Journalistic racism is ok so long as it’s implicit

If you read nothing else today, then read this NYT column by Frank Rich.

He begins with the obsessive attention the US media have paid to Barack Obama’s now-terminated devotion to a screwball black preacher named Jeremiah Wright. Then he draws our attention to this:

i.e. a white (note colour) screwball preacher comparing the Catholic church (the “Whore of Babylon”) to Hitler.

What’s interesting about this? Well,

Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.

Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.

It seems that McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements.

Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”

Mr. Hagee didn’t make that claim in obscure circumstances, either. He broadcast it on one of America’s most widely heard radio programs, “Fresh Air” on NPR, back in September 2006. He reaffirmed it in a radio interview less than two weeks ago. Only after a reporter asked Mr. McCain about this Katrina homily on April 24 did the candidate brand it as “nonsense” and the preacher retract it.

Now, here’s the funny bit. Whereas Obama’s ‘Wright problem’ has been endlessly retailed in the US media, we’ve heard awfully little about McCain’s Hagee Problem.

“Aw well”, you say, “Unlike Wright, Hagee didn’t say that America had brought 9/11 upon itself”, and that’s true. But perhaps Wright was a bit slow off the mark there. After all, two days after the attack, the NYT reported that

The Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson set off a minor explosion of their own when they asserted on television on Thursday that an angry God had allowed the terrorists to succeed in their deadly mission because the United States had become a nation of abortion, homosexuality, secular schools and courts, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

What’s interesting about that? Well,

Had that video re-emerged in the frenzied cable-news rotation, Mr. McCain might have been asked to explain why he no longer calls these preachers “agents of intolerance” and chose to cozy up to Mr. Falwell by speaking at his Liberty University in 2006.

So, here’s the situation. A (black) pastor spouting nonsense is apparently a big problem for a (black) presidential candidate. But white evangelists spouting nonsense are not seen by the US media as posing any kind of problem for a white Republican candidate.

And here’s another interesting fact that is apparently of no interest to the fearless US media. The Republican party “does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington”.

This particular column is one of the best things I’ve read in ages, not least because its savage indignation never spills over into incoherence. It’s beautifully controlled from start to finish.