Last week, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu suggested that former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell endorsed President Obama because both men are African-Americans, and not because the deeply accomplished former cabinet secretary calmly evaluated Obama’s performance and deemed it worthy of reelection. Last night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly made a very similar claim in a conversation with Fox’s Arthel Neville:
O’REILLY: General Powell has been, in his books, quite candid about him using affirmative action to succeed, alright? And Barack Obama did use affirmative action to, you know, be educated and something like that. Do you think that there’s any racial business here?
NEVILLE: No. No. No. No.
O’REILLY: And I’m not saying that in a pejorative — I’m not saying that in a negative — but a connection — the general and the president came up the same way. . . . You don’t think shared experience enters into General Powell’s endorsement?
NEVILLE: You’re telling me that if President Obama had not done a good job that Colin Powell — General Powell — would have supported President Obama regardless? Absolutely not true.
O’REILLY: No I’m saying that he might be cutting him a little more slack.
Setting aside the offensiveness of O’Reilly’s comments, Neville, who is black, deserves a great deal of credit for forcefully pushing back against a man who ranks at least a few steps above her in Fox News’ food chain. She repeatedly challenged O’Reilly, pointing out that suggesting black men are unable to look past each other’s race is exactly the same as claiming that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) must support O’Reilly himself because both men are white. As Neville told O’Reilly, his comments are “disrespectful to General Powell” and “disrespectful to the president.” O’Reilly takes an record of success and accomplishment, and tries to “dilute it to pigmentation.”