Hannity smeared Gates as anti-white radical by distorting 1994 interview

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Sean Hannity repeatedly misrepresented a 1994 interview with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., falsely portraying events Gates discussed in the interview as recent when, in fact, they occurred in 1959.

On the July 27 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity repeatedly misrepresented Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s 1994 interview on C-SPAN's Booknotes to suggest that Gates had recently said he agreed with Malcolm X that the "white man was the devil" and to smear Gates as "extreme" and a "radical." In fact, in that interview, Gates was talking about events in 1959, specifically his witnessing his mother's positive reaction to a documentary they watched together about Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. In the C-SPAN interview, Gates stated that while he was "cowering in a corner" during the documentary, his mother's "face was radiant" and added that watching her reaction was "like watching the Wicked Witch of the West emerge out of the transforming features of Dorothy." Gates went on to describe how he learned that his mother had been a victim of "white racism" at the hands of the "wealthy white people" for whom she worked. Moreover, in spite of his mother's views, which Gates said were the result of the mistreatment she suffered, Gates noted in that same exchange that his wife of nearly 15 years was white, and that their engagement led to strife with and within his family.

On his show, Hannity repeatedly referred to Gates' purportedly saying that Malcolm X's calling white people the "devil" was "great" and suggested that this comment was evidence of Gates' racial radicalism:

  • Discussing Gates' July 16 arrest at his home with Fox News contributor Dick Morris, Hannity said, "We've learned a little bit more about Professor Gates. I mean, he did this interview on C-SPAN, Booknotes." Hannity also asked Morris, "What do you make about Malcolm X in this interview? He said, 'My mother hated white people.' He said -- you know, about Malcolm X when he was "talking about the white men was the devil. ... It was great.' "
  • During the "Great American Panel" discussion about Gates' arrest, Hannity, talking about "radicals on college campuses," said, "[H]ere's a guy that says in an interview back in '94, Malcolm X was talking about -- well, first he said, 'My mother hated white people. Malcolm X was talking about the white man was the devil and telling them off. It was great.' And he laughs." Hannity continued, "And I'm thinking, why would Barack Obama, knowing that he said that at this point -- because it's now public -- why would he invite him to the White House?"
  • During the same panel discussion, after Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers challenged him, Hannity returned to the point. Hannity said, "But isn't this about if there's any racial profiling here? Doesn't it indicate, based on the statements of the professor [Gates], that he racially profiled the cop?" Powers responded, "No," and then said, in part, "Sean, this is your favorite thing to do, is to pick out one statement that somebody made a long time ago." Hannity replied, "That wasn't that long ago," and then said, "Malcolm X was talking about white man is the devil, and he [Gates] laughs. It was great?"
  • Finally, after, Powers said, "[I]t's hard for me to believe that you guys [Hannity and former football coach Lou Holtz] really believe -- you guys really believe that African-American men of a certain generation did not have -- have not had an experience in this country that is radically different than the experience of white people," Hannity replied, "I think anybody that says it's great when Malcolm X says the white man is the devil and laughs -- I think that is extreme." Powers said she wanted to take a look at Gates' statement, to which Hannity replied, "C-SPAN Booknotes. And I've got the tape."

But Hannity completely misrepresented the interview to attack Gates as a radical:

  • Gates was discussing events from about 35 years before the interview, a time when segregation was still legally enforced across much of the South. He told Booknotes host Brian Lamb:

GATES: My mother hated white people. ... I didn't know until -- in 1959 we were watching Mike Wallace's documentary called "The Hate that Hate Produced." It was about the Nation of Islam and I couldn't believe -- I mean, Malcolm X was talking about the white man was the devil and standing up in white people's faces and telling them off. It was great. I mean, it's what black people did behind closed doors, but they would never do it in -- I mean, they were too vulnerable to do it, say, where they worked, at the paper mill or downtown, as we would call it.

  • Gates' comments came in the context of explaining his mother's "hatred" of white people. After he described her reaction to the documentary, his own reaction, and his reaction to her reaction, he told Lamb that he had later found out why she felt that way about whites:

GATES: As I sat cowering in a corner of our living room, I glanced over at Mama and her face was radiant. I mean, this smile -- beatific smile started to transform her face. And she said quite quietly, "Amen." And then she said, "All right now," and she sat up and she said, "Yes."

And she loved Malcolm X and she loved what the Muslims were doing. And I couldn't believe it. It was like -- as I write, it was like watching the Wicked Witch of the West emerge out of the transforming features of Dorothy. This person I had thought of as this pioneer of the civil rights movement really had a hard time with white people. And the more I got to know her -- and, you know, these weren't easy anecdotes for her to repeat, but the older I got, she became more willing to share painful experiences of white racism -- the way that she was treated when she was a girl and a servant in the house of wealthy white people just a block down the hill from where we lived. My brother and I eventually went back and bought that house for her, and that's how we found out that she had been so horribly treated by these people. She never trusted white people. She didn't like white people. She didn't want to live with white people.

  • Gates went on to describe how he married a white woman, leading to heated clashes within his family. Gates said that his mother "always wanted us to remember, first and last, that we were black and that you could never trust white people. And so when I brought my fiancée home, who happened to be a white American, I thought World War III was about to break out between me and my mother, not to mention between my mother and my fiancée." After confirming to Lamb that his wife is white, he added, "I don't think I could have done anything to make my mother stop loving me. But my mother took a long time to decide how she felt about my wife. And they had many confrontations."

From the October 9, 1994, C-SPAN Booknotes interview:

LAMB: At one point you had a line in there, something to the effect, "My mother despised white people."

GATES: My mother hated white people.

LAMB: All her life?

GATES: Probably. I didn't know until -- in 1959 we were watching Mike Wallace's documentary called "The Hate that Hate Produced." It was about the Nation of Islam and I couldn't believe -- I mean, Malcolm X was talking about the white man was the devil and standing up in white people's faces and telling them off. It was great. I mean, it's what black people did behind closed doors, but they would never do it in -- I mean, they were too vulnerable to do it, say, where they worked, at the paper mill or downtown, as we would call it. And here was a guy who had the nerve to do that, and I think if I had been a character in a cartoon, my eyes would have gone Doing! -- like this. I couldn't believe it. As I sat cowering in a corner of our living room, I glanced over at Mama and her face was radiant. I mean, this smile -- beatific smile started to transform her face. And she said quite quietly, "Amen." And then she said, "All right now," and she sat up and she said, "Yes."

And she loved Malcolm X and she loved what the Muslims were doing. And I couldn't believe it. It was like -- as I write, it was like watching the Wicked Witch of the West emerge out of the transforming features of Dorothy. This person I had thought of as this pioneer of the civil rights movement really had a hard time with white people. And the more I got to know her -- and, you know, these weren't easy anecdotes for her to repeat, but the older I got, she became more willing to share painful experiences of white racism -- the way that she was treated when she was a girl and a servant in the house of wealthy white people just a block down the hill from where we lived. My brother and I eventually went back and bought that house for her, and that's how we found out that she had been so horribly treated by these people. She never trusted white people. She didn't like white people. She didn't want to live with white people.

But she wanted us to go to integrated schools. She wanted us to live in an integrated economy. She wanted us even to live in integrated neighborhoods. She wanted us to be able to get the best that American society offered. She wanted us to be articulate, to speak white English, as we would call it, as well as black vernacular English. You know, she wanted us to know how to dress, how to talk, how to act, how to behave. She wanted us to go to private schools, to the Ivy League. I mean, she wanted us to be as successful as it was humanly possible to be in American society. But she always wanted us to remember, first and last, that we were black and that you could never trust white people. And so when I brought my fiancée home, who happened to be a white American, I thought World War III was about to break out between me and my mother, not to mention between my mother and my fiancée.

LAMB: And is your wife white?

GATES: Yeah. She's white.

LAMB: How did your mother react to the -- did she go to the marriage?

GATES: Oh, yeah. She was fine. I don't think I could have done anything to make my mother stop loving me. But my mother took a long time to decide how she felt about my wife. And they had many confrontations, many bad -- my mother used to do things like say, "I bet you hate black people, right?" And I'd say, "Mama, please," you know, "this is not the way we should start our relationship." She'd say, "Just checking." And we'd all laugh and my wife got used to it, but she fought my mother back. The key was to stand up to my mother. My mother wanted to see what she was made of. And I'll probably do crazy things like that when my daughters bring their lovers home. I mean, who knows?

LAMB: How long you been married?

GATES: We've been married 15 years this September 1st.

From the July 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: We've learned a little bit more about Professor Gates. I mean, he did this interview on C-SPAN, Booknotes.

MORRIS: Well, I was struck by that 911 call you played where there was no indication that she knew they were black.

HANNITY: Well, and --

MORRIS: The woman making the call.

HANNITY: What I thought was -- more importantly, it seemed like the officer was in complete control, that he wasn't angry, and it corroborated everything he had said in the police report.

MORRIS: Yeah.

HANNITY: What do you make about Malcolm X in this interview? He said, "My mother hated white people." He said -- you know, about Malcolm X when he was "talking about the white men was the devil, it was great."

MORRIS: Yeah.

HANNITY: That's what he said. What does that --

MORRIS: Well, you know, there is this undercurrent that goes on.

[...]

HOLTZ: The thing that bothers you is -- like Martin Luther King said, judge people by their character, not the color of their skin.

When I was growing up, which was many years ago, what you were taught was to have respect for people. It was taught at home; it was reinforced in the school. If you did that -- respect for parents, respect for elders, respect for the law.

And the policemen should learn one thing that you learn as a parent: when people need love and understanding the most is usually when they deserve it the least.

If they'd both followed those rules -- we can get by all this. This racial thing is because we don't trust one another.

HANNITY: Let me take it a step further. We know that there are radicals on college campuses. Bill Ayers, Barack Obama's friend that he palled around with -- he was -- he's still a teaching professor. You've got this idiot Ward Churchill who I once debated. All right, he's another example.

This guy here is one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, Harvard University. All right? Supposed to be, you know. It's no Notre Dame, by the way. Just in no way, shape, matter, or form.

All right. But here's a guy that says in an interview back in '94, Malcolm X was talking about -- well, first he said, "My mother hated white people. Malcolm X was talking about the white man was the devil and telling them off. It was great." And he laughs.

And I'm thinking, why would Barack Obama, knowing that he said that at this point -- because it's now public -- why would he invite him to the White House?

HOLTZ: Well, I think President Obama -- and one thing about it -- he's my president and I'm going to show respect for him. But he's also the president of all of us. Of white, black, yellow, Latino, whatever else the case may be. And just do the right thing.

It was a mistake, as I think as Kirsten said. He probably shouldn't have said it. He regrets it. Now he's trying to back out. Whatever he decides to do, fine.

But let's get together and worry about what this country is going -- or the direction it's going. See, I never have a problem with somebody if we have the same objective. I want freedom. I want to make this country great. We have a problem when you have two different objectives. If you want power and somebody else wants freedom, then you have a problem.

HANNITY: But isn't this about if there's any racial profiling here? Doesn't it indicate, based on the statements of the professor, that he racially profiled the cop?

POWERS: No.

HANNITY: No?

POWERS: And I don't think -- you know, Sean, this is your favorite thing to do, is to pick out one statement that somebody made a long time ago and say that --

HANNITY: That wasn't that long ago.

POWERS: --and say that -- who -- I don't even care --

HANNITY: Malcolm X was talking about white man is the devil, and he laughs. It was great?

POWERS: I just -- that's not his reputation. His reputation actually is somebody who is very good at working across racial lines, who works for racial reconciliation. And he's not -- you know, I don't know what to say. I'll have to go back and look at that, because that really is not his reputation.

HANNITY: He uses the "N" word repeatedly. He's attacked Clarence Thomas in a pejorative way.

POWERS: That's not his reputation.

HANNITY: He's attacked Newt Gingrich in a pejorative way.

POWERS: Well, there are a lot of African-Americans who have a problem with Clarence Thomas. I don't think that that's a news flash. I mean, I think that this is a respected professor, and I don't think there's any reason -- you're trying to paint him as some crazy radical.

[...]

HANNITY: If Barack Obama would have left the church after five years, I would have said that was good judgment. But it's --

POWERS: I know, but why do you have to hold onto this? It's like --

HANNITY: Because I think this indicates how -- reflects on who he is, and how he thinks, and why he associates --

POWERS: OK, all right. We've over-debated -- the two of us have over-debated this topic, but I will --

HANNITY: There's no such thing as over-debating.

POWERS: I would just say that it's hard for me to believe that you guys really believe -- you guys really believe that African-American men of a certain generation did not have -- have not had an experience in this country that is radically different than the experience of white people.

HANNITY: I think anybody that says it's great when Malcolm X says the white man is the devil and laughs -- I think that is extreme.

POWERS: I just -- I'm going to go back and look at that. 'Cause I just -- I think it is extreme, and it doesn't sound like something he would say.

HANNITY: C-SPAN Booknotes. And I've got the tape.

POWERS: OK.

HOLTZ: I'm not saying that they don't have it difficult or had difficult situ -- I understand that. We all have challenges. We all had problems. You have to overcome them, et cetera.

POWERS: I agree with that.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity
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