By outward appearances, Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling could hardly be more different.
The cowboy-hat-wearing Bundy owns a Nevada cattle ranch; the billionare Sterling owns the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bundy was a conservative folk hero for standing up to the federal government’s bully tactics; Sterling is a political donor to Democrats who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP.
But their bigoted remarks – caustic references to African-Americans – show they are merely flip sides of the same coin.
Bundy disgustingly opined about how “the Negro” may have been better off under slavery than now. A publicly released recording reportedly captured Sterling scolding his mixed-race mistress for bringing black guests to Clippers games and being photographed with them.
The jaw-dropping comments were denounced immediately by Americans of nearly every social and political stripe. Yet there was a marked difference in how the media portrayed the men – both of whom are white, older than age 60 and possess archaic attitudes on race.
Bundy’s insensitive remarks were attributed to his political views; Sterling’s were not.
Liberal media commentators practically high-fived after Bundy’s statements surfaced, and they took no time into turning him into a symbol for conservative ideology. They steered the debate away from federal overreach and individual rights by gleefully painting Bundy and his conservative-minded supporters as gun-toting racists.
Sterling, whose actual political involvement dwarfs that of the cattle rancher, wasn’t made a symbol for anything once the media discovered his donations skewed overwhelmingly Democrat – albeit after he was initially identified as a Republican.
Sterling was scheduled to receive his second NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award at a banquet next month – sharing the bill with Al Sharpton – but the group reversed its decision amid the controversial remarks. As owner of the Clippers, Sterling also is sure to face repercussions from the NBA, where blacks make up 71 percent of players.
It would have been easy to portray Sterling as the
archetypal disingenuous limousine-riding Democratic donor, but the mainstream press chose not to connect the dots.
It’s that kind of ideological bigotry that excused then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden’s 2006 comments about being unable to walk into a Delaware “7-11 or Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”
Can you imagine the backlash if a conservative made that statement?
Ideological bigotry also let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid off the hook in 2008 when he said America could accept President Obama because he was “light-skinned” and could turn off the “Negro dialect” when he wanted.
Reid now calls Bundy a “hateful racist,” oblivious to the hypocrisy.
As horribly insensitive as Bundy’s statements were, no one has come forward to say he ever acted maliciously or discriminatory toward any person of color. Sterling, on the other hand, agreed to pay nearly $3 million to settle three separate discrimination lawsuits brought by blacks and Latino tenants at apartment buildings he owned in Los Angeles.
A short study of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling shows us the vast majority of Americans won’t tolerate racist remarks, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
This kind of repulsive bigotry transcends politics. And it has no place anywhere.