CNN Guests Go At Each Other Over Whether America Is Fundamentally Racist

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry and CNN contributor Cari Champion duked it out Friday morning over whether the United States was founded on racism.

The segment began when co-host Phil Mattingly hosted a short segment called “Founding Facts,” in which he stated Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, along with dozens of other founding fathers.

The segment was in relation to recent comments made by Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, who said during a CNN town hall that the “intent” of the United States was not racist, but that things have had to have been fixed along the way, citing the “all men are created equal” clause of the Declaration of Independence.

Her comments come weeks after she received scrutiny for not mentioning slavery as the cause of the Civil War during a separate town hall in New Hampshire.

Co-host Poppy Harlow argued there is a difference between saying the United States is “not racist now” versus “never” having been racist, arguing racism was “built into the founding documents.”

Mattingly earlier noted the three-fifths clause which is found in Article 1, Sec. II of the Constitution. The clause said the slave population in a state would be counted as three-fifths of what it was, giving slave states more power.

Champion said she grew up “well aware” the country was racist and argued Haley’s “erasing of history” is “disrespectful.”

Lowry jumped in to say that it all depends how history will judge the founding era, whether by 21st-century standards or 18th-century standards.

“The founding generation, unfortunately, did not invent racism, they did not invent slavery, which were persistent throughout all human history, and the great advantage and benefit of the founding was they advanced the ideals that eventually eroded the legal racist regime in this country, were great tools for Martin Luther King and others,” Lowry said. (RELATED: ‘Biden Didn’t Do It’: CNN Contributor Pushes Back Against Biden For Not Crediting Haley)

“She’s not saying we’re perfect: She said she experienced racism herself, but the idea, she said last night, used the term ‘self-loathing.’ So I think that a lot of people who, the history is complicated, that’s absolutely right, but want to erase the complication on the other end and say ‘Oh, it was all about racism. That’s all this country has ever been about.’ And that’s just false and a lie.”

Lowry again said there is “no way to explain” how Haley couldn’t have a “decent answer” to the Civil War question but that she’s a well-intentioned person.

“Well intentions don’t work for me,” Champion chimed in. “You know what I mean? It’s just insulting quite frankly. You cannot run to be the president of the United States of America and not acknowledge its history clearly, plainly, and concretely. Two things can be true. Yes, the precepts of this country are racist. Do you think it’s better today? Great, Nikki, that’s fine, I’m with that, makes perfect sense.”

“But the precept, ‘All men are created equal,’ is racist? It wasn’t racist,” Lowry chimed in before Champion began talking over him to say all men were not created equal because slavery existed.

“All men were not created equal and you know that,” Champion said.

“No, all men are created equal,” Lowry shot back.

“No, that’s not true, the Constitution literally, and you laid this out perfectly, Phil, earlier, the Constitution was very clear that there was a 3/5 clause for people who were not free. So how are we all created equal? The idea, sure, I love this idea, but they weren’t referring to my ancestors.”

Lowry pointed out that the founders believed that slavery would just go away on its own and that’s why they chose not to mention it in the Constitution. He also argued race relations improved after the revolution, citing manumissions and abolitionists in the north, where slavery was outlawed in most states.

Champion scoffed at his assertion.

“There was terrible backsliding in the south in the 19th century, and then we have a terrible Civil War over it,” Lowry said.

“Yeah, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree because our experiences are different,” Champion said. “My experience was very different.”

Champion then tried arguing that Haley didn’t even answer the right question during the town hall about racism, prompting Lowry to jump in once again to declare the United States is “not a fundamentally racist country.”

“This is absolutely a fundamentally racist country,” a shocked Champion said.

“Why did immigrants come here and thrive? Why did black immigrants come here and thrive? Why Asian immigrants come here and thrive?” Lowry asked.

Champion again insisted “We are not created equally” and told Lowry to let her finish speaking before arguing while she may physically be created equally, she has not been treated equally as a black woman.

Lowry noted Haley also said she’s experienced racism but that America should not be defined by instances of racism, which Lowry called an “uplifting message.”

The segment then ended.

Haley placed third in the Iowa caucus on Monday despite other polls showing her gaining ground to place second. Haley claimed the Iowa results made the GOP primary a “two-person race” despite being third.