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Renée Graham

Ben Carson, Rupert Murdoch, and the racial divide

Carson. AP

Whatever happens come Election Day 2016, this execrable presidential campaign will be long remembered for its relentless foolishness.

Whether it’s Jeb Bush’s shrug and “stuff happens” response to last week’s mass shooting at an Oregon community college, or Hillary Clinton trying to “Whip/Nae-Nae” her way into our skeptical hearts, each week brings yet another eyebrow-raising, head-slapping moment from someone desperately trying to convince us that we should place our ever-precarious futures in their ruthless little hands.

Wednesday night, we got proxy idiocy from media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation, home of Fox News. In a tweet praising Ben Carson, Murdoch wrote, “What about a real black president who can properly address the racial divide?” With his comment, Murdoch tried to accomplish two things, both of which we already knew. One, that he really doesn’t like President Obama, and two, that he really, really doesn’t like Donald Trump, who is still, bizarrely, the GOP front-runner.

After much criticism, Murdoch tweeted Thursday morning, “Apologies! No offense meant! Personally find both men charming.”


Murdoch tossed this sort-of endorsement to Carson at a time when the acclaimed retired neurosurgeon and presidential candidate has been making headlines for saying any offensive thing that pops into his head. Carson isn’t bellicose like Trump — there are hungry alligators less bellicose than Trump — and that’s appealing to people who prefer their crazy delivered with an inside voice rather than a foghorn.

It’s also remarkable that, given its often-skewed coverage of the police-involved deaths of unarmed black people or the Black Lives Matter movement, Murdoch, or anyone connected to Fox News, would consider that this nation’s widening racial divide needs to be addressed at all. If its coverage is any indication, there’s nothing wrong here that black people sitting down, shutting up, and knowing their place wouldn’t cure.


Yet here’s Murdoch making it clear that Carson, America’s Dr. Feelbad, has that old black magic necessary to make disappear all that racially ails us. This is the same Carson who accused Black Lives Matter activists of “bullying people,” and called Michael Brown, the unarmed black Ferguson, Mo., teenager killed by a white police officer in 2014, “a bad actor.” It was Carson who said this nation should “de-emphasize race and emphasize respect for each other,” missing the inconvenient fact that racism, the hole in this nation’s heart, is the antithesis of respect. This is the same Carson who believes a Muslim unwilling to “reject the tenets of Islam” would be unfit to serve as president.

Yes, that’s exactly the kind of black man Murdoch would want in the White House — someone whose idea of bridging the racial divide is to not to bridge it at all.

There’s an intelligent discussion to be had about how much Obama has done to help black people, or to eradicate racism. At the same time, it’s absurd to believe that one man could undo centuries of bigotry, or that, as the first black president, he should be held personally responsible for the persistence of prejudice.

What should be clear is that Carson would do nothing for the racial divide except ignore it and lambaste those with the audacity to demand their rights. In the meantime, if Murdoch is now the man who decides what constitutes real blackness, then life as an African-American in this country is even bleaker than we imagined.


Renée Graham writes regularly for the Globe. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.