FLOTUS vs. Heckler: When Allies Conflict?

Black LGBT writers consider why this confrontation gave them pause.

Michelle Obama (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Michelle Obama (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Was first lady Michelle Obama right to face down a heckler at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday night? The commentariat was not of one mind on Wednesday.

Peter Wallsten reported in the Washington Post, “Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist, interrupted her remarks to demand that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.

“Obama showed her displeasure — pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.

” ‘One of the things that I don’t do well is this,’ she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. ‘Do you understand?’

“A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama ‘left the lectern and moved over to the protester.’ The pool report quoted Obama as saying: ‘Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.’

“Obama’s suggestion that she would leave was not included in the official White House transcript.

“The audience responded by asking Obama to remain, according to the pool report, which quoted a woman nearby telling Sturtz, ‘You need to go.’

“Sturtz was escorted out of the room. She said in an interview later she was stunned by Obama’s response.

” ‘She came right down in my face,’ Sturtz said. ‘I was taken aback.’ . . . “

Sturtz said she paid $500 to attend the fundraiser and gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and Obama’s campaign in 2008, Wallsten added.

On theRoot.com, Keli Goff wrote of Sturtz, “I can only assume that she doesn’t own a television or have access to the Internet, because if she did, she would know that President Obama has done more to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights than any president before him . . . . “

But LZ Granderson, who is gay, wrote for CNN.com, “Heckling Mrs. Obama wasn’t fair to her. But taking the LGBT community for granted isn’t fair to us either.”

Jim Downs, an associate professor of history and American studies at Connecticut College, wrote for HuffPost BlackVoices and HuffPost GayVoices, “As a historian of African-American history and gay liberation, this moment gives me serious pause.

“On one level, I recognize how this is a highly charged political throw down between two oppressed groups that rarely get the national microphone. I then worry about activists, regardless of their political stripes, disrespecting Mrs. Obama more than other first ladies.” He added, “But then I also worry about Ellen Sturtz who tried to have her voice heard when it seemed like no one was listening,” and that “heckling formed a crucial, if ill-mannered, form of political discourse since the founding of the nation. . . .”

Amy Alexander Community Forum: So Much for Sisterhood: On Liberal White Lesbians, Entitlement and Benign Racism

Michael H. Cottman, Black America Web: Michelle Obama in Standoff With Heckler: ‘I Don’t Care What You Believe’

Lauren Rankin, PolicyMic: White Lady Heckles Michelle Obama — What Happens Next is Something Black Women Know All Too Well

Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post: Jay Carney: Michelle Obama Handled Heckler ‘Brilliantly’

N.Y. Post’s Lightning-Rod Cartoonist Exits

A buyout offer from the New York Post accomplished this week what years of complaints could not: Remove cartoonist Sean Delonas from its ranks.

Delonas is best known for his 2009 drawing that some said compared President Obama with a chimpanzee — a charge Delonis denied. But that wasn’t the only time Delonis has caused offense. “With the support of the editor in chief, the cartoonist Sean Delonas has published numerous vile cartoons tinged with racism,” Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, said during the 2009 uproar. Lawsuits accusing the Post of newsroom discrimination and citing that cartoon are still pending.

Last year, Delonas weighed in on a controversy over WNBC-TV’s failure to renew the contract of its longtime anchor Sue Simmons.

His creation showed the NBC peacock smoking a cigarette after emerging from the bedroom of Simmons’ soon-to-be successor, Shiba Russell, who is shown topless in bed. Simmons, in the doorway, begs for her job back.

During last year’s presidential campaign, another cartoon depicted GOP candidate Mitt Romney as an angry white man on horseback chasing down a terrified skinny black man fleeing on foot — and the Romney figure aiming an assault rifle and attached bayonet at the Obama figure’s backside.

The cartoon clearly evokes an image from the Old South of an overseer or slave catcher chasing down a runaway slave,” Dennis King and Geraldine Pauling, described as interpreters of code language and political cartoons, wrote for a Lyndon LaRouche website.

Gawker compiled what it considered Delonas’ most outrageous cartoons in 2009, but blogger Erica C Barnett declared, “they didn’t dig deep enough, so I came up with a list of my own.

“So, for the record, here’s a (presumably noncomprehensive) noncomprehensive list of groups Delonas hates/considers worthy of mockery,” Barnett continued, naming “the womenz, the gays, the blacks, the fatties, the handicapped, the oldsters, and the blind. Given that list, I’m thinking Delonas’ only audience is, what, angry white male misanthropes with body anxiety and mommy issues? . . .” Barnett wrote for a feminist blog.

Delonas and Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allen, to whom Delonas reported, did not respond to requests for comment, so it could not be learned whether Delonas would continue to work as a freelancer. His cartoons appeared on the “Page Six” gossip page.

The New York Post aimed to reduce its headcount by 10 percent through the buyout packages, Joe Pompeo reported May 9 for capitalnewyork.com. “Allan also indicated the paper could achieve the 10-percent reduction through ‘other measures if necessary,’ suggesting that layoffs are possible if not enough employees accept the buyouts, Pompeo wrote. He added on May 16 that “A list of around 10 Post journalists who are said to have been offered buyouts has been circulating among veterans of the tabloid. Those on the list are mostly older, longtime reporters and editors. . . .”

Delonas joined the Post in 1990 and was 46 when he said in a 2006 Post profile by Bill Hoffmann, “This enraged woman once said to me, ‘You are the biggest sleazebag,’ and I just started laughing, and the more I laughed, the madder she got. I can’t believe anybody gets upset at what I do.”

The 2009 chimp cartoon attempted to create a punchline out of Obama’s economic stimulus package and a 200-pound chimp that went berserk in Stamford, Conn., and was shot by a police officer after attacking a woman. The police officer says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Critics linked the cartoon to historic attempts to associate black people with monkeys, but Delonas said in a brief comment read by anchor Kyra Phillips on CNN, “Do you really think I’m saying Obama should be shot? I didn’t see that in the cartoon. It’s about the economic stimulus bill. If you’re going to make that about anybody, it would be [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, which it’s not.”

Many were not mollified. After demonstrations and protests, media baron Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Post, issued a statement that called the cartoon “a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted.”

Activists said they would proceed with plans to use government agencies to challenge Murdoch’s company on media consolidation and diversity issues. But those challenges failed, and Delonas kept drawing.

Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke, New York Observer: Myron Rushetzky is Leaving The New York Post

Sean Delonas New York Post cartoon archive

Essence Talks to Lesbian-Turned-Wife-of Mayoral-Candidate (May 10)

Kyra Phillips with Al Sharpton and Jeff Johnson, CNN: Monkey cartoon draws fire (video) (Feb. 18, 2009)

Maria Sacchetti, Boston Globe: Mass. pair sues New York Post over Marathon bombing portrayal

Adam Serwer, American Prospect: Sean Delonas, Envelope Pusher. (Feb. 24, 2009)

Univision Anchor: We’re “Clearly Pro-Latino or Pro-Immigrant”

A fixture behind Univision’s anchor desk for 26 years, the silver-haired, blue-eyed Jorge Ramos has been called the Spanish-language Walter Cronkite, a trusted source of news. But he is more than that for his viewers, including some of the 11 million immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas, Meg James wrote Monday for the Los Angeles Times.

“Ramos makes no apologies for his or Univision’s forceful stance.

” ‘Our position is clearly pro-Latino or pro-immigrant,’ he said. ‘We are simply being the voice of those who don’t have a voice.’

“Supporters say Ramos is continuing a long tradition in ethnic media of fighting to correct social unfairness. . . .”

Study: Few Immigrants in Networks’ Immigration Coverage

Immigration policy was on the national agenda in February as the political system responded to a reform plan released by a bipartisan group of eight senators, and President Barack Obama highlighted immigration in his February 12 State of the Union address,” Eunji Kim wrote Friday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.

“The month’s media coverage gives us a glimpse of what to expect from the public debate as the immigration issue takes center stage — and it’s far from reassuring.

Extra! analyzed immigration reform coverage in the Nexis news media database for all ABC, CBS and NBC news programs, as well as the PBS NewsHour, CNN’s Situation Room, Fox News’ Special Report and MSNBC’s Hardball for the full month. The study found 54 reports pertaining to immigration policy, featuring a total of 157 sources.

“The majority of sources from all networks were white male politicians born in the United States without personal ties to immigration. The voices of immigrants or activists were mostly absent. . . .”

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: Nothing to drink to

Sandra Hernandez, Los Angeles Times: Immigration reform: The five most important issues (photo gallery)

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Mexico’s stained image

Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Hispanics and Television News Media: Standing on the Outside Looking In

Blacks Prefer Androids to iPhones in Smartphone Survey

Blacks and Hispanics own smartphones in greater proportions than whites, with blacks sharply preferring Androids over iPhones, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported Wednesday.

For the first time since the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project began systematically tracking smartphone adoption, a majority of Americans now own a smartphone of some kind,” Aaron Smith wrote for Pew. “Our definition of a smartphone owner includes anyone who says ‘yes’ to one–or both–of the following questions:

55% of cell phone owners say that their phone is a smartphone.

58% of cell phone owners say that their phone operates on a smartphone platform common to the U.S. market.

“Taken together, 61% of cell owners said yes to at least one of these questions and are classified as smartphone owners. Because 91% of the adult population now owns some kind of cell phone, that means that 56% of all American adults are now smartphone adopters. One third (35%) have some other kind of cell phone that is not a smartphone, and the remaining 9% of Americans do not own a cell phone at all. . . .”

Pew surveyed 1,571 non-Hispanic whites, 252 non-Hispanic blacks and 249 Hispanics. Fifty-three percent of whites, 64 percent of blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics said they owned smartphones.

Twenty-five percent of all respondents said their phone was an iPhone, and 28 percent said it was an Android.

Among whites, the figure was 27 percent iPhone, 26 percent Android; blacks, 16 percent iPhone, 42 percent Android; and among Hispanics, 26 percent iPhone and 27 percent Android.

Holder Offers Email Addresses for Journalists’ Comments

Reporting on Monday’s meeting between Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and representatives of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Unity: Journalists for Diversity, Walt Swanston, interim executive director of Unity, said in a statement Wednesday:

Holder said he is open to journalists weighing in on how best to update” the guidelines his office uses to gather information about media outlet leaks  “and encourages members of the media to send comments and suggestions to his office by the end of June. Anyone wishing to submit comments may send them to Ms. Nanda Chitre, deputy director, Office of Public Affairs at nanda.chitre@usdoj.gov or to Margaret Richardson, Counselor to Attorney General, Executive Branch Relations, U.S. Department of Justice, at Margaret.Richardson@usdoj.gov. . . . “

NAHJ President Hugo Balta, who was present along with Swanston and Anna Lopez Buck, NAHJ executive director, told his members, “NAHJ accepted [Holder’s] proposal for members to submit ideas on policy changes. I hope many of you take advantage of this opportunity. We will provide more details later this week. . . .”

The hour-long meeting at the Justice Department took place without the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, all of which declined an invitation because it was presented as off the record.

“Although originally billed as ‘off the record,’ Mr. Holder quickly agreed to have the meeting on the record,” Balta wrote.

On Facebook, a member of NAJA commented, “I also respect the UNITY administration’s decision to be there, though I do believe some explanation is overdue for the reasoning since the majority of the groups [that are members of Unity] did not attend.”

Asked about that, Swanston referred Journal-isms to this statement in the Unity release: “Although other journalism groups turned down Holder’s invitation, we felt it was important as a historic coalition representing diverse and underrepresented journalists to hear his explanation for the actions we had previously criticized.”

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian, Britain: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times: Justice Department Defends Holder’s Testimony

Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post: Eric Holder: Media Probe Got ‘A Little Out Of Whack’

David Swerdlick, theRoot: Is Eric Holder Really a Liability for Obama?