Bill Bennett knows black people

All the networks had trouble discussing the black community in the wake of Obama's victory in Iowa, but CNN had the most embarrassing moment.

By Alex Koppelman
January 4, 2008 7:40PM (UTC)
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On the one hand, you might say, at least CNN -- unlike its counterparts at MSNBC -- didn't have Pat Buchanan doing political and by extension racial commentary last night. (And by the time results were coming in, CNN's own Lou Dobbs was off the air. That's a good thing too.) But it did, like all its competitors, have a wee problem: It had to explain the African-American community's views about Iowa Democratic victor Barack Obama despite having only token African-American representation on its panels for the night. And that, of course, led to the always awkward spectacle of old white men (and occasionally women) explaining just how well they know exactly what black people are thinking.

For sheer awkwardness Thursday night, conservative radio host, moralist and gambler Bill Bennett -- who has previously gotten in trouble for insensitive racial commentary -- surely took the booby prize. You could almost feel CNN's producers and hosts cringing along with the audience when Bennett said this:


"Barack Hussein Obama, a black man, wins this for the Democrats.

"I have been watching him. I watched him on 'Meet the Press,' I've watched him on [Anderson Cooper's] show, watched him on all the CNN shows -- he never brings race into it. He never plays the race card.

"Talk about the black community -- he has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson, you don't have to act like Al Sharpton. You can talk about the issues. Great dignity. And this is a breakthrough. And good for the people of Iowa."


CNN's Anderson Cooper, who was in charge of questioning the panel, was quick to change the subject, moving on to a separate interview conducted by Wolf Blitzer. But not before telling Donna Brazile, the sole African-American on the panel, that the show would get to her next.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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