A game that many Republicans and people on the far-right love to play is going out of their way to be racially inflammatory, then accusing people of “playing the race card” when they are called out—and Republican Corey Stewart, who is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in Virginia in the 2018 midterms, is a prime example. Stewart has praised Confederate soldiers, exalted Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson as honorable men and asserted that Virginians should be proud to display Confederate flags. But when the Rev. Al Sharpton interviewed Stewart on his MSNBC program, “Politics Nation,” on August 12, Stewart insisted that Sharpton was a “race hustler” for calling him out.
Stewart repeatedly defends symbols of racism and slavery, yet in his mind, it is Sharpton and other liberals who play the race card. And Stewart is not alone: right-wingers who complain about others playing the race card are often playing it themselves in the worst way.
Here are five far-right agitators who frequently play the race card while accusing others of playing the race card.
1. Rush Limbaugh
Over the years, Rush Limbaugh has made one racist comment after another on his AM talk radio program — only to turn around and insist that Sharpton, the NAACP, the Urban League and Rep. Maxine Waters are the ones who are causing racial divisions in the United States. Limbaugh is a provocateur: he loves making racially incendiary comments, but he doesn’t like being called out. In 2010, Limbaugh said of President Barack Obama, “If Obama weren’t black, he’d be a tour guide in Honolulu.” And that same year, Limbaugh asserted, “Obama is uppity, but not as a black. He is an elitist.”
True to form, Limbaugh made racially provocative remarks while claiming that liberals and progressives are the ones hurting race relations.
2. Rep. Steve King
Iowa Rep. Steve King (who is seeking re-election in November) has made it clear that he has no patience with people who play the race card, although he plays it often and can be totally shameless about it. Interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, King exalted “western civilization”—which he described as “Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where Christianity settled the world”—as inherently superior. And King once suggested that African-American women would better able to pay for their own abortions if they didn’t spend so much on their smartphones. King used to keep a Confederate flag on his desk, yet he insists that liberals and progressives have the market cornered on racism.
3. Michael Savage
During his many years on AM talk radio, host Michael Savage has repeatedly attacked those he considers race baiters — all the while insisting that "white genocide" is just around the corner. A perfect example came earlier this year when Savage lambasted California Rep. Nancy Pelosi for saying that President Trump’s goal is to “make America white again.” Savage denounced Pelosi as a race baiter before going into a long rant about “cultural genocide being promulgated against Caucasians.” Painting Pelosi as a self-hating white woman, Savage insisted, “Unless we stand up to the racists and the genocidal maniacs who are attacking, attacking, attacking, there will be nothing left to protect. There will be nothing left to save. Everything of our culture will be gone.”
4. Glenn Beck
Talk radio host Glenn Beck has a long history of describing liberals and progressives as divisive race hustlers, yet he’s always been happy to resort to divisive race hustling if he thinks it will drive ratings.
In July 2009, for example, Beck described Obama as someone who “has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture…This guy is, I believe, a racist” (never mind the fact that Obama’s mother was white). Beck, of course, had nothing concrete to back his assertion up — he was just being racially inflammatory for the sake of being racially inflammatory. And when he was called out, Beck painted him as a victim of persecution.
5. Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist in the Trump administration and former chairman of Breitbart News, has stressed that accusing President Trump of racism is a losing strategy for Democrats. The Democratic Party, Bannon stresses, will keep losing elections if it keeps playing the race card. But Bannon has a long history of being a racial provocateur, repeatedly insisting that white western culture is under attack from the left. And when Bannon visited France, he openly endorsed white nationalist Marine Le Pen—head of the far-right National Front and the 2017 presidential candidate who lost to neoliberal Emmanuel Macron in France’s 2017 presidential election.
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