Fox News contributor Stacey Dash was suspended for two weeks by the network on Monday after claiming President Barack Obama doesn’t “give a s***” about terrorism on air, but this is far from the first time the former “Clueless” star has generated controversy with her conservative rhetoric.
The 48-year-old actress, who emerged as sociopolitical commentator after publicly endorsing the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket in 2012, has criticized women who highlight wage disparity, attacked Oprah Winfrey for linking the death of Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till, defended embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen against accusations of racism, suggested campus rape accusers are often “bad girls” acting “naughty” and claimed African-Americans who support Obama are getting “money for free.”
Dash, alongside “The View” co-host Raven-Symoné and CNN anchor Don Lemon, has become a lightening rod within the African-American community in particular for remarks that could be deemed racially insensitive if they were uttered by a non-black commentator.
“I have long believed that there should be room in the discourse for a cacophony of well-informed voices – no matter where they are ideologically. Black conservatives have always been a part of the social justice discussion,” Goldie Taylor – an editor-at-large for The Daily Beast who has written critically about Lemon in the past – told MSNBC. “However, I think the expectation is that they come prepared to defend those arguments and not rely on their racial heritage as immunity from certain criticisms. While I always hope for respectful exchange, free speech does not free one for criticism. A rigorous exchange of ideas forwards our work for meaningful solutions and, ultimately, that has to be the goal. Anyone – right or left– who isn’t deeply rooted in our issues and is simply ‘checking for a check’ – should anticipate blowback.”
Meanwhile, Symoné has become the subject of a petition calling for her removal from air after she said she wouldn’t hire someone with a stereotypical black name, defended a Univision anchor who had compared first lady Michelle Obama to an ape and expressed ambiguity over video of a black Spring Valley High School student being manhandled by a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Raven Symoné has been spouting her ignorant and self-hating spiel on ‘The View’ for long enough … African Americans and black people around the diaspora need a voice representative of their views,” the petition on Change.org reads. It currently has more than 130,000 signatures.
“I think historically black folks have always had a certain level of disdain for people that they feel will throw the rest of black folks under the bus for personal gain,” David A. Wilson, the co-founder and owner of theGrio, an African-American focused news and culture website, told MSNBC. “You can make the case that all of them do that.”
He also thinks that the incendiary comments of Dash and other culturally conservative African-American TV personalities are “very calculated.”
“I don’t think Stacey Dash was just feeling so upset [about President Obama’s policies] that she just had to drop profanity,” said Wilson.
Lemon is something akin to the dean of the current crop of polarizing black TV personalities. The ostensibly nonpartisan CNN host has been pilloried for backing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s shaming of the black community in 2013, following the death of Trayvon Martin. He sparked a bitter backlash when he held up a sign featuring the N-word during an on-air segment on race, and again when he suggested a Bill Cosby accuser could have avoiding her alleged assault by biting the comedian. And he too has been criticized for his reaction to the Spring Valley High video and is the subject of a petition to be removed from air, which has received thousands of cosigners.
While reporting on the shooting massacre at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, this summer, Lemon was called an “Uncle Tom” on air.
However, Wilson believes that Lemon, Dash and Symoné (and even presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson) all largely get a pass because “they’re immune to the racist label because they’re black.”
“If you are a Republican or conservative-leaning black person you’re going to be pushed to the front of the line,” Wilson told MSNBC. “Somebody like Don Lemon, I think he realizes ‘my numbers go up every time I say something sort of contrarian.’” He suggests that while Obama is often a favorite target for black attacks from the right, the Black Lives Matter movement may soon usurp him as the prime target of the black conservative counterpoint.
“If I were Stacey Dash and some of these other folks, I would be grateful for the fact that there is a black movement to rail against,” he said.