The Reverend Jackson infamously calling New York City “Hymietown,” and Perfessor Alan Dershowitz saying English au pair Louise Woodward couldn’t expect a fair trial in Cambridge because “it has a very large Irish population.” Mike Wallace, between segments of a 60 Minutes story on minority borrowers, suggested that they might have trouble reading the difficult contracts “over watermelon and tacos.”
Wallace excused the racist remark this way: “Hey, it was lighthearted. I ask you to be fair.” Fitzgerald writes, “Isn’t that what Lott is asking everybody today?” saying there was no “assumption of malice” against these well-known liberals for their off-the-cuff remarks. Fitzgerald cites Harry Belafonte likening Colin Powell to a house slave and Ted Kennedy’s insistence that Robert Bork’s confirmation would take us back to segregated lunch counters as “much clearer examples of irresponsible commentary.”
There’s no doubt that there’s a double standard, but these examples are not quite analogous to Trent Lott. The one problem with these comparisons? Lott has repeated instances of saying the same thing. Now, does anybody really think Lott wants a re-segregated America? I don’t think so. But you can’t have somebody in a leadership position in the U.S. Senate about whom such questions are asked, regardless of the answer. I don’t know that Lott was trying to be funny like some of these other guys, but I’m not excusing any of them.