CNN International anchor and icon to overly-religious chefs, Rosemary Church is the subject of a major backlash over comments she made during a broadcast late Monday night/Tuesday morning. While interviewing CNN The Lead anchor Jake Tapper, who is on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., Church asked why police there aren't using "water cannon" as part of their strategy to deal with violence that has cropped up from within peaceful protests. The remark has angered many, who saw the remark as a call back to the days of Bull Connor and the violence of Civil Rights-era Alabama.
The offense taken is genuine, and completely legitimate. Just that morning, I drew a connection with the Ferguson police response's lineage to the firehoses of Birmingham. Intentional or not, the offense is very real. Having said that, allow me to parse Rosemary's not-so-sage words at this thyme. Here's an extended clip, which includes Jake Tapper's response. Church clearly thinks she's arguing for a more humane way to deal with the peaceful protesters, not less:
"Why the use of tear gas, stun grenades, why not, perhaps, use water cannon? At least it's not going to have the same sort of effect, or maybe something that targets this small group. As you say, this blanket cover of everybody involved, everyone's struck by the tear gas."
While co-anchor Errol Barnett appeared to wince at the reference, Tapper didn't react to that specific quote, although he has been openly, vocally critical of the heavy-handed police response in Ferguson. He likely either didn't hear it, or made allowances for the facts that are being lost in the backlash.
Church, you see, is not from around these parts. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Church was educated in England and Australia, and has been with CNN International since 1998. While it's certain that they teach Civil Rights-era history outside the U.S., something like the fire hoses wouldn't have the same sort of indelible cultural imprint on a foreigner as it does here. Additionally, the rest-of-the-world-that-calls-soccer-football culture that Church hails from routinely uses water cannons to break up things like soccer riots and... other soccer riots.
None of this is to say that Rosemary Church still should not apologize. If she went on an anti-smoking jag, and told viewers, "It's time to snuff out fags," she'd still have to say sorry. Her gaffe, though, is a potent reminder that, contrary to what Rand Paul and his liberal cheerleaders are saying, brutal police overkill did not start with 9/11-era equipment andor the war on drugs. It started with the idea that certain of our citizens are not "We the people," but "They, the threat."