Here’s a head scratcher: Is it racial or funny that during the 2012 presidential election Mitt Romney mistook CNN and ABC Democratic pundit Donna Brazile for PBS’ Gwen Ifill?
Over the weekend, Brazile told The Mirror, “It was laughable and it’s still laughable.”
Except for the fact that it’s actually not that funny that the NYT paints Brazile as using the anecdote to explain precisely why Romney was out of touch with black voters. The story: “Rand Paul Stands Out in Courting Black Voters.”
Does confusing one well-known black female for another sum up the problems of the GOP and black voters? And, if so, why didn’t Brazile, who clocked in a lot of cable news time in 2012, ever mention this before? Why sit on a hot piece of racial news like this?
Just so things don’t get lost in translation, here’s what Brazile initially had to say.
BETSY: Hope you’re well. Was curious why you didn’t reveal that anecdote regarding Mitt confusing you for Gwen Ifill back in 2012? Or did you? That’s the first time I’d read that. And how did you feel about it?
DONNA: Just saw your email. Do you need anything right now? Because it was laughable! And still is. Reporter didn’t say. Romney is not alone. Gwen and I are always laughing about ppl stopping us on the streets. Please call me next time.
BETSY: Yes I would like a comment. So you two are confused often or how do you mean? Thanks!!:-)
Some questions I later asked: 1. Do you find it offensive in a racial sense that Romney mistook you for Gwen Ifill? 2. Did the NYT accurately reflect the anecdote about you? Did they misrepresent it?
In a substantial phone interview with Brazile Monday morning, she explained her view on the story and what she meant by it. She said the reporter, Jeremy Peters, interviewed her about Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) outreach to black voters and politicians. So did the NYT get it wrong? Did they misrepresent what Brazile actually thinks?
“I don’t want to respond to that,” she told The Mirror. “I don’t want to put that toxin in the water. I don’t need you to get my point across. I can tweet about it. I can write about it. I can go on TV about it. I don’t need to draw any inference from a non-issue.”
But as noted above, Peters writes that this anecdote, to Brazile, sums up the GOP’s problems regarding black outreach.
She explained that the NYT reached out to her about a story on Rand Paul’s outreach, not Romney, but the anecdote about Romney got slipped in. She also said not everything she said was included and said things sometimes get lost in context.
Brazile makes it clear that she does not believe Romney was being racist by confusing her for Ifill. “I have great respect for Mitt Romney and the campaign that he ran,” she said in the phone call. “I got to know Governor Romney ‘s family and I have great respect for his work.”
When I point out that the NYT blatantly states that the anecdote regarding Ifill sums up her take on what the GOP’s problems are, she returns to Sen. Paul.
“All I wish to say is Rand Paul is reaching out to lawmakers like Cory Booker, Durbin. He’s reaching out to civil rights leaders,” she said. “That’s the point I was making. I was not trying to draw any comparison. Reporters write stories just like you write stories. … It reads accurately.”
Again, I pressed, does it read accurately that the anecdote sums up her feelings about the GOP’s problems?
“My point is that Rand Paul is attempting to become more familiar with the issues and the players in American politics,” she said. “I responded to you because I thought you were making a bad inference. …Not many people return reporters’ calls. I happen to be one who does. I respect you and what you’re trying to do, but I have a profound disagreement with the way you are thinking about this. I hope we can one day have a glass of wine or beer or tea about it.”
On Romney mistaking her for Ifill, she joked, “I wish I was mistaken for Diana Ross. I wish I was mistaken for Beyoncé.”
Photo caption: (From L to R): Brazile and Ifill.