The big ânewsâ in Vanity Fairâs excerpt of an upcoming Roger Ailes biography seems to consist mainly of the shocking revelation that âNewt Gingrich is a prick.â On Wednesday nightâs PoliticsNation, however, Rev. Al Sharpton and The Cycle host TourÃ© highlighted Ailesâ remark that President Obama is âlazy,â and were, in my opinion, mighty charitable in doing so.
Rev. Al began the segment by setting up the passage from the Vanity Fair excerpt in which Ailes calls the President âlazy.â
âHeâs one of the most powerful voices in the country,â Rev. Al said, âand heâs attacking President Obama. Quote, âObamaâs the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasnât public money. How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. Heâs lazy, but the media wonât report that.â Thatâs the president of Fox News calling the President of the United States lazy.â
The Rev then played some awesome prime cuts of racial tromboning from the likes of Mitt Romney* surrogate John Sununu, and an extended riff by Newt Gingrich that I had completely forgotten about. âIâm assuming thereâs some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us donât understand,â Gingrich says. âWhether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while.â
Rev. Al and guest TourÃ© generously referred to the whole mess as âdog whistles.â
âThis sort of âlazyâ term is something we heard flung at us as black people going back to slavery,â TourÃ© said, âwhich, of course, you know, we perceive them as being guilty of not wanting to work. Of course they didnât want to work. They were slaves.â
âBut they did work,â Rev. Al said.
âBut this is a revolutionary thing that theyâre doing,â TourÃ© continued, âsaying âWeâre going to get out of all of the work that we can,â and then this stupid idea follows us since then. Itâs this really disgusting, accessing stereotypes, red meat sort of dog whistle. On the Fox side of the aisle, they say yes, thatâs right. This is what we think of black people already. And, on our side, weâre like âWhat are you talking about?â
Rev. Al and TourÃ© also accused Ailesâ of blowing more than a âdog whistle,â but of making a comment that was just false. President Obama has been an attorney, a constitutional law professor, and a community organizer. Rev. Al noted a possible reason for obscuring those facts. âAnother subtle thing is âlazy and never earned anything other than public moneyâ, which is almost like welfare,â he said, before comparing the 84 days of vacation that President Obama has taken since assuming office, versus the 250 days George W. Bush took in the first three years of his presidency.
Rev. Al went on to note the restraint he felt he was showing. âAnd Iâm being real nice about it,â he said. âIâm trying to not be like the big guy over at the echo chamber going crazy at the show.â
Sharpton stopped reading that excerpt before he got to Ailesâ tell: (emphasis mine)
âObamaâs the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasnât public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. Heâs lazy, but the media wonât report that.â He noticed my arched eyebrows and added, âI didnât come up with that. Obama said that, to Barbara Walters.â
What President Obama described to Barbara Walters, as author Zev Chafets described in the passage, was âthat he feels a laziness in himself that he attributes to his laid-back upbringing in Hawaii.â He also told Walters that he made that critique despite âall the work I do.â
To Ailes, though, that bit of introspection is apparently a license to call the first black president lazy, which is fine, if youâre prepared to stand by that. Given the racist history of that particular stereotype, expressed with that specific word, you should be prepared to make your case that this guy really is lazy. Confronted with Chafetsâ âDamn, thatâs racistâ arched eyebrows, Ailes ducks behind: âHey, he said it.â
If this were truly a neutral observation about a truly lazy president, Ailes could have said âWhat? He is lazy, and hereâs why.â
The real irony is that Ailes uses President Obama actually playing basketball as an example of âlaziness,â while Chafetsâ fawning excerpt opens with an extended anecdote about Ailes watching a basketball game, then taking a limo back to his office.
Hereâs the clip, from MSNBCâs PoliticsNation: