How 'vile' MAGA Republicans are painting Ohio's environmental nightmare as a 'war on white people'
In East Palestine, Ohio, residents have complained of headaches, nausea, skin rashes and other symptoms following the early February derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals. A combination of Democrats, liberals and environmentalists have been vehemently critical of Norfolk Southern’s response to the disaster, arguing that the company needs to be way more proactive about a problem that it caused.
Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist famously portrayed by Julia Roberts in a hit 2000 movie, has urged the Biden Administration to "get more involved" in the crisis. To liberals and progressives —as well as some Never Trump conservatives — East Palestine is facing an environmental nightmare that merits a forceful, aggressive response.
But far-right MAGA Republicans who include Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk view East Palestine as a racial issue, claiming that Democrats are indifferent to the crisis because the town’s residents are mostly white. And liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent calls them out in a blistering column published on February 21.
READ MORE:'War on white people': Charlie Kirk's train derailment conspiracy theory
"The fiery derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals in Eastern Ohio is coming to represent bigger societal failures," Sargent writes. "It’s a story about profit-driven rail companies underinvesting in safety, lobbyists weakening rail regulation, and the government’s failure to assure residents’ security from lingering toxins. But in certain right-wing media precincts, the disaster is about something else: a campaign of discrimination being waged against white people."
The MAGA claim that liberals and progressives are indifferent to the suffering in East Palestine because the town is predominantly white doesn’t hold up. In fact, left-leaning publications have done plenty of in-depth reporting on the crisis, from Mother Jones to The Nation to Salon to Slate to The New Republic.
But as Sargent emphasizes in his article, some MAGA Republicans are insisting that the disaster isn’t being taken seriously because the victims are mostly white. Sargent cites Carlson, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Kirk as some of the worst offenders, noting Kirk’s claim that East Palestine shows a "war on white people" being carried out by the "Biden regime."
MAGA Republicans, according to Sargent, have been pushing an "ugly trope that elites are plotting to exterminate whites, or at least allowing them to perish."
READ MORE: Erin Brockovich urges Biden to 'get more involved' as toxic chemicals imperil Ohio and Pennsylvania
"Ever since the February 3 disaster," Sargent observes, "Carlson and his comrades have sought to transform East Palestine's plight into a tale about 'woke' Democrats abandoning white communities in the virtuous, forgotten heartland. What this illustrates is how the right uses race-baiting to deceive people into forgetting that Democrats are now the far more committed party when it comes to investing in such left-behind communities…. Carlson ratchets up this vile game by saying that if the accident had happened in Philadelphia or Detroit — wink, wink — there would be no neglect."
Detroit and Philadelphia both have large African-American communities, Detroit especially. The Motor City, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was roughly 77 percent Black in 2021, while Philly was around 40 percent.
On February 21, CNN reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had ordered Norfolk Southern to handle all cleanup in the East Palestine area.
READ MORE: 'The railroad did us wrong': Norfolk Southern reps skip town hall on Ohio train derailment
Read Greg Sargent’s full Washington Post column at this link (subscription required).
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