Head of New York Civil Rights Coalition compares MSNBC rhetoric to McCarthyism

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, told The Daily Caller that Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC engage in racial McCarthyism to silence mainstream black voices.

“I’m an African-American, and I’m a liberal,” said Meyers, longtime former member of the ACLU’s Board of Directors and onetime aide to legendary NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins. “I shook when I watched that segment where they were calling out the African-American grandchild of Mitt Romney. I was really appalled.”

MSNBC host Harris-Perry apologized Saturday for a segment in which she and her guests mocked the adopted black grandson of Mitt Romney and said that Romney having a black grandchild was indicative of the Republican Party, which finds token black people for photo ops.

“I’m shocked that [MSNBC president] Phil Griffin is condoning it. I’m a little surprised it’s coming from Melissa Harris-Perry because she ought to know better. They focus entirely on race and calling racism where it doesn’t exist, and it’s time for the liberal community to call them out,” Meyers said.

“It’s ideology. I believe that Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Eric Dyson and Toure and these folks who are supposed to be the representatives, the so-called voice of the African-American community, are a strident errant voice. It is so ideological and so radical and I’m surprised that it’s becoming mainstreamed on MSNBC. There are responsible African-American voices but you never see them on MSNBC and you barely see them on CNN.” (RELATED: CNN slams Melissa Harris-Perry for attack on Romney’s black grandchild)

“It’s fashionable” for media commentators to engage in divisive racial rhetoric, Meyers said.

“There used to be a reverend on TV in New York, ‘Reverend Ike.’ And Reverend Ike used to say, ‘you can’t lose with the stuff I use.’ I think the so-called voices of Black America are selling snake oil. They are being lauded and reinforced and put into the mainstream to make it appear that they’re the authentic black voice and they’re not. Why else would they put Al Sharpton on MSNBC? I don’t get it. I mean, I do get it,” he said with a laugh.

So why do white liberals condone these tactics? According to Meyers: “paternalism.”

“You have liberal whites who are well-meaning and well-intentioned, but it’s the same liberal whites who in the ’60’s tolerated and embraced black nationalism. It was racist then, and it’s racist now… If you have white people saying this about black people, MSNBC would not tolerate this for one minute. The chieftains [of the black community] would call it out.” (RELATED: It’s official: Melissa Harris-Perry is sorry)

“It’s worse than divisive. It’s crying racism where the racism doesn’t exist. They just make this stuff up. Everything becomes about race, about calling people racists when they haven’t said anything racist. It’s Orwellian Doublespeak.”

Meyers also compared Harris-Perry and other MSNBC commentators to Joseph McCarthy, noting that people who get accused of racism are smeared in the public arena.

“It’s a literal blacklist. The whole purpose is to silence you and to marginalize you. People don’t want to be called racist, particularly when they’re not racist,” he said.

Meyers said that he always responds to “racial idiocy” regardless of the “stripe or the color of the person” expressing it, but noted that he does not get much criticism for it from the back community.

“I don’t get much criticism because I think mainstream blacks welcome rationality and sanity… When I was young I was responding to the black nationalist statements of Louis Farrakhan, and I was the only civil rights person to do so… Louis Farrakhan acolytes used to harass me and call me up and threaten me, but as long as we have a voice we can respond to this stridency.”

How do mainstream black voices go about doing it? Meyers invoked lawyer Joseph Welch, whose question to McCarthy at the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings summarized a silent majority’s feelings about McCarthy’s tactics: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

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Patrick Howley