Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brian Williams Mocks Latinos On NBC Nightly News

At Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 15, 2009, an exchange between Justice Sotomayor and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma prompted Sen. Coburn to tell Justice Sotomayor, "You'll have a lot of 'splainin' to do!"  The reference was to a phrase Desi Arnaz often uttered to Lucille Ball on the 1950's sitcom "I Love Lucy".  Many people felt that Sen. Coburn used the phrase to mock Justice Sotomayor's Latina heritage, and many considered it a blatant slur against all American Latinos and Latinas.

On May 29, 2013, Brian Williams read a story on NBC Nightly News about Pres. Obama having lipstick on his collar during a public appearance.  (Let's overlook the fact that this doesn't remotely qualify as a news story and it didn't belong on a national newscast.  Obviously, Brian Williams makes a living reporting garbage stories with no news value.)  During his introduction to the story, Brian said, "The President of the United States had a bit of 'splainin' to do last night...."  There it is again--'splainin' rears its ugly head on national television.  I don't think there's any question that this word is derogatory and insulting to Latinos and Latinas.  It's no different that affecting an exaggerated Chinese or German accent to mock a person from one of those countries. 

News flash for Brian Williams: It's not the 1950's anymore.  Making fun of someone's accent--and by extension their heritage--is insensitive at best and malicious at worst.  It should not be tolerated on a sitcom, much less a news broadcast that is supposed to inform viewers.  A network news anchor is supposed to report facts, not make fun of the way some Americans talk.

But I can guarantee that there will be no repercussions for Brian Williams.  No one at NBC News will discipline him--he's their golden boy as long as Nightly News is the top-rated evening newscast (although the same cannot be said for his other vanity project, the already-cancelled Rock Center).  And Brian's philosophy with regard to personal or professional impropriety is "never acknowledge, never apologize".  He still hasn't apologized for the appalling way in which NBC News edited George Zimmerman's 911 tapes to make Zimmerman appear racist.  So there's zero chance he'll apologize for his slur against Latinos and Latinas.

Brian Williams will just continue on as if nothing happened.  There seems little doubt that at some point in the future he will again affect a condescending foreign accent to mock some immigrant group (domestic groups are not spared either--Brian often mocks New Englanders by saying things like "Fenway Pahk", "Red Sawx" and "pahtying wicked hahd".)  Because Brian Williams' number one priority is to boost his ratings--and his ego--by saying things he believes are "funny" and "cool".  And believe me--political correctness and propriety don't stand a chance when ratings and ego are at stake.

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