MSNBC’s claim that Sanders “did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech” is demonstrably false.
The most recent example is as glaring as it is malicious. On Saturday in Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders delivered his first speech for his 2020 presidential campaign in front of thousands of people. MSNBC broadcast the speech live, and anyone can watch the full two-hour event, or just Sanders’s full 35-minute speech, on YouTube.
As a result, there’s no confusion possible about what was said. Everyone can see it with their own eyes.
Before Sanders spoke, he was introduced by a series of speakers including three African-Americans: South Carolina state Rep. Terry Alexander (who spoke of Sanders’s lifelong commitment to equal justice and opportunity), former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (who heralded Sanders’s long-time commitment to racial justice and his status as “only one of two white elected officials” who supported Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign run in 1984), and racial justice activist (and Intercept columnist) Shaun King (who described in detail Sanders’s history as an anti-racist and civil rights activist in the 1960s and his decadeslong devotion to issues of racial equality).
After Sanders’s speech, MSNBC immediately asked its panel for reactions. The first person they turned to was Zerlina Maxwell, who the host identified only as an “MSNBC analyst.” What the host omitted, but which Maxwell herself acknowledged, was that she was a paid official for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign against Sanders: that, revealingly, is the first person MSNBC had opine on Sanders’s speech.
After the host noted that Maxwell was making gestures of disapproval throughout Sanders’s speech and asked her what the cause was, Maxwell proceeded to state demonstrable lies about that speech. She said:
To be very serious about it, I clocked it. He did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech. And just for point of comparison, I went back and looked at Elizabeth Warren’s opening speech, for example. She mentions race and discrimination in the first paragraph. So that’s a big difference.
That is a big difference. It’s also a total lie. Sanders mentioned race, gender, and discrimination multiple times at the beginning of his speech and long before the 23-minute mark, as anyone who actually watched it — which presumably includes all the MSNBC personalities on that panel who sat silently as this lie was broadcast — obviously knew was a lie. For good measure, Maxwell repeated the same lie she told on MSNBC in a tweet that she posted:
Ok 23 minutes in Bernie finally mentions race and gender— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) March 2, 2019
All one needs to do to prove this is an obvious lie is look at the video of Sanders’s speech — which the MSNBC panel had just done as it allowed Maxwell to deceive its audience this way.
Before Sanders even began the substance of his speech, he thanked those who introduced him, saying of Shaun King’s anti-racist activism: “All over this country — and I’m going to say a few words about it today and more tomorrow — people understand that we have a broken criminal justice system, and there are few people in America fighting more than Shaun to change that system.”
In the very first sentence Sanders spoke to define his 2020 campaign — which came, at the latest, at the five-minute mark even if one counts all the cheering, chanting, and obligatory acknowledgments that preceded the substance of the speech — Sanders proclaimed that the core message of his campaign is that “the underlying principles of our government” will “not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious bigotry.” He then vowed, “This campaign is going to end all of that.” Watch it for yourself:
In the very next passage of Sanders’s speech — at most six minutes into it — the senator vowed that “the principles of our government will be based on justice: on economic justice, on social justice, on racial justice, on environmental justice”:
Sanders then devoted several minutes to denouncing the inequities, unfairness, and destructive effects of America’s criminal justice system and the drug war, contrasting the severe punishment meted out to low-level marijuana and other small-time offenders to the full-scale protection and even bailout for the Wall Street tycoons who crashed the economy in 2008. His other principal policy focus during that part of the speech was what he regards as the evils of Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the xenophobia that drives it.
The disparate treatment of the criminal justice system, as I documented in my 2011 book on that topic, is racially motivated at its core, and while Sanders did not explicitly use the word “race” in discussing it, he did so — again — immediately after when, at the 20-minute mark, he said Trump “wants to divide us up based on the color of our skin, based on where we were born, based on our gender, based on our religion or sexual orientation.” The Sanders campaign at its core, he said, is about doing “exactly the opposite. We’re going to bring our people together: black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American, gay and straight, men and women.”
At the 22-minute mark, Sanders, as he’s been reluctant to do for most of his political career, shared his personal experiences that shaped his political ideology, including not only his working-class background but also his father’s experience as an immigrant from Poland fleeing not just “crushing poverty” but also “widespread anti-Semitism,” a decision that saved his father, since “virtually his entire family was wiped out by Hitler and Nazi barbarism.”
In sum, Sanders did not just mention race and gender once in his speech before the 23-minute mark Maxwell claimed, but did so repeatedly. It was not only the major theme of the speakers who introduced him, but a primary theme of his own speech from the start: both explicitly railing against the evils of “racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious bigotry” and vowing to usher in “social justice and racial justice,” but also launching full-scale, vehement attacks on the policies — inequities in the criminal justice system and immigration abuses — that have as their primary targets racial and religious minorities.
It is, needless to say, perfectly legitimate for MSNBC to devote its airtime to critiquing what Sanders said about race and gender: to claim it’s insufficient or insincerely held or superficial. But what is indisputably unacceptable is for MSNBC to outright lie about Sanders’s speech by stating categorically that “he did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech.” That is simply a lie, and it’s a lie that would have been instantly recognizable as such to anyone who watched the speech.
Indeed, it is utterly inconceivable that both MSNBC and Maxwell are unaware that what they said about Sanders’s speech both on air and later on Twitter is false. Tweet after tweet directed at them documented this in clear and indisputable terms:
also at 3 minutes— Thomas Caniglia (@ThomasCaniglia) March 3, 2019
also at 13 minutes
Despite all this, there is no correction from MSNBC or Maxwell — par for the course for this Democratic National Committee operation masquerading as a news outlet.
Indeed, as is almost always true for MSNBC, all of these pleas that they correct their false claim have been steadfastly ignored — no correction issued — because, as I’ve repeatedly documented, lying about adversaries of the Democratic establishment is not merely tolerated or permitted at MSNBC, but is encouraged and rewarded. That’s why they purposely had the very first person to comment on Sanders’s kickoff campaign speech be a paid Clinton 2016 campaign official highly embittered toward Sanders, and it’s why MSNBC does not correct lies no matter how loudly, clearly, or indisputably you document those lies to them.
News outlets correct lies. Slimy political operations deliberately use lies to advance their agenda and smear their adversaries. MSNBC has proven over and over again that they are decisively in the latter category. This is just the latest but by no means the only or even worst example.
Update: March 3, 2019, 2:21 p.m. ET:
After this story was published, and MSNBC and Zerlina Maxwell were besieged with demands for a correction, Maxwell tweeted this:
Ok. I’ve rewatched since yesterday and while I can acknowledge that I missed the passing line at 6 minutes I stand by my point since talking about criminal justice is not the same thing as talking about race and gender and if you don’t get why Bernie won’t win....again. ?? https://t.co/1FxE2dgQuB— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) March 3, 2019
First, since the falsehood was originally broadcast on MSNBC, the cable network itself should broadcast any correction and an apology for misleading its viewers, not just rely on Maxwell’s Twitter feed. Second, even this “correction” is misleading — actually false — as it claims that there was only one “passing line at 6 minutes” about race and gender that Maxwell somehow “missed”; but as this article documents, there were multiple, explicit instances of Sanders’s mentioning of race and gender, rendering even her attempted correction itself false.