Cheat and Retreat: The (Hashtag) Apology as Performance Art
As with Martin Bashir's infamous scripted segment last month, in which a producer and teleprompter operator at the very minimum knew in advance that Bashir was planning to issue on-air scatological threats to former Republican Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, an MSNBC anchor got caught in another pre-planned segment involving a high-ranking former GOP official. This time around it was Melissa Harris-Perry leading a panel goofing on Mitt Romney's black grandson, as Tim Graham notes at NewsBusters:
MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry lined up a panel of alleged comedians to mock the Christmas picture Mitt Romney posted on Twitter. In a segment with the on-screen question "What's So Funny About 2013?" Harris-Perry announced: “This is the Romney family. And, of course, there on Governor Romney’s knee is his adopted grandson, who is an African-American, an adopted African-American child, Kieran Romney.”
To which comedian and actress Pia Glenn sang the old Sesame Street ditty “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same … “And that little baby, front and center, would be the one.” Laughter ensued. The black website NewsOne reports Glenn issued sincere apologies on Twitter for her insensitivity to transracial adoptions.
Harris-Perry issued a public apology today to the Romney family. Perhaps she feared that she was about to join former MSNBC anchors Bashir and Alec Baldwin on the unemployment line. Perhaps it was being attacked yesterday on Twitter by former CNN anchor Roland Martin. (And when you've gone too far attacking a Republican for Rev. Wright acolyte Roland Martin(!), it's definitely time to check your premises.)
Harris-Perry issued her apology not on the network itself where her segment aired, but via Twitter. With hashtags, perhaps with the hope that it would be a trending item on Twitter:
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air ponders the hashtag on her apology and responds, "Perhaps Harris-Perry plans an entire series of apologies. There isn’t much lack of material here":
She could start with the accusation that the term “ObamaCare” is more of a racial slur than pointing out a black baby in a family picture for ridicule, or something. An apology might be in order for her insistence that children belong to communities rather than parents or families. (But not Romney’s grandchild, apparently.) How about Detroit being something that Republicans foisted on America? Or that it “drowned” because Detroit’s government was just too darned small?
Something tells me that #MHPapology has a long and glorious lifespan ahead of it on Twitter. Unless #MSNBCapology eclipses it. But it’s probably not going to convince people who watched the segment, for the reason noted by the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo:
If a show host takes clear joy in saying something offensive w/her guests, it's tough to make an apology sound sincere after shes criticized
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) December 31, 2013
As Ed concludes, "The structure of the apology is sincere, but it still has that whiff of 'sorry I got caught.'" One of Twitchy's writers notes that once again, Harris-Perry "is making herself the victim," and rounds up the reaction on Twitter, which is withering. Perhaps Harris-Perry or her producer will cherry pick the most brutal tweets and air a segment on how mean Republicans are for mocking her apology as performance art -- and thus start the cycle again.
But just to compare NBC then and now:
1978: NBC airs Diff'rent Strokes, a beloved light-hearted sitcom about a wealthy, moderate Park Ave. businessman adopting a pair of Harlem-born African-American sons; show devoted to racial tolerance airs for eight seasons and 1989 episodes.
2013: NBC mocks wealthy Massachusetts businessman and moderate Republican for having an African-American grandson as part of his extended family. Romney and his grandson are both cast in the role of the alien "other."
As Footie Pajamas Boy Ethan Krupp warned his readers when he was editing his college newspaper, "We have no morals, and we will attack you":
“I am a Liberal F***” Krupp wrote in one post. “A Liberal F*** is not a Democrat, but rather someone who combines political data and theory, extreme leftist views and sarcasm to win any argument while make the opponents feel terrible about themselves.
He's far from alone in that department, as MSNBC's latest train wreck illustrates. Are there any grown-ups left at NBC who will talk some sense into Phil Griffin, the president of their subsidiary network -- or do they consider this pattern of behavior acceptable there?
To ask the question is to answer it.
Update: "MSNBC Goofs on Romney's Black Grandson and Then Does the Fake Apology Bit," Ace adds, noting that MSNBC is, "as someone from Politico observed, 'Animal House for lefties'":
[Melissa Harris-Perry] has now kinda-sorta apologized to anyone who was "offended" (how they love that construction).
But while she apologizes for giving "offense," she makes no apologies for her own racism.
And yes, by her own standards, she is a racist. To speak of race cavalierly or flippantly or mockingly is racist, no matter what the context, is racist -- that is the standard she inflicts on others.
But she herself won't accept that standard for herself.
I don't blame her on that part of it. It's an unlivable standard. It is a punitive, vindictive standard which sets people up for failure and then condemnation.
And that is of course why she insists on that standard for others.
Read the whole thing. At Fox News, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown writes that Harris-Perry's Twitter apology "is not enough. MSNBC network executives need to personally apologize to Governor Romney and his family":
Disciplinary action also must be taken against the offending parties, just as it would if the roles were reversed and a conservative had said something similar on a different network.
Perhaps most alarming about this entire incident is the fact that the offending segment happened on Sunday afternoon and went unnoticed until a blogger flagged it Monday morning.
An entire day lapsed without a word from MSNBC, and it was only after that, when the firestorm grew and the pressure increased, that they felt the need to say anything, suggesting this kind of behavior is acceptable and even encouraged.
Unfortunately, this is part of a growing pattern of troubling incidents at the network.
To say the least, as this "highlight" reel of MSNBC's 2013 meltdowns at the Washington Free Beacon illustrates, albeit minus MHP's latest attack.
I'm sure MSNBC considers it all in a day's work as part of their "patriotic duty," though.