US elections: Republicans taunt black woman - but is the story being ignored?

Analysts surprised that incident of apparent racist abuse has stirred up comparatively little outrage

Republicans taunt black woman - but is story being ignored?

 

Commentators in the US are asking why an apparent incident of racist abuse at the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, has caused so little outcry.

Two attendees at the meeting, where Mitt Romney is launching his presidential election campaign, were ejected on Tuesday after they threw nuts at a black female camera operator and told her: "This is how we feed the animals."

CNN said the abuse, meted out to a member of its staff on Tuesday, was seen by "multiple witnesses".

The convention confirmed that the abuse had taken place, saying in a statement: "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behaviour. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."

It said the two were ejected from the convention by security guards. There have been no reports of police involvement.

But the incident was not widely reported, treated by most news sources as an aside in longer pieces about the Convention. Even CNN seemed reticent about the story - beaten to it by a rival and only publishing a bare bones news story online.

Writing for the Washington Post, Eric Wemple wondered why CNN had not reported the incident in greater depth, asking: "How is this not a news story?". He also speculated that it wasn't necessarily a racist attack, observing: "If the act wasn’t racist, it was at least anti-media."

He concluded: "The world needs to know who these nut-hurlers are... Do these individuals serve the public in any way? If so, their constituents may want to know a bit about what went down."

Veteran CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer eventually spoke late on Wednesday night about the "very ugly exchange", the first time the network had referred to the incident on air. He said it was "truly shocking" and added: "It's just an ugly reminder that there is an element of hatred that still exists in our country."

Sarah Boesveld for Canada's National Post said there had been "outrage" about the incident, "mainly from Democrats and liberal-leaning media outlets". She said Republicans believe the Democrats will stop at nothing "to make them seem racist".

One Republican delegate, Mike McDaniel, told Boesveld: "They're using it as an election tactic to try to strengthen their base... They play that card and it’s really distasteful the way they do that."

Also writing for the Washington Post, Joy Freeman-Coulbray accused presidential candidate Mitt Romney of "pandering to the ugliest portions of American xenophobia" with his recent 'joke' about Obama's birth certificate. Referring to the nut-throwing, she wondered if Romney was "creating an environment that allows for this kind of public racist behaviour"

Some commentators said the incident could damage the Republicans' limited support among black voters. Exit polls in 2008 suggested that almost 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama.

Romney's team said the incident was "extremely inappropriate, it was ugly and despicable and has no place whatsoever within the Republican party and should not be a part of our political discourse". 

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