A scrum of conservative bloggers, media figures, and now Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus have targeted Ebony magazine Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux over a supposedly racist error she made in an argument on the social medium Twitter.
Lemieux accidentally called RNC staffer Raffi Williams a “white dude” when he attempted to address a remark she made in a tweet on Thursday. Williams — who is African-American — is the son of Fox News commentator Juan Williams and current director of the RNC’s youth and minority outreach program.
The discussion began over conservative commentator Ben Carson’s plan to start a magazine for black conservatives.
Someone asked Lemieux if she didn’t want to know more about the publication, to which she replied, “I 100 percent do not want to know more, I wish I knew less!”
Then Williams — who wears his hair in loose waves and poses in front of a painting of Pres. Ronald Reagan in his Twitter profile photo — tweeted at Lemieux, “Wish you knew less? Hoped you would encourage diversity of thought.”
“Oh great,” Lemieux replied, “here comes a White dude telling me how to do this Black thing. Pass.”
The faux pas set off an immediate firestorm among users of the conservative Twitter aggregator Twitchy.com and other conservative media outlets, who branded Lemieux a racist and proceeded to hurl insults and invective.
“I hear you like to judge people by the color of their skin,” wrote one.
“‘Go away?’” said another, “I think you’re confused about how this twitter thing works. Also, you’re a racist.”
RedState.com commentator Aaron Gardner wrote, “This morning a news editor from Ebony decided to show her ignorance and racism to the world.”
Lemieux apologized to Williams, but for Gardner that wasn’t enough.
“Quite frankly, Lemieux can take her apology and cram it,” he wrote. “I find it hard to believe that Lemieux’s apology was from the heart considering she is the daughter of a former Black Panther.”
By Thursday morning, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was joining the fanned-up outrage and demanded an apology on Williams’ behalf from Ebony. Williams appeared on Fox News, complaining about how he’d been treated by Lemieux.
Thursday afternoon, even as Lemieux supporters kicked off an #IStandWithJamilah hashtag on Twitter, Ebony complied, issuing a stiffly-worded apology for what the publication called Lemieux’s “lack of judgment.”
The right’s heated reaction to the Twitter spat strikes some as spectacularly overblown and more than a little bit hypocritical. Clutch magazine’s Britni Danielle wrote, “The hypocrisy of Fox News, Reince Priebus, and several Conservatives is astounding. While many Right Wingers have no problem pandering to extremists in their party like Ted Nugent who regularly spew on racially charged rhetoric (i.e. calling President Obama is the “Food Stamp President” or a Kenyan-born Muslim Socialist or a “subhuman mongrel”), the moment someone, particularly a Black person, does not subscribe to their views (or chooses to not engage as Lemieux did when she told Williams she wasn’t interested in anything he had to say), they cry reverse racism and cloak themselves in victimhood.”
Conservatives launched a purported boycott against Ebony last September for its series of covers in the wake of the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager in 2012. The publication’s covers featured black male celebrities and their families dressed in the type of “hoodie” sweatshirts that Martin was wearing when he died.
The magazine’s sales figures rose in the wake of the conservative initiative. As Daily Banter blogger Bob Cesca said, “You can’t boycott something you’ve never purchased.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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