Stating the facts or Race Baiting?
As moderator Juan Williams tried to question former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at the South Carolina debate last week about Gingrich’s charge that President Obama is the “food stamp president,” there were loud boos for Williams and enthusiastic cheers for Gingrich.
“Speaker Gingrich, you said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools,” said Williams. “Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?”
“No. I don’t see that,” Gingrich brashly replied.
Williams then said his Twitter account had been “inundated” by people of all races, who wanted to know if Gingrich’s comments were intentionally meant to “belittle the poor and racial minorities.”
“The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history,” Gingrich said. “I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.”
Playing Dumb or “Morally Evolved” Toward Truth?
“When Mr Gingrich replied to Mr. Williams that he cannot see why some might take umbrage at his comments that black Americans ‘should demand jobs, not food stamps’ and that poor kids tend to lack a strong work ethic, I don’t think it’s quite right to say he was ‘playing dumb.’ On the contrary, Mr Gingrich acts as though he is so morally evolved, so essentially oriented toward truth—as though he surveys the world from such an Olympian height, through such crystalline air—that he is unable even to imagine how his use of venerable racist tropes could be sensibly seen to serve a purpose other than transmission of the plain truth,” concluded a writer at The Economist’s Democracy in America blog.
Just Stating the Facts
But Col. Allen West, the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Fox News that there is no racial coding in Gingrich’s charge. He said it’s a fact that there has been a four-to-one Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits increase since President Obama took office.
Do Facts Add Up to Truth?
The Washington Post agreed, sort of, reporting that “about 46 million participants in 22 million households” are receiving SNAP benefits. “But that’s mainly because there’s been record poverty levels, not because President Obama has taken major steps to make it easier to receive food stamps from the government.”
What Color Are SNAP Recipients?
As to the misconception that the majority of SNAP recipients are black, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that “about 34 percent of food-stamp recipients are white, while 22 percent are African Americans and 16 percent Hispanic, with the rest being Asian, Native American or those who chose not to identify their race.” Businessweek also reported that “some 41 percent of all recipients live in households where family members are employed.”
Has the Mud Slinging Only Just Begun?
“If you hate negative campaigning, you may want to turn your television off for the next few weeks. Or maybe months,” said Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post.
What do you think?
Is Newt Gingrich engaging in shrewd but despicable race baiting, or is he just stating the facts?