I thought it might be instructive to take a closer look and deconstruct what John Stossel actually said and why it’s so important to speak out. Please join me (and Color of Change): Ask Fox News to Fire John Stossel. This line of argument — repealing the Civil Rights Act and telling people it’s ok to both be & act racist is going too far. We must hold Fox News and bigots like Stossel accountable for their toxic transmissions.

Here’s the transcript from his chat on Fox News last week with Megyn Kelly with my annotations & emphasis to illustrate (courtesy Media Matters):

KELLY: Rand Paul is a libertarian. You are a libertarian. He is getting excoriated for suggesting that the Civil Rights act — what he said was, “Look it’s got 10 parts, essentially; I favor nine. It’s the last part that mandated no discrimination in places of public accommodation that I have a problem with, because you should let businesses decide for themselves whether they are going to be racist or not racist. Because once the government gets involved, it’s a slippery slope.” Do you agree with that?

STOSSEL: Totally. I’m in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it’s a private business. And if a private business wants to say, “We don’t want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys,” it ought to be their right. Are we going to say to the black students’ association they have to take white people, or the gay softball association they have to take straight people? We should have freedom of association in America.

JILL: Freedom of association doesn’t necessarily mean exclusion. And no I don’t think it’s right for the black students’ association to exclude non-black people who want to join. And no, I don’t think it would be ok if any law-abiding citizen is refused service if they are clean, clothed and have the money to pay. That’s just common decency.

KELLY: OK. When you put it like that it sounds fine, right? So who cares if a blond anchorwoman and mustached anchorman can’t go into the lunchroom. But as you know, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came around because it was needed. Blacks weren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter with whites. They couldn’t, as they traveled from state to state in this country, they couldn’t go in and use a restroom. They couldn’t get served meals and so on, and therefore, unfortunately in this country a law was necessary to get them equal rights.

STOSSEL: Absolutely. But those — Jim Crow — those were government rules. Government was saying we have white and black drinking fountains. That’s very different from saying private people can’t discriminate.

JILL: Jim Crow wasn’t just about a system of discriminatory laws. It was a social system designed to oppress a certain class of citizens and privilege another that pervaded every aspect of a person’s life and which directly limited human rights and basic freedoms.

KELLY: How do you know? How do you know that these private business owners, who owned restaurants and so on, would have said, “You know what? Yes. We will take blacks.

STOSSEL: Some wouldn’t.

JILL: So here’s where things get interesting. Because he admits that businesses would have continued to discriminate. And…because if we extend Stossel’s logic, he’s saying that it’s absolutely fine and in fact would be better if restaurants, for example, were free to exclude blacks at their whim.

KELLY: We’ll take gays. We’ll take lesbians,” if they hadn’t been forced to do it.

STOSSEL: Because eventually they would have lost business. The free market competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn’t serve most customers.

KELLY: How do you know that, John?

STOSSEL: I don’t. You can’t know for sure.

JILL: In fact, we know that free market competition would have taken decades or hundreds of years to progress to the tolerance we have today. Stossel admits this here and basically is saying he would have been fine if change had happened more slowly, even if that meant that a system of American apartheid was allowed to continue indefinitely,

KELLY: That then was a different time. Racism and discrimination was rampant. I’m not saying it’s been eliminated. But it was rampant. It was before my time, before I was born, but obviously I’ve read history, and I know that there is something wrong when a person of color can’t get from state to state without stopping at a public restroom or a public lunchroom to have a sandwich.

JILL: And here is where Megyn Kelly, god bless her professional Fox News blonde heart, gets off John Stossel’s bus back to Jim Crow.

STOSSEL: But the public restroom was run by the government, and maybe at the time that was necessary.

KELLY: But that’s not what Rand Paul said. Rand Paul agreed that if it’s run by the government, yes intervention is fine. He took issue with the public accommodations, with private businesses being forced to pony up under the discrimination laws.

STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law

KELLY: What?

JILL: Again, I think a justifiably shocked Kelly speaks for us all right about there…

STOSSEL: because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t won’t ever go to a place that’s racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.

JILL: So what Stossel is saying is that we should return to a time when it was socially and legally acceptable to place a Whites Only sign in your restaurant, hotel, movie theater (etc) window. Is that the vision of America Fox News is promoting or that the Tea Party’s Contract On From America wants to bring into the 21st century? Is this the way that they intend to deal with the fantasy that socialism/communism is on the march — by returning the country to 1950s-era segregation laws that deny basic freedoms to non-whites?

Stossel isn’t a dumb guy (unlike some conservative commentators). He knows exactly what he’s saying and he’s giving permission to Fox News viewers to defend their racism, take comfort in it, embrace it and elect people that share those views explicitly. This is an important development since these people are coming out from behind the code words of “socialist”, “communist” and “fascist” and a little closer to just calling us exactly what they really think. Which is “nigger”. We must stop this in its tracks. Please take a second if reading this made you angry and tell Fox to Fire Stossel.

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