11/17/2004

U.S. News' Barone accused Dem pollster Greenberg of "blood libel"

U.S. News' Barone accused Dem pollster Greenber ... [Media Matters for America]: "U.S. News' Barone accused Dem pollster Greenberg of 'blood libel' for saying 1988 Willie Horton ads were race-baiting

When Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg referred to the infamous 'Willie Horton' attack ads as 'racial politics,' U.S. News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone accused Greenberg of 'blood libel on the American people.'

Barone made his comments as a panelist on the November 15 edition of The Kalb Report, which airs on C-SPAN. Host Marvin Kalb moderated a live panel discussion titled 'A Post-Election Analysis: Values, Religion, Politics and the Media.' Barone emphatically denied Greenberg's claim that 'racial politics' were a factor in the Republican Party's ascendance in the South in the 1980s.

The term "blood libel" specifically denotes accusations that a particular group -- often Jews -- practices murderous human sacrifice. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia "notes: "A famous example of blood libel is the allegation that Jews kill Christian and Muslim children and use their blood to make Passover matzohs.

The 'Willie Horton' television ads attacked Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential campaign. But even the campaign of Dukakis's opponent, George H.W. Bush, denounced the ads featuring an ominous-looking photo of Horton, who is black, and asked the independent pro-Bush National Security Political Action Committee to stop running them, according to an October 29, 1988, article in The Washington Post. In 1991, Bush's 1988 campaign manager, Lee Atwater, apologized to Dukakis for promising in 1988 to 'make Willie Horton his [Dukakis's] running mate.' According to a January 14, 1991, Associated Press report, Atwater, who was gravely ill at the time, regretted the statement 'because it makes me sound racist, which I am not.'

From the November 15 edition of The Kalb Report:

GREENBERG: Well, first of all, I don't know, welfare queen, Willie Horton. That strikes me as racial politics in the 1980s.

BARONE: I think you are absolutely wrong about Willie Horton, and I want to strenuously disagree.

[...]

I think this whole Willie Horton thing is a slur on the American people. The argument has been made by Democrats and liberals that the Bush campaign in '88 supposedly showed pictures of this man. It did not. There was an independent expenditure ad that did. But they did not. They showed white prisoners in the ad. And the argument against Michael Dukakis, which he never effectively countered because there is no effective counter, is that giving furlough to people who have life without parole is a position that Dukakis defended over 11 years as governor of Massachusetts or governor candidate, is a crazy law, and he supported it over 11 years. You don't have to be a racist to want a murderer, whatever his race, to stay in jail and not be allowed outside on the weekend. To say that the American people were racist and they just want black people in, is blood libel on the American people"

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