Accuracy in Media

On MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, PBS host Tavis Smiley had a lot to say about Donald Trump and race. Specifically, Smiley argued that Trump has been “race-baiting” as a way to “[play] to the worst in the tea party.”

“Let me say a word about Donald Trump, since you raised it so beautifully. I said over a year ago that this presidential race, Lawrence, was going to be the ugliest, the nastiest, the most divisive, and the most racist in the history of this Republic. I did not know that that race to the bottom would begin so quickly,” Smiley said. He went on to say how he came to make that prediction: “I saw it coming because it’s pretty clear given how the tea party has acted, given that Donald Trump is now playing to the worst in the tea party, that this would be possible.”

Smiley argued that it is “clear” to him that tea partiers are racist:

There have been some antics they’ve engaged in that have made it clear to me, showing up at rallies with guns and the Secret Service working overtime to protect this president, more threats against his life than any president in the history of the nation [note: this claim has been debunked], indeed, presidents combined—the evidence is pretty clear that they would do anything and say anything in order to make sure that he does not get reelected.

“This is not a campaign commercial for Barack Obama. It is to say that we live in a nation where we’ve got to get back to some sense of civility,” Smiley went on.

Smiley continued, calling Trump a race-baiter for expressing his opinions:

Donald Trump is playing to the worst fears, the worst anxieties, the worst race-baiting that I’ve ever seen in a campaign when he suggests that Obama is the worst president, will go down as the worst president in history. Do you know how many bad presidents we’ve had? And this guy is 2 years in and he’s regarded as the worst president? It’s a bunch of nonsense. But one last thing beyond Donald Trump. I’m disappointed in Mr. Trump. I think frankly and respectfully that this is beneath him.

Smiley did not point to an example of Trump linking President Obama’s policy failures with the color of the president’s skin.

Media consumers can be grateful that Smiley was so open about his opinions. Reporters’ views tend to influence their coverage of events, and media consumers should know that Smiley’s coverage at PBS comes from an anti-tea party bent that finds racism in those who support small government and disagree with President Obama’s agenda.

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