News & Politics

CNN Anchor Seems to Think the Word 'Infested' Is Racist When Trump Says It

CNN Anchor Seems to Think the Word 'Infested' Is Racist When Trump Says It
YouTube screenshot of CNN's Victor Blackwell.

On Saturday morning, CNN anchor Victor Blackwell broke into tears responding to President Donald Trump’s tweets against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Blackwell personally took offense at the president’s tweets and suggested that Trump’s use of the term “infested” is racist.

“Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He’s insulted thousands of people — many different types of people,” Blackwell said. “But when he tweets about infestation, it’s about black and brown people.”

To “prove” this point, the CNN anchor cited a few tweets. He cited the notorious attack against “the Squad,” in which Trump told Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” This was a false characterization of AOC, Pressley, and Tlaib — all born in the U.S. — but Somalia, Omar’s birth country, is indeed “totally broken and crime infested,” and that has nothing to do with the fact that most Somalis are black.

In one particularly weak attack, Blackwell suggested that the phrase “Ebola infested areas of Africa” was racist because Trump used the word “infested.” Blackwell also pointed to tweets in which Trump described Rep. John Lewis (R-Ga.)’s congressional district as “crime infested.”

As for the attack on Cummings, which began the whole affair, Trump was responding to the congressman’s suggestion that Border Patrol actions involve “government-sponsored child abuse,” since Border Patrol does not deport children with their parents.

In response, Trump called Cummings a “brutal bully,” denouncing him for attacking “conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA.”

The president went on to describe Cummings’ district as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.” He also claimed, “No human being would want to live there,” and asked why “so much money” is sent to this district “when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.”

Naturally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denounced the “racist attacks” against Cummings. Sen. Chris Van Holland (D-Md.) slammed the president as a “racist bully.”

After suggesting Trump’s use of the word “infested” is racist, Blackwell went on to choke up, talking about his own personal history.

“The president says about Congressman Cummings’s district,” he said, breaking up into a long pause, “that no human would want to live there.”

“You know who did, Mr. President? I did. From the day I was brought home from the hospital, to the day I left for college. And a lot of people I care about still do,” Blackwell added.

“There are still challenges, no doubt. But people are proud of their community. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there, they care for their families, they love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag, just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans, too,” he concluded.

Trump’s hyperbole is legendary and his statement that “no human being would want to live there” went too far, but Cummings’ district is indeed chock full of problems, and deflecting real criticism to brand Trump racist does real harm.

“West Baltimore’s violent crime rate is approximately 3,500 per 100k people. The national violent crime rate is 394 per 100k. It’s one of the most violent places in one of the country’s most violent and dangerous cities,” Bearing Arms editor Cam Edwards tweeted.

Baltimore commentator Kimberley Klacik shared a video from the area.

“It is so sad to see [Victor Blackwell] & [CNN] turn the light currently shining on [West Baltimore] into a race issue. This could result in a positive change. [Rep. Cummings] could help get his district in order. Listen to one of his constituents explain the ‘rats & rodents’ problem,” Klacik tweeted.

“I grew up in Baltimore and went to law school in Baltimore… watching people try to say West Baltimore isn’t one of the most violent, run down places in America is a joke. Trump is telling the truth. If you don’t believe him, go there and stroll around for a bit,” political comedian Tim Young tweeted.

To sum up: Cummings started the spat by accusing Border Patrol of “government-sponsored child abuse.” The president escalated in true Trumpian fashion by attacking Cummings for not helping his rodent-infested district while posturing on other issues. Then CNN interpreted that repost as racist, zeroing in on the word “infested” as if it were a dogwhistle.

Trump’s hyperbole is beneath the office of the president, and he does represent all of America including Baltimore, so attacking this area in this way is questionable. But everyone knows what he is doing — shooting down Democrat criticism in his usual way. CNN’s insistence that the word “infested” — when used to describe an area infested with rodents, Ebola, or crime — is racist and dehumanizing to black people is beyond the pale. Trump was not comparing the black people who suffer from rodents, Ebola, or crime to insects. They are victims of this “infestation.”

This should be clear to all people, but apparently CNN is so desperate to smear Trump as racist that the network is unwilling to consider the truth in Trump’s hyperbole or the basic meaning of his statements. CNN is literally making itself stupider in order to prop up the “Trump is racist” trope.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.