Watchdog Blog

Saul Friedman: Mainstream Black Columnists and Barack Obama

Posted at 5:32 pm, March 4th, 2008
Saul Friedman Mug

If race is not an issue in this presidential contest (and I believe it is and will be), then how come virtually every mainstream black columnist has been effusively and unabashedly supporting Sen. Barack Obama, and highly critical of and even caustic towards Sen. Hillary Clinton?

Columnists have every right to their views, even if they are one-sided. They are and should be free to give their points of view. But it’s the unanimity that bothers me, for journalism and columnists are supposed to provide a vigorous marketplace of ideas. They’re supposed to be suspicious of the conventional wisdom. And they’re supposed to do some critical reporting along with their commentary. Haven’t we learned anything from the conventional uncritical rush to war by our leading papers, and columnists?

I don’t know every black columnist working these days on papers through the country. And I’m not counting the right-wing black writers like Thomas Sowell, or Armstrong Williams. But I have read many of the mainstream columnists, who are among the finest writers in journalism. And they are almost as one in their praise of Obama and their ridicule of Clinton.

I would expect all these writers to rightly denounce making race an issue. But I wonder if their near unanimity has made an issue of race. The most prominent black columnists who have been wowed by Obama include Eugene Robinson and Colbert King of the Washington Post; Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald; Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times; Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune; Les Payne, Katti Gray Gray [Editor’s note: see a correction regarding Katti Gray at the end of this blog] and Sheryl McCarthy, Newsday, and Cynthia Tucker, editor of the editorial page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which endorsed Obama.

Former NewsHour Media correspondent Terence Smith noted in his blog February 15, that Robinson had posed a two-part question in his Post column that day: “Are the news media being beastly to Hillary Clinton? Are political reporters and commentators…basically in the tank for Barack Obama?” Robinson’s answer was “no and no.” “My view,” said Smith, “yes and yes.”

He continued: “Hillary and her supporters have reason to complain about the tone of their press notices, if not the substance…A barely-suppressed glee often creeps into the commentary when Hillary loses another primary or caucus….By contrast, has the coverage of Obama been overly sympathetic? Have reporters romanticized the junior senator? Of course they have.”

What Smith did not mention, understandably, is that Robinson, who did not respond to my e-mail inquiry about black columnists and Obama, is one of the nation’s best and most influential black columnists, and a leader among Obama’s cheering section. Lately the Post’s Dana Milbank and media maven Howard Kurtz have recognized the unbalanced coverage and have seen it beginning to change, at least in the mainstream press.

Of course, many prominent white columnists, including liberals, have joined in the adulation of Obama and the nasty criticism of whatever Clinton says, how she looks, what she wears. Her most vigorous attackers have included the New York Time duo, Maureen Dowd, who compared Clinton to Dick Cheney, and Frank Rich, who said Sen. John McCain was “channeling” Clinton. But liberal white columnists have not been single-minded.

Newsday’s Sheryl McCarthy acknowledged that virtually every black columnist was supporting Obama, “I see nothing wrong with that,” she wrote me. “For about 140 years blacks have been voting for…white candidates…And now there is finally a viable black candidate who happens to be a very strong candidate. Why on earth wouldn’t they support him?….Aren’t black columnists people, citizens and voters? I can’t tell you why black columnists are largely supporting Obama.” She had supported John Edwards, she said, but switched to Obama because “he seemed to be part of a progressive groundswell and it seemed as if he could actually capture the nomination.”

Eugene Kane of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel acknowledged that he did not know of a single black columnist who wasn’t writing positively about Obama, but saw nothing wrong with that. Nor did he think he was supporting him. After he met Obama at a meeting of black journalists, Kane wrote months later, “Perhaps I did meet the first black president of the United States…last summer.” And the rest of the column was filled with effusive praise and not one critical word. He explained, “For me the excitement over Obama by some black columnists is more about his newsworthiness and less because black columnists are supporting him over someone else.”

There is one black columnist, Bill Maxwell, on the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, who dissents from the effusive coverage of Obama by journalists black and white. And he warned in a March 1 column, “The halo above Barack Obama’s head is dangerous. It is causing a lot of trouble for a lot of people, forcing them into silence…

“Because of the halo effect, too many people are afraid to sincerely criticize Obama for fear of being attacked…Many Anglo Democrats who do not support Obama are keeping their heads down and mouths shut…Most of our acerbic political cartoonists who have no trouble portraying Clinton as a gargoyle have sheathed their rapiers for Obama.”

Maxwell, who has written favorably of Clinton, said, “The attacks against ordinary blacks who do not support the Haloed One are nasty enough, but they pale in comparison with the abuse being absorbed by…members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” including Rep. Charles Rangel, of New York, and Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia, who was pressured to switch from Clinton to Obama.

If Obama is elected, Maxwell concluded, “We will be reluctant to challenge him, fearing that the albatross of racism…will come crashing down on us.”

Correction: I should not have referred to Katti Gray of Newsday as having been wowed by Obama. Her column—the only one in which she mentioned Obama by name—expressed no opinions about the Obama candidacy but instead dealt with the appropriateness of his wearing African garb in a visit to Kenya.

44 Responses to “Mainstream Black Columnists and Barack Obama”

  1. Sphynx says:

    You ask why. Rather than attempt to repute an entire article, I will try to simply answer the question. Why African American (Democratic) journalists seemingly unanimously support Obama? Because he’s not given them reasons not to.

    When this started, almost every non-teenaged white woman I knew was supporting Clinton. However, her negativity, her slander, her constantly switching stance gave reason not to support Clinton.

    Of course they started our with racial-support in mind. Just as many women who support Obama started with a “Nice to have a woman in office” mind-set. But the ‘class’, the ‘style’, the ‘empathy’ of Obama, what’s not to like? What is there that could give them any reason at all to not support him?

    You’re probably right in that it all started as a racial thing. However, it reaches a point where it’s less about racial, and more about something better.

  2. Issac Bailey says:

    I’m one of those mainstream black columnists from a small paper in South Carolina. Maybe the better question is why so many white columnists assume that black people are voting for and black columnists supporting Obama because they share a skin tone. Or maybe why black columnists did not all support Jesse Jackson or Al Shaprton or Alan Keyes or name your black political candidate. These kinds of questions are tired, old. Do you think black columnists sit around a common tea pot and say, yes, we must get behind the black candidate? How is a black columnist’s support for Obama different from a white columnist’s support? Maybe the white columnist actually believes that Obama can bring some of the change he promises or that his position on the war is a stronger one or that he has a solid plan for dealing with the broken criminal justice system — something he helped accomplish a bit in Illinois — or that he is right on healthcare and a myriad of other issues or that it would be a welcome change to see some diversity in our highest office. And maybe the black columnist simply sees his race and doesn’t have the capacity to think beyond that. Also, if you haven’t read any critical questions being asked of Obama by black columnists, then maybe you should get out more. What’s also tired is this notion that anyone is being scared into silence. That’s ridiculous. Political campaigns, and their supporters, put pressure on all sorts of people, primarily because they want their particular candidate to win. That’s nothing new and long-time Bill and Hillary Clinton supporters are under the same strain to support her or else. Only cowards wouldn’t speak up for what they believe is the truth. Don’t blame such cowardice on some blind black conspiracy.

  3. Michael Weston says:

    I hope you used more care in your analysis than you did in calling the Sun-Times’s Mary Mitchell “Mary Maxwell.”

  4. fly on wall says:

    Of course white pundits like, say, Time’s Mark Halperin would NEVER make a race an issue, especially in a column of advice to John McCain. And white journalists would never consider speculating on the assassination of a black presidential candidate, like CBS’ Harry Smith, the New York Times and the Washington Times. And white pundits like Chris Matthews can have a man-crush on John McCain as long as it is NOT, by golly, about race.

  5. Bill O'reily says:

    Wow. Way to give it to him Michael Weston! He made a typo! Now how about some actual commentary that might be useful.

    I think that one of the factors that you may have missed is politics. I feel Obama is the favorite of liberals (anecdotal proof: a bumper sticker poll I did in Berkeley, Calif. 100-1 they were for Obama.)

    Is it possible that the majority of African-American columnists are liberal so they are supporting the person they feel is more liberal?

  6. Owen says:

    American voters cant’ be bothered with policy details (grand or minute). And MSM does not care to delve into the deeper ideological differences between Clinton and Obama (Third Way Centrism vs. Neo-Progressive Populism). It is easier then to reduce the race to a matter of identity politics.

    Or, maybe the fact there are disproportionately fewer black columnists in the MSM dilutes your sample, and your argument is victim to simple coincidence.

    Mr. Friedman, was this column really worth writing? Or are you too bored to write about the deeper truths like your colleagues?

  7. Allen says:

    Are you serious?

    And when white columnists support white candidates, is it just because they think on a higher plane? It has nothing to do with the candidates’ skin color. Only black people could be that shallow.

    Wow, I can’t believe this got play on Poynter. Just, wow.

  8. Allen says:

    Seriously, this cat provided no statistical data on black columnists and who they endorsed. None of these columnists have officially endorsed anyone.

    He just made a random statement of fact based on assumptions.

    Why does that not surprise me?

  9. Mark Gisleson says:

    It’s hard to think of a better response to your manufactured concern other than to say, “how like an Old Jew to ….”

  10. Monroe Anderson says:

    When did it become a matter of race? And how?

    Better yet, let’s call it what it really is–ethnic identity and ethnic pride.

    As a mainstream African-American columnist, I have effusively and unabashedly supported Sen. Barack Obama because, besides his being the only candidate I personally know and believing him to be the best candidate for the job, he’s one of my own.

    If Barack Obama were Jewish, would Jewish columnists be called into question for supporting one of their own? Ditto for a Polish candidate and Polish columnists. Or Mexican.

    African American politicians are the only ones put in a racial trick bag. Their fellow hyphenated American can’t support them without that support being turned into a black and white issue.

    And, of course, that always occurs under the name of colorblindness.

  11. George B. Martin says:

    For the record, Mr. O’Reilly, “Maxwell” instead of “Mitchell” is not a typo. That’s an error. Journalism 101: Get it right.
    Mr. Weston is on solid footing. As for Saul Friedman, where’s the data analysis? And how does the number of white columnists compare to that of black columnists?

  12. lupo says:

    I’m glad to see that the Obama Defense Unit has rushed over here to protect their hero.

    Why am I unsurprised that not a single comment says, ‘could that be true?’ ‘does the tendency among black columinists mirror that of black voters?’ ‘is there a vulnerability in this pattern?’

    No. Friedman is careless, Friedman is lazy, Friedman is stupid, Friedman is corrupt, and–how could we forget–Friedman is an anti-black old Jew.

    Thanks, guys, you’ve once again demonstrated that no skepticism is permitted about Obama, or about his admirers. He, and his admirers, are, one and all, honest, noble, visionary, unbiased and working only for the good the nation, the the good of the world and our future place in Heaven. (Except when they telling anyone who doesn’t agree with them that he’s careless, lazy, stupid, corrupt and racist.)

  13. John says:

    “If Obama is elected, Maxwell concluded, ‘We will be reluctant to challenge him, fearing that the albatross of racism…will come crashing down on us.’”

    Ah, yes, and so you see, it is Obama, and not his opponents or critics, who will cause the albatross of racism (whatever that means) to come crashing down on us (however it is that enormous seabirds come crashing down on us). Obama should drop out now to spare our nation, and this Friedman fellow, such pain.

    In any case, if Mr. Friedman decides a follow-up to this rather tortured piece is in order, he might like to consider that it is African Americans in general, and not simply African-American columnists, who have abandoned Hillary Clinton.

    It’s worth noting, Mr. Friedman–and I encourage you to utilize as many facts and figures as you see fit in future journalistic efforts–that in October of 2007, Clinton led Obama among black voters by 26 points, 57 percent to 33 percent. So, why, just five months later, is Obama now regularly taking 80 to 90 percent of the black vote? Perhaps, as you suggest in your insightful piece of March 4, it truly is some secret brotherhood, or veiled racism. Or it could simply be that blacks–including those who happen to write columns–have been sickened by the racially charged comments of Clinton surrogates, who have recently intimated that Obama might be a drug dealer; engaged in the old shuck-and-jive; had attended a “secular madrassa” (a cousin of the crashing albatross?); was little more than a repackaged Jesse Jackson; and would find it difficult to attract white voters in Pennsylvania.

    Now I’m just supposing here, but could it be that black writers, along with blacks in general, began to question whether Hillary Clinton is, in fact, the candidate most committed to their issues, causes, and well being? I hate to judge a writer by a single column, but your idiotic rantings here seem to indicate that you are doddering fool, sir, and it may be time to simply walk away.

  14. Linda Williams says:

    Saul Friedman’s column is infuriating! The pity is that he seems incapable of understanding the insult that he has hurled at black professionals.
    His analysis applies a racial double standard all too common when white Americans attempt to interpret the actions of black people. He is the one who putting race on the table and it’s a vile move on his part. When blacks are seen doing a certain thing, whites automatically assume that there is a racial motivation, that blacks are just not capable of thinking outside the box of race. At the same time, whites are often in agreement on all manner of issues, yet no one dares raise the question as to whether they have a racial motivation or that there actions is in anyway related to their race.
    Mr.Friedman, what would you say about anyone else who applied such a blatant racial double standard?

  15. bruce says:

    Nice analysis, lupo.

    I’ll bet you’ve got a book draft pending edit. Might I suggest a title? I’m thinking “Constructing Strawman Argument for Dummies”. Guessing there are a few J-Schools that’d put it on their required list.

  16. Edrea Davis says:

    If there is any validity to this theory, tell me, did black people miss the news when Shirley Chilsom, Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton ran for president? Why didn’t they vote en masse for those candidates?

    FYI, some people are voting for Obama because he is a qualified, experienced, and inspiring man that spans beyond race and ethnicity. Obama epitomizes change. MANY people are voting AGAINST the Clinton crew and their old-school scheming. They’ve had their eight years to prove they would do no more than show up and take pictures with black people. African American’s are smarter than you obviously think and have a great memory as well. Most blacks are not fooled by the rhetoric that the 90’s were so grand for us. The recent release of the report on incarceration in America shows what the Clintons did well – increase the prison population. There is also the NAFTA debacle, genocide in Rwanda and the list goes on.

    Black’s are also shrewd enough to recognize that when the subject of the Clinton’s taxes came up, the mud-slinging started. But, still no tax returns. I say, if you can’t manage your own household enough to get your taxes together, you can’t manage the country.

    As for race, it is an issue. The Clinton’s introduced the race card and have played on peoples’ prejudices since their loss in Iowa. So, as a black voter I am not supporting Barack Obama because of his race, but I will always vote against the Clinton’s because of their racist tactics, even if that means casting a vote for McCain.

  17. Jackie Corr says:

    I am a retired white copper miner living in Butte Montana and it is nice to see somebody pointing out how blacks are favored in the media. Just like they are in our poltical system.

    And no better place to look for this favoritism then in our political system. Take the U.S. Senate for example, where millionaire status has almost become a requirement for membership.

    There have been but 5 blacks in the United States Senate since 1789. (Two in the 19th century, 2 in the 20th century and one at present.) In all those years more then 1900 Americans have served in the Senate. (1908 senators is my count)

    Currently blacks are 12.4 percent of the general population or 37.1 million In 1993, Carol Moseley Braun became only the nation’s 4th black senator ever elected and the very first black Democrat ever elected to the United States Senate. Barack Obama is the second Democrat. So you can see how blacks are favored in the Democratic party..

    There have been 35 women in the United States Senate since 1789. At present in the senate there are 16 women, the highest number ever. At least 58 of the senators are millionaires including 11 of the 16 women of which Hillary Clinton is one of the millionaire class.

    Or take the Jewish members and the United States Senate. At present there are 13 Jewish senators but only one black. Jews represent 13% of the Senate for 1.4% of the general population while the single black senator comes from a race that is 12.4 percent of the general population.

    And we can’t forget the Latter Day Saints or Mormons who number 2 percent or about 5 million Americans. At present, five senators are Mormons. And five is the total number of black senators there has been in the 220 years of the United States Senate.

    And the above is a little story I tell when people tell me how blacks are favored in America
    outside of the prison system. The hard facts and the hard numbers tell a different story and a sad one it is.

  18. Saul Friedman says:

    My deepest apologies to Mary Mitchell; a foolish mistake.

    I thought I made it clear; whites supported white candidates when that was all there was, although some voted for Jesse Jackson and Shirkey Chisholm. but we’re talking about editorial columnists, not voters. Columnists have a responsibility as critics. While white (and women) columnists are all over the place, as columnists are supposed to be, not so the black columnists. I did not do a scientific sampling; I simply asked if any mainstream black columnist was not supporting or partial to Obama. They said no. And Mr. Maxwell was the only exception. It was not the support that struck me as unusual, but the unanimity and the effusiveness of their support. What if Hillary should win the nomination?

  19. Salim Muwakkil says:

    I agree with Bill Maxwell that the halo over Obama’s head discourages some black commentators from serious critique. That’s understandable; he’s a charismatic, progressive candidate. And in a society historically dedicated to white supremacy, it’s no mystery why African-American columnists would enthusiastically support a viable black presidential candidate. Mr. Corr reminds us of their rarity. Still, this deference devitalize the political discourse. Obama must speak more forcefully on the growing class divide, the corrosive criminal justice system and other urgent domestic issues. He must address the enormous diversion of resources caused by our military occupation of Iraq, etc. Being black should not shield Obama from accountability on these issues.

  20. Bill says:

    Read my (white) lips: Race is an issue. How could it not be in this country. It’s become fashionable in neo-con circles to say that “there were problems in the past, but we’re moving on.” There are going to be plenty of people who wouldn’t vote for a black man under any circumstances, and we all know it. Reality may not be pretty, but our job as journalists is to deal with it.

  21. Jack White says:

    Well, I’m not a columnist any more but I used to be one for TIME magazine. If I still were, I’d be for Obama in part because’s he’s black. I think it’s important to break racial barriers in every segment of American society, including the Presidency. If Obama were not, in my opinion, well-qualified, I would not be for him, regardless of his race. I don’t think this is complicated or anything to apologize for I’m surprised that anybody thinks it requires an explanation. Irish Americans, for example, supported Kennedy. Why is it such a big deal when blacks line up with one of their own? Find something real to write about. If Hillary wins the nomination, she’ll be judged on the merits. And by the way, Rep. Chisholm’s given name is Shirley, not Shirkey.

  22. Thin Skinned Reader says:

    I’m offended that any critic of this columnist’s ideas had to resort to pointing out his (assumed?) religion. His white skin? Fine. His religion? Give me a break.
    That’s offensive. Do you not see that?

  23. R Green says:

    Columnists challenge the conventional wisdom? Columnists are the purest purveyors of the conventional wisdom. Name one who does otherwise.

  24. Kenneth Cooper says:

    I think there is one important factor that is missing from Saul Friedman’s column and this discussion. African-American columnists at mainstream newspapers are selected, perhaps without exception, by white editors. And nearly all mainstream newspapers have never had more than one black op-ed columnist at a time, with three exceptions I’m aware of: 1) Washington Post, Colby King and Eugene Robinson/Bill Raspberry, 2) USA Today, DeWayne Wickham and Barbara Reynolds and 3) Philadelphia Inquirer, Acel Moore and Claude Lewis.

    My assessment is white editors select a SINGLE black columnist because his/her views mirror those of its African American readers. The columnists are chosen, in essence, to represent black consensus opinion. So the lack of dissent is not surprising.

  25. Mary says:

    I don’t doubt that the columnists in question have many good reasons not based on some sense of racial solidarity to prefer and support Obama in this campaign, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with using the platform they have to advocate for their prefered advocate.
    What does bother me is that everybody’s pretending not to notice that Obama’s candidacy is what’s rather suddenly making these black columnists “mainstream”. I”m a huge (white middle-aged female) fan of Eugene Robinson’s but I’ve never seen this much of him on the TV before – have you? I’d need a lexis nexis account to prove my thesis here, but I’d bet that Mr. Robinson’s insights were not quite as sought after in the last two presidential campaigns, notwithstanding how much insight he would have brought to the analysis party in both cases.
    Add to that how the villagers takes it as a given that Obama will carry every mostly black precinct in every contest yet spend an inordinate amount of time looking for an opportunity to accuse someone of playing a “race card.” It’s not either campaign that’s doing that: It’s the msm power structure itself that’s holding that the old race card, putting it down on the table it whenever it suits their idea of who should win this game. Most of us voters don’t think this is a game of cards.

  26. John says:

    It’s the same old same old. If a white person even comes close to mentioning race in his criticism of an African American candidate, he’s introducing race into the discussion and being a bigot.
    But if a seemingly intelligent African American columnist suspends all critical thinking and jumps on the obama bandwagon, there’s nothing wrong with it.
    This of course feeds into the suspicion that these various columnists and pundits got their jobs because of tokenism, not intellectual qualifications.
    The question of Mr Obama’s qualifications is unresolved in my mind; I am certain however that he will lose the election if nominated, because of a perception among whites that he ‘has had everything handed to him without earning it’; these endorsements appear to support that view.

  27. Wayne Dawkins says:

    Writing favorably about a candidate is not the same thing as SUPPORTING the candidate. That’s why I find Friedman’s all-mainstream-black-columnnists-are-supporting-Obama “reasoning” absurd.

    I just can’t see how any columnist can get too invested in a candidate by “supporting” them. Politicians reliably disappoint their supporters. Yes, as someone with the privilege to write opinion, I write favorably of politicians, but I also criticize them when they say or do wrong.

    That’s how the commentary game is played, right?

  28. Carolyn Kay says:

    You should take a look at

    The Black Agenda Report

    The Black Commentator

    Carolyn Kay

  29. Meg Henson says:

    The better question would be why whites are supporting Hillary. Her whiteness aside; she’s a pretty lousy candidate. She refuses to release her tax returns, but attacks the other candidate about the house he lives in. She signed on to send this country into war, without reading the Intelligence. She claims the “experience” of her husband, but only the good stuff, the stuff you like now. She claims she knows how a White House operates, when there were obviously many many things going on that caught her by surprise. She has demonstrated that she will use racist strategies, innuendo, fear, and lies– that she wishes to win at all cost to the country. And she claims as being rich and white, that the only thing preventing her from assuming the crown, is her vagina. It’s really hard to understand how whites can’t see past race, when they have a candidate with whom they can identify…

  30. Ruth Etters says:

    Yet another old white man chiding anybody of a different demographic for not thinking like the old-white-man establishment.

    Let me clue you in, Mr. Friedman, old-white-man perspective is not the default and neutral viewpoint. Please stop your offensive behavior by pretending that it is.

  31. Linda Williams says:

    Mr.Friedman’s response does nothing to change my initial reaction that he is simply a dense man totally out of his depth on this issue. I’ll be magnanimous and allow that even the dunces among us deserve a platform.
    Mr. Friedman isn’t being criticized because he has questioned black people, rather that he has not applied any intellectual rigor to his analysis and the strong appearance that a racial double standard underlies that analysis.
    Mr. Friedman has not adequately responded to the essential question as to why he sees something disturbing in the opinions of a group of respectable black professionals and why he insists that their opinions can only be judged in a racial context. If he is indeed concerned about racial patterns in the media, journalism has provided him with plenty of opportunities to point out racial patterns among whites. Why for example, are so many white journalists unwilling to probe the racial context of the legions of whites who are voting for the white candidates?
    At this point, he should stop trying to defend the indefensible and simply apologize for the insult in his initial post in which he was essentially saying what these columnists are to be disregarded because they’re black and they’re just going for the brother.

  32. Roxanne says:

    I am a former editorial writer/columnist who worked for a Texas daily. I am perplexed how Mr. Friedman might equate what he considers favorable columns on Obama with support for him. I am sure that these same columnists will be balanced in their coverage of Obama as we move forward. I think these writers and columnists are likely drawn to the candidate’s positions on issues as well as his charisma. The fact that he is black may make his candidacy even more compelling, but it is offensive to suggest that editorial writers, any more than voters, support Obama solely because he is Black. We are not that shallow.

  33. Art Kelly says:

    The African American vote is monolithic.

  34. Alan Evans says:

    While I fall short of actually accusing all black voters and black journalists for supporting Obama because of his color, I can see why Friedman asks this question. Many of these comments on this column have suggested that white people routinely question the motives of African Americans.

    One said, “His analysis applies a racial double standard all too common when white Americans attempt to interpret the actions of black people.”

    I find these comments funny because many white people think it’s the other way around. Many think blacks routinely question white motives. How often so you see black columnists accusing white people of favoring whites, thus showing racism against African Americans? I see this all the time. Not enough black CEOs. Not enough black coaches in the NFL. Not enough blacks in congress. Not enough support in black neighborhoods. No help after Katrina because Bush doesn’t like black people. Over and over and over again, whites are accused of racial actions. I think most intelligent people know that many of these accusations are nonsense. To think that the reason there aren’t many black coaches is because owners are racist is absurd. We read this garbage all the time.

    The same columnists that repeatedly throw racial accusations at white people APPEAR to be supporting Obama because of his color.

    Now that they are being accused of the same racial intentions by Friedman and others, they are getting their feathers ruffled.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t expect the white population be completely colorblind, while you are constantly looking out for your own color.

    We should ALL be colorblind.

  35. Sheryl McCarthy says:

    I never “confirmed” or even suggested that virtually every black columnist is supporting Barack Obama. I was merely responding to Mr. Friedman’s premise that they are, and offering him a rationale for why black voters, including black columnists, would be supporting him. Nor have I been “wowed” by Obama any more than a lot of white pundits and white voters. I came to support him hesitantly and slowly–after John Edwards failed to gain traction and when Obama proved himself to be a strong candidate, with a strong possibility of being elected. Mr. Friedman’s column does a disservice to black columnists by suggesting that we are all driven primarily by race and would walk lock-step behind any halfway decent black candidate. As I suggested to him, if the first viable Jewish candidate were doing as well as Obama is, I would expect that he would be overwhelmingly supported by Jewish columnists. And why not?

  36. Roland S. Martin says:

    And who is Saul Friedman? I didn’t lose a second of sleep over this.

  37. Michael R says:

    For the record:

    Mark Gisleson is totally out of bounds with that “old Jew” comment. If by some awful chance he counts himself as an Obama supporter, let me say it plain, on behalf of real Obama supporters: We don’t need you. You’re everything Barack Obama stands AGAINST. Frankly, you’re the reason there are so many of us.

  38. R. Thomas says:

    I am just as appalled by Mr. Friedman’s comments as are others who have responded here. Mr. Friedman violates one of the most basic concepts of journalism: Do not make generalities. To suggest that black columnists can only support a candidate because of race is insulting. Yes, race may be a factor for some, but to paint so many with such a broad brush is irresponsible to say the least. Would Mr. Friedman suggests the opposite, that white columnists who do not support Sen. Barack Obama do so because of race? I think not.

    His comments remind me of two incidents during the second mayoral campaign between David N. Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani. In the frist, a young white New York Times reporter writing a campaign story said blacks would not vote for a white candidate and that’s why so many blacks supported Dinkins. I reminded him that blacks had been voting for white candidates for generations. I suggested that what he might have meant to say is that blacks are less likely to vote for a white candidate when a black candidate is running, and vice versa. Also, Giuliani was running as a Republican, a party not much liked by a large percentage of blacks, I reminded him.

    The second incident came when a different white reporter wrote a story during the same campaign in which responders to a survey said they expected the city to remain a horrible place to live no matter who was mayor. The way that sentence, as well as others, was written suggested to me that respondents were saying they expected Dinkins to win re-election. I asked the white copyeditor on the story to ask the reporter for clarification. The copyeditor told me that I was questioning the sentence structure because, as a black New Yorker, I was a Dinkins supporter. “Just ask the question,” I said. When I later saw the reporter and copyeditor discussing the story I interjcted. The reporter thanked me for questioning the sentence, which he said was indeed misleading.

  39. Saul Friedman says:

    Hey! I’m not talking generalities. I am saying that every mainstream black columnist who I read or contacted was effusively, rather uncritically supporting or giving a great press for Sen. Obama, while joining in the bashing of Sen. Clinton. Some white columnists, as I pointed out, did the same. I doubt that most white columnists support Clinton. It’s the monolithic support that I question, in a craft that’s supposed to be critical, in the largest sense of the word. Columnists have a powerful voice, to be used honestly and independently. Such unanimity and single-mindedness has gotten journalism in trouble. My critics ought to know, if they’ve bothered to look me up, I have spent more than 50 years covering politics and the national scene.

  40. G.H Webb says:

    Wow. I thought I was going insane but now I see that I’m not alone in this line of thinking. Its not just the columnist, its the black pundits and contributors on ALL the news shows. There is one black journalist/contributer that has been fair through out this entire election. Juan Williams. I see him on something nearly everynight and most of the time he as as fair as they come. What really gets to me is this….African American vote 90-10 for Obama, White vote 55-45 (maybe) Clinton. You can’t tell me that only 10 percent of African Americans think that Hillary is the best person for this job. Who is really more racist? I think I’ve got a feeling I know.

  41. Saul Friedman says:

    Mr. Webb makes my point: What if every mainstream white columnist supported Hillary and bashed Sen. Obama? I can see that maybe with Sharpton or even Jesse Jackson, but not such a qualified candidate as Obama. This criticism is not so much about race as it is about what journalism ought to be.

  42. R. Thomas says:

    While your response of March 9 says you are talking about black columnists you have read and contacted or tried to contact, the column didn’t present that well. Your original work said “how come virtually every mainstream black columnist has been effusively and unabashedly supporting Sen. Barack Obama, and highly critical of and even caustic towards Sen. Hillary Clinton?” That strikes me as a generality sir unless you have read virtually every mainstream black columnist.

    Yes, you do say later that you do not know every black columnists and you are not counting “the right-wing black writers like Thomas Sowell, or Armstrong Williams.” And yes you also did say you read the black columnists you are writing about, but why not be more precise in your wording.

    If you mean that of the black columnists you have read in the top five or ten newspapers in this country over the last few days, weeks or months, all, most, many or whatever percent are unabashedly behind Sen. Barack Obama then say so. If you had done that then my concerns about your column would have been few if any. When a writer says all or virtually all, I have concerns.

    Also, it seems odd that you now say your criticism “is not so much about race” when you put race in your lede, then later asked whether widespread black support of Obama makes race an issue. Does widespread white support of a white candidate make race an issue? I would think not.

    At the same time, the fact that columnists can and probably should be criticial does not mean they must. I have read too many columnists who seem to think that the only way they can write a good column is to be contrary and vindictive. So they engage in intellectual dishonesty, arguing a point simply to create a stir.

    Lastly sir, while I applaud your “more than 50 years covering politics and the national scene,” I’m not sure what point you were trying to make by raising that. Does so many years make you above reproach?

  43. Janus Daniels says:

    Mark Gisleson comment disturbed me; he offended me; he should know better… except I laughed.

  44. Ronald Burcham says:

    Walter Williams is a black commentator and he does not endorse Barack Obama. Mr. Friedman has allowed his pink tinted glasses to obscure his view.

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