White Vox Contributor Sneers at Black CNN Panelist: ‘You’re An Expert’ on Hate Crimes?’


On CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, Brian Stelter brought in his panel to discuss the developments in the Jussie Smollett story, and the discussion quickly turned antagonistic.

Commentator Kmele Foster, host of The Fifth Column podcast, was the first to weigh in after Stelter introduced the segment. Foster, who is black, addressed the topic of the segment, which was whether the media was irresponsible or rushed to judgment in their response to the alleged racially-motivated and homophobic attack on black gay actor Smollett.

“I think there were a lot of reasons for skepticism from early on,” he said. “If this had happened in the way that it was described, it would have been extraordinary, and what we’re seeing now, however, as the story starts to degrade a bit is I do think a lot of frustration on many sides, and even some cheering on other because there was a lot of rush to judgment. I mean, I think a lot — ”

Stelter asked him who was rushing to judgment, and Foster referred to the media, stating a lack of skepticism and urging reporters exhibit “patience”.

That’s when Stelter turned to Vox podcaster Liz Plank, who had a different take, disputing the idea that the media jumped the gun. She said it wasn’t the media who jumped in early, but celebrities and activists. This is demonstrably false (see below), but led to her point about hate crimes overall.

“We don’t know what happened to Jussie, but what we do know is that racism is alive and well in this country, homophobia is alive and well in this country, 2017 set a record for the number of hate crimes,” said Plank. “The president and his rhetoric has been cited by people who — there is real evidence of people who have done these crimes that cite that the president has inspired them.”

Foster began to say that what people believe might be part of the problem, and Plank turned toward him and snapped “Yeah, that’s because it’s a trend.”

“Well I think this is part of the problem, we’re establishing the trend, whether or not it’s there,” said Foster, referring to Plank’s linkage of Trump’s rise to a rise in hate crimes.

The back and forth continued, with Foster continuing to state his position as Plank became increasingly agitated, fake laughing as she aggressively contradicted him.

“A hate crime is not the sort of thing we simply look at and it is absolutely, positively a hate crime. There’s some supposition about that,” said Foster at one point, to which Plank replied with more mocking laughter.

“So you don’t believe the FBI? The FBI isn’t an expert? You’re an expert?” Plank derisively spat.

Here’s a trimmed version of the clip.

Plank was citing real statistics, although as Foster noted, correlation is not necessarily causation. And derision is not argumentation, although it is argumentative. But her assertion about increase in hate crimes was correct.

On the subject of the media jumping the gun, however, Plank was dead wrong. It wasn’t just activists and celebrities, there were countless members of the press, on the day of the TMZ story, who did indeed run with the story to draw conclusions, and who took and repeated the MAGA angle.

“The MAGA quote, I remember reading about this story, and looking for a real reputable media outlet reporting on it, and I couldn’t find one,” she said. “We can’t confuse celebrity tweets with the media and the press.”

There is no way to know what exactly the Vox podcaster means by “reputable” but Vibe Magazine reported it on that day.

Slate and Vanity Fair, also.

There was also Slate, Sirius XM, Orlando Sun-Sentinel. Many outlets, particularly local network affiliates, included the MAGA angle, often with the “reports TMZ” caveat. Plank said she couldn’t find a single one. There were dozens more from individual reporters, journalists, and members of the press. Even from among CNN’s ranks. There were many, many more. It’s simply not correct to say the MAGA angle of the story was not shared by mainstream press following TMZ’s initial report.

The arguing continued in the segment until Brian Stelter stepped in and said, “if he lied, he’s hurt real victims of hate crimes,” to which all the panelists agreed, but disagreement continued right after and until the end of the segment.

Watch the clips above, via CNN.

[Featured image via screengrab]

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