By:
April 5, 2021

The comments were so out there and misguided and confusing and just plain wrong that it’s hard to believe someone actually hit the “tweet” button.

What in the world was Mike Huckabee thinking?

The former Arkansas governor and brief Republican presidential candidate is facing heavy criticism for a racist and bizarre tweet that tried to take a jab at Major League Baseball and several corporations over Georgia voting laws. But the message that got through was Huckabee’s anti-Asian sentiment at a time when attacks against Asians have become a major issue in the United States.

Huckabee tweeted, “I’ve decided to ‘identify’ as Chinese. Coke will like me, Delta will agree with my ‘values’ and I’ll probably get shoes from Nike & tickets to @MLB games. Ain’t America great?”

Whaaaat?!

Coke and Delta are corporations headquartered in Georgia that have come out against Georgia’s new voting laws, which many insist are an attempt to suppress voting, particularly among people of color. In protest, Major League Baseball announced over the weekend that it was pulling this year’s MLB All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

But back to Huckabee’s tweet, which was so stunningly wrong that it’s almost impossible to react to it. However, many did.

Actress Patricia Arquette tweeted, “Elderly Asian women are getting beaten up on the street and you say this?”

The New Georgia Project, a voting advocacy group, tweeted, “What in the openly racist hell?”

Bible teacher Beth Moore tweeted to Huckabee, “Mike, I’ve shared a meal with you at your beautiful table. I’ve heard you profess Christ as Lord. This is entirely antithetical to the gospel.”

Huckabee actually responded to Moore, trying to suggest that what he says on Twitter shouldn’t be taken too seriously. He came nowhere close to apologizing, tweeting, “Hi @BethMooreLPM I love you & appreciate your ministry. I don’t take Twitter or myself that seriously but I do take gospel seriously. I truly wish you only joy & continued blessings. May the power of the resurrection lift you to high places this Easter weekend my dear sister!”

And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called out Huckabee’s daughter — former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is running to be Arkansas’ next governor.

Lieu tweeted, “Dear @SarahHuckabee: You defended the former President’s use of racist phrases like Kung Flu. Do you condone Mike Huckabee adding fuel to anti-Asian hate? Asking on behalf of Americans everywhere who drink Coke, fly Delta, wear Nikes and watch baseball. #StopAsianHate”

Huckabee hosts a weekend show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which says it has one mission: “to take the love of Jesus to every corner of the earth through faith-and-family programming that is both entertaining and life-changing.”

MLB backlash and reaction

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, seen here in February of 2020. Manfred announced last week that this year’s All-Star Game will not be played in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Speaking of Major League Baseball’s decision to yank this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta, the Atlanta Braves organization put out a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed,” adding:

“This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community. Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

In a column for The Athletic, Atlanta-based writer Jeff Schultz wrote about the Braves’ “tone-deaf” statement, saying, “Shame on them.” He added, “… the Braves have never been the most forward-thinking of organizations. They long have been more concerned about counting receipts than doing the right thing or being any sort of ‘uniter,’ to use their word. The Braves are about the Braves.”

Schultz is right. If the Braves really cared about such things they would have discouraged fans doing the Native American-insulting “tomahawk chop” years ago.

Reactions across the country about MLB’s decision were split among party lines, as you might expect.

During an interview before MLB’s decision last week on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” President Joe Biden encouraged baseball to pull the game out of Atlanta. Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp defended the state’s voting laws, adding, “Cancel culture and partisan actions are coming for your business. They’re coming for your game or your event in your hometown.”

Major League Baseball is expected to honor baseball great Hank Aaron at this year’s All-Star Game. Aaron spent part of his career playing in Atlanta and fought for civil rights. Former President Barack Obama tweeted, “Congratulations to @MLB for taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens. There’s no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always led by example.”

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump issued a statement calling for a boycott of baseball.

Writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sports columnist Steve Hummer wrote about Georgia’s leaders, writing, “These dear leaders have set us backward, not just days but decades to the era before Atlanta and its environs became the capital of the New South. The loss of baseball’s All-Star game was just the beginning. Why, with a little more work from those beneath the Gold Dome, we can become Birmingham before you know it.”

Another AJC sports columnist, Mark Bradley, wrote, “Sometimes actions have unintended consequences. Maybe this is one. Really, though: What did legislators think would happen? How could they NOT see this coming?”

In his column for The Washington Post, Barry Svrluga wrote, “Atlanta will get an All-Star Game once Georgians put into office people who believe in the idea that each American deserves a vote. This isn’t partisan. It’s democratic.”

One more thought …

Writing for Fox News website, media writer Howard Kurtz wrote about ESPN’s interview with Biden. He wrote, “It’s striking that co-host Sage Steele chose to ask about the controversial law, which Biden described as ‘Jim Crow on steroids.’ In the past, ESPN has drawn flak for being too political and too liberal, particularly when it came to Trump.”

It would have been notable if Steele had not asked Biden about it. The president of the United States is on your network and one of the biggest sports stories of the moment was whether MLB should take the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of something political? Why even have the president on if you wouldn’t ask that particular question. Steele and ESPN would have been completely irresponsible and negligent if it hadn’t brought the topic up with Biden.

A wrinkle in the Tribune sale?

In an exclusive on Sunday, The Wall Street Journal’s Cara Lombardo and Lukas I. Alpert reported that Tribune Publishing might favor an offer from Stewart Bainum Jr. and Hansjörg Wyss instead of a takeover deal it already struck with hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Lombardo and Alpert wrote, “A special committee of Tribune’s board has determined that a roughly $680 million, $18.50-a-share bid submitted late last week by (Bainum and Wyss) is reasonably likely to lead to a proposal that is superior to Alden’s $635 million deal, people familiar with the matter said. That is legal deal-speak indicating Alden will likely need to raise its bid or risk losing the deal.”

Tribune includes such major metro newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.

According to Lombardo and Alpert, now that the group has submitted a fully financed bid, it will get private financial data so it can begin its due diligence and negotiate other terms. It’s possible that the group could walk away after seeing more of the Tribune’s finances. Or, on the other hand, it could change its offer.

This is giving many media observers a glimmer of hope that Alden won’t get Tribune. As Lombardo and Alpert wrote, “If Alden loses the deal, it would mark a stunning, 11th-hour turnaround for the New York hedge fund, and a major victory for critics who say its model of aggressive cost-cutting has hurt the local news industry.”

The mess at Teen Vogue

Washington Post media writer Sarah Ellison’s latest is a well-reported and sharply-written look back at the mess that went down at Teen Vogue — which hired a young up-and-coming journalist to be editor-in-chief and then parted ways with her before she even started. Alexi McCammond ultimately did not take over at Teen Vogue in large part because of racist, anti-Asian tweets she posted a decade ago.

Ellison wrote about how, “Those narratives, however, mask the more complex dynamic unfolding at Condé Nast, a once-great publishing empire struggling to find its way in an altered business climate — and hardly in a position to vouch for a new hire on issues of race.” (Condé Nast owns Teen Vogue.)

Ellison’s story details how McCammond, a journalist with no editing experience who had never led a newsroom, initially landed such a job and how it all fell apart in a matter of days. It also goes over how Condé Nast and chief content officer Anna Wintour certainly didn’t anticipate the blowback they would get hiring McCammond even though McCammond’s tweets were no secret. She had long ago apologized for them.

Bonnie Morrison, a diversity consultant and former Men’s Vogue staffer, told Ellison, “What they failed to realize is that there is an apology and then there is making amends. The entire fashion industry has revolved around Anna Wintour for years, and she is not someone who is well-positioned to determine which apologies are sufficient. Nor is she used to losing control of a situation.”

Good stuff from Ellison. Check it out.

Traumatic trial

Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

During an appearance on Sunday’s “State of the Union” on CNN, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said that the Derek Chauvin trial has been “retraumatizing.”

“It’s been really hard,” Omar told Jake Tapper. “I have tried to avoid watching. I know a lot of us here in Minneapolis have done that. But it’s — but it’s hard, right? You also want to know the details and want to hear from the witnesses. There’s a lot we’re learning. We learned that it wasn’t just eight minutes and 46 seconds, as we have been saying, but it was nine minutes and 26 seconds. And so it’s been really hard. I think the one part that stayed with me is the fact that everyone who took the witness stand said they felt helpless. That is a feeling that we know really well here in Minneapolis when it comes to police abuse. And I remember feeling helpless 20 years ago when I witnessed police officers unload three dozen rounds on mentally ill Somali men in the middle of the street. And so it’s been — it has just unearthed so much trauma for many of us, but we have each other, and we’re going to get through it.”

Tapper asked Omar about whether Minneapolis is prepared for a hung jury or not guilty verdict.

Omar said, “So, the community is on edge about that. We have seen justice not delivered in our community for many years. And I think that there is a lot of confidence in Attorney General Keith Ellison and the prosecutors in this case. But we are all eagerly awaiting to see how this trial shakes out. It’s been really horrendous to watch the defense put George Floyd on trial, instead of the police office — the former police officer who’s charged with his murder.”

Are you guys on the same team?

Two of ESPN’s more high-profile football analysts had a little dustup last week. NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky went on a non-ESPN show and said he had heard from NFL teams questioning the work ethic of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who will be in the upcoming NFL Draft. Orlovsky didn’t say which teams and didn’t name his sources — although that isn’t unusual for analysts on ESPN.

Orlovsky got pushback from some who said he was perpetuating the false stereotype that Black quarterbacks, such as Fields, don’t work hard. Orlovsky then went on Twitter and said he had done more digging and was told by an Ohio State offensive coach that Fields’ work ethic was “spectacular” and had heard from Fields’ trainer, who confirmed that Fields had a good work ethic. But he reiterated that he had heard questions from NFL teams.

Then ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit retweeted Orlovsky’s tweet and wrote, “Absolutely RIDICULOUS. Even if YOU aren’t saying it… to pass that along from ‘people in the know’ is reckless and absurd!! Embarrassing!!”

There’s a lot to unpack here, starting with the belief that one shouldn’t rely on unnamed sources to question someone else’s character. And that’s what Orlovsky did with Fields. Orlovsky said more than once that it wasn’t his opinion, but merely what he had heard from those he was talking to. But that might not be good enough when questioning someone’s character. Orlovsky might not have intended to lean into the damaging and baseless stereotype about Black quarterbacks, but he should’ve been more mindful that could have been the narrative after his comments.

However, it is quite unusual for one person at a news outlet to essentially question the reporting of another person at that same news outlet — and to do it in such a public manner. That’s what Herbstreit did.

In addition, Herbstreit has been guilty of the exact same thing Orlovsky did — citing unnamed sources in his reporting and analysis. In fact, last season, Herbstreit had to walk back a baseless conspiracy theory about the University of Michigan using COVID-19 as an excuse to not play Ohio State because it was afraid of being humiliated. Part of Herbstreit’s theory was based on talking to “a lot of coaches around the country” who thought teams were ducking better teams.

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports that ESPN has spoken to both Orlovsky and Herbstreit about the controversy and that neither will face any discipline.

Media tidbits

  • A reminder in case you’re interested: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson will interview Piers Morgan on Fox Nation — Fox News’ streaming service. The interview will be up today at 4 p.m. Eastern. Portions of the interview are expected to be shown on Carlson’s regular Fox News prime-time show that airs at 8 p.m. Eastern.
  • Another Fox News note: Greg Gutfeld’s late-night show — “Gutfeld!” — debuts tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern.
  • Chip and Joanna Gaines are buying the 70-year home of the Waco Tribune-Herald in order to turn into their corporate nerve center. The Tribune-Herald’s Mike Copeland has the story.
  • In case you missed this column from last week from The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan: “The problem with cheering for the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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