Long before there was a racist, practically brainless U.S. president whose previous greatest claim to fame was being the host of a reality show, there was Sean Duffy.
For those of us who remember MTV’s The Real World before season 97 or whatever number they’re on now, Duffy was on season 5 of the legendary reality series. There, Duffy, along with six other strangers, was picked to live in a firehouse in Boston while working with children at an after-school program. Even then, Duffy told us who he was: a conservative Republican who competed in lumberjack competitions and dreamed of becoming an attorney. Duffy may have appeared to be a decent human being in select scenes, but like many of his ilk, both his biases and his unwillingness to see things outside of them were all too apparent—just ask his former roommate, the black and left-leaning Kameelah.
To Duffy’s credit, he not only managed to extend his television career by doing additional MTV shows like Road Rules: All Stars and The Real World vs. Road Rules Challenge, but even worked a little bit with ESPN more than a decade ago. As for his legal dreams, Duffy did indeed become a lawyer and ultimately served as a district attorney in his home state of Wisconsin for several years. Then, in 2010, Duffy was elected to Congress, along with so many other Tea Party and hard-right Republicans in the midterm elections.
A newly minted status as congressman returned Duffy to national television by way of consistent appearances on cable news. It also reminded me of one very important tidbit about the Real World alum: This jackass still has the intellectual curiosity of a dead rat. The most recent example of this was his interview on CNN’s New Day, in which Duffy actively swept aside white terrorists in favor of co-signing Sweet Potato Saddam’s boneheaded, xenophobia-fueled obsession with “radical Islam.”
While discussing 45’s Muslim travel ban, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked of Duffy a fairly simple question: “Why isn’t the president talking about the white terrorists who mowed down six Muslims praying at their mosque?”
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“I don’t know,” the waste of airtime responded. “There’s a difference.” He then added, “You don’t have a group like ISIS or al-Qaida that is inspiring people around the world to take up arms and kill innocents. ... That was a one-off, Alisyn.”
Camerota did provide some examples, though it’s unfortunate that some producer didn’t talk into her ear and highlight a 2015 report from the New America Foundation that, based on its research, states that since 9/11, white, right-wing terrorists have killed almost twice as many Americans in homegrown attacks than radical Islamic extremists have.
Not that Duffy truly cares about whether or not data can dispel his prejudices. Since that interview, Duffy has tried to clarify his stance, i.e., restate the sentiments in less overtly racist phrasing. That is all at the root of Democrats in his home state admonishing him and columnists calling him an “embarrassment” and asking that he apologize to his constituents.
To those suddenly discovering Sean Duffy, welcome to the bashing party, y’all, but what took everyone so long?
Last year, Duffy addressed the Black Lives Matter movement only in the context of abortion, claiming that if members of the Congressional Black Caucus valued all black lives, they would speak for the “unborn child.”
There are many other instances of crazy, unsexy fool with Duffy. Such as the time he falsely claimed that Donald Sterling was a Democrat after he was found to be using the slur “nigger.” Or when he told Wolf Blitzer that George Soros was rigging voting machines.
There’s also that time he claimed that Madison County, Wis., was a “communist county.” Duffy loves a false equivalency. Mere months ago, he did it again with another CNN anchor (Jim Sciutto) when he responded to questions of why Sweet Potato Saddam took so long to condemn hate groups supporting him by rationalizing that President Barack Obama didn’t do that with Black Lives Matter, which Duffy placed on par with white supremacists.
Of course, there is a reason he is so defensive about his favorite reality star-turned-president; on CNN once again, Duffy argued that Trump “speaks for white men.” Clearly, Sean Duffy is all about the white man.
Of all the former Real World cast members, what a pity that it’s Sean Duffy who is the famous congressman and not Ruthie or Teck from Hawaii, Heather B from New York, Danny from New Orleans, or, if we needed a Boston cast member, Kameelah, who could have been Ben Carson if Ben Carson had a better brain. Unfortunately, this is where we are, and while I can make peace with that, I do wonder why CNN is so intent on allowing this nitwit a forum to spread his lunacy and various strains of racial bias.
Months ago, Duffy showed his ass (per his usual) on this same network, only with a different anchor. Duffy was smug, uninformed and, surprise, surprise, spreading a xenophobic conspiracy theory. Not only was he sounding desperately dumb, but he was also rude. So why does CNN continue to give him a platform to build upon?
It’s very apparent that Duffy likes the camera and has higher aspirations. Duffy may not be nearly as natural a political talent as the new fearmonger painfully learning how to do the job that his suicide-mission-loving voters gave him, but he remains a mediocre white man with an ego and racial stereotypes to share on command.
That means we can never underestimate Sean Duffy, because he has nominal fame and white patriarchy behind him—especially if CNN seems so intent on helping him become a household name.
I would hate to see history repeat itself this swiftly.