(NNPA)—Dear Brother Greg: You and I have had fun sparring over the years and judging by your recent column in the Washington Examiner attempting to take me to task for taking Juan Williams and Frances Rice to task for their support of Rush Limbaugh, that’s an exchange you’d like to continue. So, I’ll happily oblige you, my friend.
Interestingly, you chose to quote two Limbaugh comments that I stated up front were unproven and only one from the long list of documented derogatory comments made by him. For example, you didn’t dare quote a comment that Limbaugh confirmed making to an African-American caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
You asserted that in the interest of what you called “full disclosure” that as editor of Emerge, I ran “two notorious covers of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on them. One depicted Thomas with a handkerchief around his head; the second had him shining the shoes of Justice Antonin Scalia.” You wrote the same thing in at least three other columns (December 24, 2000; May 19, 2005 and May 1, 2009).
Yes, we published a cover of Thomas [November 2003] with a handkerchief on his head—tied in an Aunt Jemima knot, to be specific—but we did not place him on the cover shinning Scalia’s shoes. The latter was an illustration inside the second issue [November 1996]. The cover was an illustration of Thomas as a lawn jockey for the far right. If you’re going to criticize me, Greg, at least get the facts straight.
As for your comment that the two covers were “just as despicable as anything Limbaugh has said, been accused of saying or ever will say,” the cover and inside illustration speak for themselves—and evidently for most of Black America.
Writing in Time magazine—no bastion of American liberalism—Jack E. White observed: “No matter what George Curry accomplishes during the remainder of his journalistic career, he will be remembered for one thing: he was the editor who slapped a portrait of Clarence Thomas wearing an Aunt Jemima-style handkerchief on a 1993 cover of Emerge magazine. That shocking image outraged Thomas’ supporters, of course, but it crystallized the disgust that many African-Americans had begun to feel about the ultraconservative legal philosophy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s only Black member.”
I take it that you are still in the “outraged Thomas’ supporters” category.
By the way, the point that you continue to overlook is that the first Emerge cover image in 1993 was based primarily on the remarks of Thomas’ former supporters, not his usual critics. We made a conscious decision to interview people who had initially supported Thomas for the Supreme Court seat, including former NAACP Board Chairwoman Margaret Bush Wilson, a Democrat, and former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr., a Republican. Both were highly critical of Thomas. In addition, Royce Esthers, president of the Compton, Calif. NAACP branch, took the unusual step of defying her national office to support Thomas. She said in the second Emerge story: “I, along with 57 percent of other Blacks in this nation were conned. Clarence Thomas has turned out to be a house Negro.”
By then, everyone except you and a few others of your ilk had realized that Clarence Thomas has been a disaster for people of color. One progressive, William E. Nelson, a political science professor at Ohio State University, told the magazine that Clarence Thomas “has moved to the right of Justice Scalia, which makes him one of the most conservative and racist judges on the court. He makes Booker T. Washington seem like a member of the Black Panthers.”
You defended Thomas for what you described as “108 agonizing months” when he tried to rationalize his reluctance to ask questions of lawyers appearing before the Supreme Court. “I don’t want to give them a hard time,” he said to your chagrin. You finally concluded that Thomas was a “fool.”
In your Dec. 4, 2000 column in the Baltimore Sun—the same one in which you called Clarence Thomas a fool—you stated, “Black conservatives have had to defend Thomas against charges that he was hardly the most qualified Black judge, let alone the most qualified [sic], to fill Marshall’s place when he retired. By his own words, Thomas might have proved his critics right.”
And by your own words, you have proven how confused you are. You criticized me for upbraiding Limbaugh. Yet, you did the same thing in a BlackAmericaWeb.com column that appeared on March 12 of this year. You wrote, “I dismissed Limbaugh as a commentator completely when he whipped out the race card and played it when discussing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.” You ended your column by saying, “If Republicans hope to make any headway with American voters, they can start by retiring Rush Limbaugh’s mouth.”
When describing you, people often use the C-word (for conservative). Now, they can use another C-word—confused.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge.)