Viewers got a preview of the reincarnation of CNN’s “Crossfire” Sunday when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former White House “green jobs” czar Van Jones debated Saturday night’s “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
“The question was, was it murder?” Gingrich, one of the two conservative hosts on the revival of “Crossfire” set to debut this fall, said.
“Six people, all of them, by the way, women, sat in a jury, spent five long weeks listening to the case, came back rather quickly and said the prosecution had totally failed. It failed to prove murder in the second degree; it failed to prove manslaughter. Now, at some point, you have to have some level of faith that a judge who was very tough on the defense attorneys and a jury of six independent people doing the best they can to find justice deserve some respect in our system, as opposed to some of the intense language that’s been used in reaction to their finding in this case about this incident, that in fact it was not murder.”
Jones, one of the two liberal hosts for the new “Crossfire,” responded by explaining what he believed to be the “racial implications” of the verdict.
“First of all, let me say a couple of things,” Jones replied. “At best, you can say this was a case where you had bad and confusing law, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, applied to bad and confusing facts, which gave a bad and confusing outcome. I agree with the Speaker, nobody feels, I think, super-great about this when you have a dead child and no accountability. The problem is now that’s been done. And I am left and a lot of people are left, as an African-American parent, what are the consequences of this verdict, now, for us, the people who care about black kids?”
“Do I now have to dress my kid in a tuxedo so that he can go buy Skittles?” he continued. “If my child is confronted by a stranger with a gun, am I now expected to tell my child — not if a police officer confronts you, but a stranger with a gun — comply, lie down, spread-eagle, do what you’re told? We are now left in a situation in which there are racial implications here. And I think most people see this as a case of racial profiling gone awry. And what are we now supposed to do as African-American parents and Americans who care about black kids? I don’t think that white parents are expected to tell their kids to wear a tuxedo to buy Skittles and lie spread-eagle for strangers with guns. And that’s why there’s a racial dimension here.”
Later in the segment, Gingrich addressed concerns that the outcome would be used to divide people along racial lines, noting there was another path that leaders could take.
“I think there’s a real opportunity, because the country is polarized on this,” Gingrich said. “It does clearly have racial dimensions, particularly if you’re African American. The question is going to be, in the next few days — and it’s going to be a fascinating moment in our history — are we going to be led by healers who say let’s have a conversation together, or are we going to be led by people who divide us? And I think there is a lot to talk about here. As you know, we both agree on the issue of prison reform. So I think there are things to talk about. My fear is it’s going to be used as an excuse by some people to further divide the nation and further polarize it.”
Jones charged the media with being racially divisive for suggesting that the black community could become violent in the wake of a “not guilty” verdict.
“I’ve heard over and over again on television — you talk about divisions — I’ve heard over and over on television, what are these black kids going to do now?” Jones said. “Are they going to riot? Are they going to be violent? Are they going to threaten Mr. Zimmerman? Are they going to threaten the jurors? Are these — does this case mean that there’s going to be violence from black kids against society? That is unfair. That is polarizing. In fact, if anything, we should be concerned that there’s a green light for society to be more violent toward black kids. I’ve heard the Trayvon Martin family say over and over again, ‘Be peaceful. Be peaceful.’ There has been no pressure from the Zimmerman side of this to come forward and say, ‘And, by the way, don’t confront teenagers with guns’ and to try to calm that side down.”
“I’ve been called ‘nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger’ on Twitter, in ways that are just shocking to me because I’ve been trying to say there is something racially wrong here when you have a situation where a black kid winds up dead,” he continued. “And I’ve heard the word ‘black thug’ used over and over again as, now, a common description. There is something wrong here, Mr. Speaker, where we have these kinds of double standards. There is no violence coming from black youth. The black youth have been peaceful. They have — they have used art and Twitter. And yet, still, they are suspect and there has been no pressure on the pro-vigilante side to calm down their violent rhetoric.”