Some who watched the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News recently are saying that DNC Chair hopeful Jehmu Greene was “destroyed” by not being able to answer his questions.
Au contraire. Here’s what really went down.
Tucker Carlson, the host of Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” invited DNC Chair Candidate and former Clinton campaign advisor Jehmu Greene to his show to follow up on comments she made on “Fox and Friends” earlier this week. That original interview was to comment on Rep. John Lewis’s remarks that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president.
Ms. Greene says that Rep. Lewis was “truth-telling” and called Trump’s administration a “cleptocracy.” Part of her platform for DNC Chair is resistance, but it’s not the whole approach going forward. She spoke several times throughout the interview on the importance of inspiring voters who were disgusted by the 2016 election. There’s opportunity to “transform the party,” including connecting with young people and changing the tone of the Democratic Party.
But Carlson did not want her talking points. He wanted her to talk about race. Specifically, he wanted her to condemn blanket statements made by other African-American Democrats about white people and to disavow Hillary Clinton’s remarks about white privilege. He called it a simple yes or no question.
Sounds like what he was really trying to do is catch her in “reverse racism.”
Carlson asked Greene to respond to comments made by Simone Sanders, former spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders this past November after the election. She is quoted to have said, “We don’t need white people leading the Democratic party right now.” Greene replied, very diplomatically, that it is “great to have Simone’s passion” in the Democratic party and it is important to remain engaged with young people who were attracted to Bernie Sanders’s message.
But Carlson did not let up. When he pushes Greene to denounce the statement as terrible, she says that he should have Simone on his show. She does say “it’s not the right message right now.” Yet he continues, asking if it’s an immoral thing to have said.
This is when Greene has had enough. She says to Carlson, “Just because we have the same haircut doesn’t mean we have the same views.”
Carlson ducks this comment by speaking over her, pushing her on the concept of white privilege. How can the Democrats ask “unemployed machinists in Ohio…or children of oxycontin addicts in Appalachia to recognize their privilege?” He calls this an obvious question, trying to back Greene into a corner. But she refuses to take the bait, saying that she will not give into these over-simplifications of complex matters.
Carlson asks whether the perceived white flight from the Democratic Party is because they feel attacked by this rhetoric. She tells him that they are united against Trump and in their mission to rebrand.
But, this exchange is indicative of a greater divide in the conversation, one that happens frequently when talking about white privilege. It’s the misperception of the term “privilege.” Just because someone has had a hard life or is struggling economically, personally, medically, etc., does not mean they do not benefit from skin color privilege.
Machinists in Ohio and children of addicts in Appalachia still have privilege because they are white, even if their lives are difficult. Privilege means that a non-white person in your same situation would have it a lot worse and would have less opportunity for improving your circumstances.
When Jehmu Greene was asked if she would support Trump’s proposal to import pharmaceuticals from Canada to make prescriptions less expensive for Americans, she refuses to answer directly. He wants her to say, “Yes, despite party lines, this is a good idea to help all people.” She says she won’t “cheerlead” for someone who won’t even celebrate MLK Day.
Tucker then responds with what has been making headlines on blogs: asking her why she always brings it back to race. This is basically accusing her of using a “race card” when he picked the topic in the first place.
How are people claiming that he “won” some sort of debate with her? I see a woman who holds her own and stands by a message of not over-simplifying complex matters. She doesn’t back down and give an easy yes or no.
Watching this exchange was cringe-worthy, not because Greene was “unable to answer a question,” as pundits are now claiming. It was difficult to watch someone verbally struggle with a white man who obviously has a flawed understanding of privilege. By calling it a simple question, Carlson reveals that he does not understand the differences between or nuances of privilege, prejudice, racism, and systemic oppression.
Just because he judged her at the end and kept pushing his same dead-end questions does not mean he won. He claims he wasn’t being divisive or over-simplifying the matter, but that’s exactly what he was trying to do.
Brava, Jehmu Greene. Way to stay on message.