Whenever civil unrest breaks out in response to perceived excessive force by the police, you can count on one thing above all: that Fox News will blame Al Sharpton.
It’s become a sort of tic on the part of the network’s intrepid reporters: conjuring language, like Benghazi, to stir up their devoted viewers. When protests turn ugly, they invariably call–loudly and often–for civil rights leaders to condemn the violence, as if their silence, real or imaginary, is somehow responsible for everything that’s happening. And they always call on Sharpton by name.
Granted, Rev. Sharpton is seemingly omnipresent when there’s social upheaval with racial overtones. But Fox’s hosts usually ignore that he and other black leaders—including the oft-cited President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder—often do, in fact, condemn the violence.
That’s precisely what happens here, during the channel’s live coverage of the protests-turned-riots in Baltimore yesterday. Eric Bolling, a treasured voice on race issues and expert on the socioeconomic challenges of inner-city life, loudly calls for civil rights leaders to come out against the violence, citing Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
The difference this time is that Shepard Smith is around to serve as the voice of reason. Having concentrated for most of the segment on what’s actually happening on the ground and what had been an insufficient police response, he responds quickly and decisively to Bolling’s comment that he hadn’t heard from anyone he wanted to hear from.
“I heard Alveda King a little while ago on our air telling her [sic] to get people home, that this is not a way to solve any problems. But it seems like, in the middle of all of this, to start picking on people for civil rights and what they’re saying and what they’re not saying—we could spend our time watching this and reporting on it.”
When Bolling continues along with his condemnation of a reality that does not exist, Smith gets him again: “That’s a wonderful idea. I’m confident [those leaders] are all watching and will on your instruction do exactly that.”
The discussion continues along these same lines, with the other social scientist on the panel, Greg Gutfeld, asking where “the parents” are.
After a few more dog whistles, Smith manages to rise above and bring the systemic economic and criminal justice issues—which have been festering for decades in Baltimore’s disadvantaged neighborhoods—into the discussion.
Smith’s comment mocking the idea that the black leaders Bolling is calling on would ever hear his words gets to the essential issue here.
The only reason that Bolling and others on the network are calling for Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to insert themselves into the discussion is so that, after the fact, they can criticize them as incendiary anti-police activists trying to divide the country on race issues. Of course, the network never goes back to retract or update these errors when, like in this case, leaders have already called for peace.
So how can you tell Bolling doesn’t actually value Sharpton’s input?
Here are his comments after Sharpton spoke out on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri: “How about for once he just stays out of it? You know, why do we need him to condemn it, or say ‘go for it’? Just stay out.”
When it comes to Fox News, some black leaders simply can't win.