Meet the White Guys: NBC Panel Tackles Affirmative Action

NBC-affirmative-actionHere’s how  NBC’s David Gregory announced his panel on Sunday’s Meet the Press (4/27/14):

We’re back with our political roundtable: Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for the Atlantic magazine and columnist for Bloomberg View. Neera Tanden is president of the Center for American Progress, and former policy director for Hillary Clinton. Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. And new to the roundtable, happy to have Mallory Factor, professor of international politics and American government at the Citadel military college in South Carolina. He is also the editor of the bestselling book Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution.

One thing jumps out right away: We’ve got three white, male, conservative-leaning pundits and Democratic/liberal pundit Neera Tanden, a woman of South Asian descent. Not exactly the most diverse set of views one might imagine.

This was especially notable because one of the topics the panel discussed was affirmative action, specifically the Supreme Court’s 6-2 ruling affirming the state of Michigan’s ban as it applies to public universities. Not a huge surprise that two of the conservatives–Lowry and Factor–spoke out pretty forceful against affirmative action. But one has to wonder about the NBC producers who thought that a show hosted by a white male should invite three other white men, and one Asian woman, to discuss diversity.

But that’s not all. The show kicked off with a discussion of the odious racist rants of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling that had surfaced days earlier. For that segment, the show assembled a panel of all African-Americans: HBO‘s Bryant Gumbel, MSNBC host Al Sharpton and interim NAACP president Lorraine Miller.

So in that case, someone was obviously sensitive to the need to bring non-white viewpoints on the show. There’s something telling about this; an example of obvious, blatant racism is treated as an opportunity for diversity, but when it comes time to discuss law and policy–well,  that’s the domain of white male pundits.

Surely no one at NBC would agree that this was their intent. But it is nonetheless what they put on the air–an inadvertent illustration of how little diversity exists in elite punditry, and, indeed, of the value of affirmative action in guest selection.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.