The No. 1 complaint conservatives have about the news media is that it leans too far left. So when African-American writer Joe Williams recently made some inflammatory comments abut Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, conservative websites such as the Daily Caller and Breitbart.com didn't hesitate to flag them as unfair. The controversy began when Williams, a White House reporter for Politico.com, told MSNBC's Martin Bashir last week that Romney feels most at home with "white folks," which is why the former Massachusetts governor appears uncomfortable in certain settings.
Because of his "white folks" comment and other insulting remarks Williams made about Romney over the social networking site Twitter, Politico.com suspended him. In March, Williams also stirred the pot by sending out a tweet that insinuated Politico was racist. But Williams told Current TV that he intended for the March tweet to be private. He also criticized the Daily Caller and Breitbart for taking his other tweets out of context.
"When you have somebody suggesting strongly and erroneously and out of context that one of your reporters is not fair, it's very hard to not react in that situation." In addition, he remarked that such sites are "in the business of gathering scalps."
That may be true, but it is curious that Williams sent out a tweet accusing his own employer of being racist. I understand that many people of color feel that their workplaces are hostile environments, but why make such a claim over Twitter? As for Williams' comment about Romney - I'm not sure that means he's biased. Mitt Romney is a wealthy white man who's spent much of his life around wealthy white people, pointing that out doesn't mean that Williams can't fairly report about the former Massachusetts governor. To boot, Romney was widely ridiculed during the 2008 campaign when he spontaneously broke into a rendition of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" while meeting with a group of black youth during a Martin Luther King Day celebration. It's as if Romney thought that inane song was the way to connect with black people, which made him look awkward and a little bit foolish during the outing.
Williams doesn't seem to harbor any resentment toward Politico for suspending him, however. He said that the news organization behaved like any other would have if a reporter faced accusations of bias. But his future with Politico remains up for grabs, a predicament Williams suggested he wouldn't be in if media outlets such as Politico didn't allow external forces to influence them.
"Journalism in this country has always prided itself on being fearless, independent, willing to push back on government," he said. "Now we're not even willing to push back on our own critics."