Opinion: Robert Pittenger, Representin’

The congressman played it off as a clumsy misstatement. Right.

“The grievance in their minds—the animus, the anger—they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not. It is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage, so they can’t be all they’re capable of being.”

Let’s not pretend that U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger doesn’t on some level think that, or that a whole lot of people he represents and goes to church with and drinks coffee with don’t on some level think it, too. I’ve heard it expressed. I’ve seen it written by people who now, in this Season of Trump, no longer fear having their names attached to it. This lady thinks racism didn’t exist before Obama. She just didn’t see it. She can’t tell the difference. She has lots of company.

The most charitable explanation for what Pittenger said was that he actually believes a fairly common alternate reality among the blinkered right wing: that Democratic social safety net policies have created a “plantation mentality” among black people, with food stamps and EBT cards replacing the literal chains of slavery. “My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies,” Pittenger tweeted after his BBC fiasco. Even accepting that at face value—you shouldn’t—he knows as much about “the lack of economic mobility for African Americans” as his party’s nominee for President.

Pittenger was just on CNN, attempting to explain himself to Don Lemon. It did not go well. He apologized in the weaselly, backpedaling, sorry-not-sorry way public figures usually adopt when they’re caught saying what they mean, realize post facto that it sounded horrible, then try to save face with both the people disgusted with it and the people who believe it. It never works. Pittenger apologized for the way he said it, the way it was taken, the way he rendered the imprecations of someone he doesn’t know shouting something on the TV. (Or not—I’ve yet to see indisputable visual evidence that a protester last night yelled, “I hate white people because they’re successful and we’re not!” That does not sound like a yell someone would yell.) He even fell back on the “I have lots of black friends” excuse.

What he didn’t apologize for was what he said. You can deduce for yourself why.

Categories: The Buzz