Under the radar of the huge national and international news this week, acceptable levels of public racism got a boost from Fox News and their latest black people-demonizing hero, former NJ 12 reporter Sean Bergin. Bergin got himself suspended and demoted from New Jersey 12 for going off on fatherless black men at the tail end of a news report, so he quit his job, went on Fox News, and was naturally praised for his “courage.”
Bergin got in hot water with management for violating their policy on editorializing by reporters with this rant about how the “anti-cop mentality” is all the fault of fatherless black men:
It’s important to shine a light on this anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America’s inner cities(if you were unsure of the “code words,” decoder ring in 3, 2, 1). This same sick, perverse line of thinking is evident from Jersey City to Newark, and Patterson to Trenton. It has made the police officer’s job impossible and it has got to stop. The underlying cause of all of this, of course: Young black men growing up without fathers. Unfortunately, no one in the news media has the courage to touch that subject.
Bergin’s rant is RAF™ for a number of glaring reasons, not the least of which is that blaming “fatherlessness” for crime is like blaming cancer on all that coughing. The same pressures that contribute to crime and poverty also contribute to the disintegration of families. If we didn’t have racist housing policies, a racist criminal justice system, racist policing practices, and racist employment trends, to name a few, then there would probably be more stable black families. There’s also the fact that unmarried does not necessarily equal “fatherless.”
He’s also ignoring much more obvious reasons for black people to distrust the police, like constantly being shot by them for no reason, or that the overwhelming majority of them respond, not by murdering cops, but by being super-careful around them.
More than that, though, there’s the fact that white people hate cops, too, and even kill them. When they do, you rarely hear about the effect of white culture on the perpetrators, even though there’s a much better case for it.
Bergin’s remarks, though, fit in nicely with an undercurrent of socially acceptable racism that popped up from underground in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, and the trial of George Zimmerman, one with proponents as diverse as Don Lemon and Bill O’Reilly, and now, apparently, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. Kelly interviewed poor, persecuted Bergin on The Kelly File this week,
Bergin is just an aggrieved idiot, but what’s truly toxic here is Kelly’s deployment of the popular lie that “Obama did it, too,” which was used in defense of Paul Ryan’s racist “inner city” remarks. She’s referring to what President Obama said in his Feb. 27 speech, in which he talked about addressing racial disparities through the “My Brother’s Keeper” program.
Far from blaming those disparities on a “culture” in the black community, the President spoke about “groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.”
But there’s another culprit in this story who is getting away scot-free, and that’s the management of NJ 12. They are the ones who sent Bergin out to film the interview that caused his rant, and forced him to air it over his own objections, and those of the police officers who called the station to complain. Their concern was giving a cop-killer’s wife a media platform, but there’s another side to that decision that’s being overlooked: this was very bad journalism, and the decision to air it was probably more racist than anything Bergin said.
The suspect in this case, Lawrence Campbell, beat up a security guard at a Jersey City Walgreen’s, stole his gun, and waited for cops to arrive. He told a witness to watch the news, because he was “going to be famous,” and when the first police car arrived, he gunned down rookie Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago, and was shot and killed by two other police officers whom he fired on minutes later.
It’s a terrible crime, sad and senseless, but what News 12 did was just sad sensationalism. They sent Bergin out to interview the dead suspect’s widow mere hours after she found out her husband was killed, and had to grapple with whether or not to use the footage. Here’s the full report that preceded Bergin’s rant, in which reshly-widowed Angelique Campbell says her late husband should have “took more with him”:
First of all, the station appears to have taken Mrs. Campbell out of context, because the tape begins with her saying “He should have took more with him, if that’s the case,” without showing what she’s referring to when she says “if that’s the case,” but it sounds like Mrs. Campbell may have been suspicious or unclear about the circumstances of her husband’s death. “If they was gonna stand over my husband and shoot him like a (expletive) dog,” she said, which indicates something significant was edited out. There’s a significant difference between a raw, murderous hatred of police and suspicion of the circumstances of a black man being shot by police, a suspicion with considerable (recent) historical basis, in the immediate aftermath of a shooting still under investigation.
Setting that aside, though, what is the ethical reason for a reporter to interview a woman who has just found out her husband was killed in the first place, and then deciding to air her anguished remarks (for which she later apologized)? What is the news value, if not, as Bergin says, to promote a certain narrative? The station didn’t like Bergin’s rant, but they approved the editing, and the “anti-cop mentality” copy in his report.
If this had been a grieving white woman, a private citizen who said something ill-considered in the throes of fresh anguish , I don’t know of a single decent news editor who would think that met the bar of newsworthiness necessary to overcome the harm. They wanted exactly the narrative that bergin identified. They just didn’t want him to give it a name.
The media needs to stop sending mixed messages to aggrieved white people like Sean Bergin by punishing the racist messages they are constantly promoting through this sort of coverage.