality in the United States and hold large corporations accountable to not exploiting the American people and paying their fair share of taxes. To the corporate media, Sanders is a threat to earning as much profit as possible. As a result, media executives and owners take actions such as firing MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz for covering Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign when MSNBC President told him not to. Usually, the bias of the media does not manifest in such extreme ways. Cenk Uygur told the NPC, “It is not as if they give a memo to Wolf Blitzer [CNN anchor]--although MSNBC literally literally told me my nonestablishment thinking is not welcome [Uygur was an anchor for MSNBC from 2010-2011]. But that is unusual. Usually, it is in the hiring decisions. When is the last time CNN hired a radical?” The individuals that are chosen to write for mainstream media publications or be an anchor on major outlets are people who will not express views or report on issues that, for the most part, their corporate bosses do not want written or discussed. For example, when Uygur was an anchor for MSNBC, he drew great ratings during his 6:00 PM time slot; however, they tried to move him to a much less popular time slot in order to suppress the viewing of his critical coverage of the political establishment.
Many of those harping on Sanders comment have a history of unfairly criticizing and opposing Sanders in order to aid the establishment candidate in the 2016 Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton. Journalist Yamiche Alcindor, who recently criticized Sanders, also had a tense exchange with him in June of 2016 when she asked him, “What do you say to women who say that you staying in the race is sexist because it’s getting in the way of what could be the first female president?” Sanders checked to see if Alcindor was being serious and when she said she was, he responded by saying, “Your question implies that any woman … who is running for president is by definition the best candidate — so any woman who runs… So if Hillary Clinton runs for president, is your point that it is sexist for any man to oppose her?” While Alcindor responded by saying that Clinton was in the lead in the race, she clearly was inferring that in order to shame Sanders. She demeaned actually sexism by using that very pervasive issue as a crutch in order to smear the Senator. Furthermore, her question was not rooted in policy, Sanders’ record, or any relevant topic to the election.
The attacks on Bernie Sanders that without proper justification include allegations of not defending African Americans and sexism were rampant during his run for President in 2016. And, as the midterms are over and Sanders may be running for President in 2020, the smearing has resurfaced and will, without a doubt, return in full swing if Sanders decides to throw his hat in the Presidential race.