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ABC’s Jake Tapper Falls for Right Wing Race Baiting on Derrick Bell

ABC’s Jake Tapper pats himself on the back for debunking another Andrew Breitbart-originated race-baiting effort. But in doing so, Tapper implies he accepts the race-baiting premise, reminding blacks once again that if you say or do something honest you get called “controversial” and become unacceptable in polite company.

What’s left of the Breitbart blog contrived with Fox News to publicize as somehow new and damning what were in fact already public videos of Harvard Law student Barack Obama defending a black professor, Derrick Bell, for taking a stand in favor of greater racial diversity at America’s most elite university. That event, which happened in early 1990s, is neither news nor controversial, let alone somehow damning.

But that didn’t matter to the race baitors in the Fox/Breitbart cabal, which tried to depict the event as Obama endorsing “radical” views from some”radical” black mentor. Right on cue, other right wing sites and orgs piled on this non-story, hoping to get the main media folks to bite. Enter ABC’s Jake Tapper.

Tapper compliments the paid shills at the “conservative” Heritage Foundation for checking whether this black radical mentor — aka distinguished Harvard Professor — ever visited the Obama White House. And sure enough, the visitor logs do show someone with the name Derrick A. Bell visiting the White House in January 2010. OMG! A respected member of the Harvard faculty visiting the White House! We told you so! Obama invites black radicals to the White House!

But Jake Tapper wants to rise above this. He reports that the birthdates don’t match and so it was probably someone else named Derrick Bell. Whew!

There are two problems with the Heritage post. One: it excludes some details from the visitors’ logs. There are 28 columns on the publicly released records, the Heritage blog lists seven. The data they omit includes a description of what the visit was for: in this case, for both visits: TOURS. A White House tour – not MEETING or APPOINTMENT. . . .

But Bell surely could have taken a tour or two and then met with President Obama, right? Sure, it’s possible – and I asked the White House about it. The answer from a White House official: this was not the same Derrick A. Bell. He had a different birthday than the late law professor, whose birthday was November 6, 1930. That would seem to undermine the significance of this visit.

So, this would be an important story if we found out a black professor from Harvard whose views on increasing faculty diversity Obama once defended actually met with Obama? Then the right would be vindicated? Uh, no. [cont’d.]

Earth to Jake: You fell for the con. Just about any black person writing honestly about America’s black/white experience is going to be called “controversial” by someone, and if he/she is at all sympathetic to the plight of black people in America, the right is going to label them “radical.”

There would have been nothing wrong with Harvard Professor Derrick Bell visiting the Obama White House, or the Bush or Clinton White Houses. What we have to worry about is when the occupant is afraid to meet with them and the mainstream media reports the visit as “controversial” merely because the right in the country is still deeply mired in race baiting.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley