We’ve all spent years carefully observing a difference between “people who say and do racist things” and “racists.” One framing helps keep the discussion on the actions that people are hurt by, while the other, framed as a moral judgment of the entire person, engenders hurt feelings and instantly transforms the conversation into a tedious and pointless argument about how many racist bones people have in their bodies and what’s in their hearts. After all, right-wingers would never support a racist, so rather than counterproductively shaming anyone for voting for politicians who promise to do racist things in office and then keep their promises, we should instead stay laser-focused on the racist actions themselves.
It turns out that was kinda bullshit! Watch senatorial candidate and Racist Music Man Kris Kobach flop around like a fish on a dock when CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asks him a simple question: “What would you do if the president said, ‘I am a racist.’ … Would you still support him as president?” It’s a tough one, at least for Kris Kobach:
Barring telepathy, there is no way for a human being to establish him or herself as “a racist” more convincingly than saying, “I am a racist.” And yet Kobach, who is so worried about left wingers unfairly throwing around the word “racist,” says, “Um, I don’t know. That would be a really tough question. I’d have to know who was running against him.” OK, then!
Here’s the complete exchange:
Kris Kobach: No, he didn’t pick a race battle. He picked a battle, and then the left, and you, choose to characterize it as a race battle. It’s not about race.
Chris Cuomo: What do you want me to do when he makes a racist comment? I call him a demagogue, because I don’t want to get into the business of what he thinks he is. Because in our political culture, if he says, “I’m not a racist,” then it gives guys like you cover to defend him. But let me ask you something: If the president said, “I am a racist. That’s why I said it,” what would you do?
Kobach: Uh, then I would not defend him, because there’s no excuse for racism in America, period.
Cuomo: Would you still support him as president?
Kobach: Um, I don’t know. That would be a really tough question.
Cuomo: You have to think about it? You have to think about whether or not you would support a racist?
Kobach: If he said, if he said, if he said, if he says it’s …
Kobach: I’d have to know who was running against him.
Cuomo: A racist?
Kobach: Look, he—
Cuomo: An admitted racist, you’d have to know more?
Kobach: If he said he was a racist, probably not. Of course not. I mean, you’re making …
Cuomo: Kris, come on, man. It can’t be that partisan.
Kobach: Oh, come on, you’d have to—these—you’re—these are ridiculous hypotheticals. Because the people running against him right now—
Cuomo: It’s ridiculous that it took you that long to answer it!
Kobach: No. Come on. He is not a racist—he’s
Cuomo: You’re running for Senate, and you’ve gotta take a pause whether or not if he said he was a racist you’d still support him? Come on, brother. I hope it’s a satellite delay.
Kobach: No, no no no, I’m taking a pause considering your hypothetical. Your hypothetical doesn’t even make sense.
Cuomo: How so?
Kobach: Because the president has not said anything racist.
Cuomo: I know.
Kobach: The president would not say, “Oh, by the way, everybody, I’m an admitted racist.”
Well, he—hold on, hold on, wait. I take back what I just said. He has said many racist things. He has never said he is a racist. He says, “I am the least racist.” Which by the way isn’t saying that he’s not a racist, it’s saying he’s the least amount of racist that anyone that Don Lemon had ever met.
Look, OK. Let’s go to a—let’s go another, let’s go on to another thing…
Cuomo: I made the hypothetical for a reason.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus