Fox News’ Racism

Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade revealed a glimpse into the depths of his own racism on the air recently. During a discussion of a study based on research done in Finland and Sweden which showed people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s, this exchange happened (short, less than 1 minute):

In this clip, Kilmeade questions the results of the study saying, “We are — we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other …” The co-host tried to distract Kilmeade, but he goes on to add, “See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes …. Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society.”

The argument Kilmeade is making, and to their credit that his co-workers at Fox News seem appalled to hear, is one that’s rooted in the discredited racial pseudo-science of eugenics.

Eugenics, which reached ascendancy in the U.S. and Europe in the 1930s, advocated social progress through encouraging those deemed “fit” to reproduce to have children and discouraging, even coercing through forced sterilization, those thought to be “unfit.” One of the intellectual factories producing knowledge steeped in eugenics was at Cold Spring Harbor Lab on Long Island, just outside New York. While claims about “fitness” and “unfitness” were sometimes tied to inherited disease, just as often these designations were linked to poverty and race. Thus, people who are poor or not considered white are designated “unfit.” Indeed, in the extreme version of eugenics, some people were considered “less than human” or of “another species.” This kind of thinking is part of what fueled the Third Reich’s calculated extermination of six million Jews. Following the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the camps, the theory of eugenics fell into disfavor.

In his book, Backdoor to Eugenics (NY: Routledge, 2nd Ed., 2003), sociologist Troy Duster explores the ways that current practices, such as prenatal detection of birth defects, gene therapies, growth hormones, are once again introducing “genetic answers” to what are fundamentally social questions. In Kilmeade’s ill-informed discussion of research about the length of marriage, he is stepping into a long tradition of eugenics as the scientific basis for racism and antisemitism. Fox News rarely disappoints as a source for broadcasting such retrograde thinking.

Comments

  1. Victor Ray

    Hey Jessie.

    Thanks for this one. I rarely laugh out loud when reading this blog, but that clip had me. What an idiot. The sad thing is, a whole lot of white people believe this crap.

    • opticalpig

      This whole website is pretty pathetic. I searched it for the racist remarks made by commentators on CBS, ABC, and NBC (and they do exist) and none of them are there. So it’s basically not about racism. It’s about attack Fox News and conservatism??!! Stupid.

      And by the way, although I don’t agree with Kilmeade, when did this country become so un-free that we can’t hold our own personal opinions on something . . . right or wrong?

      You guys are the ‘Righteous Meters’ of the U.S.?

      You’re the ones who are sad blinded sheep. We all have to think the same way. Say the same words. Watch the same news program. Pathetic!

      And ‘a whole lot of white people believe this crap’ isn’t a racist remark???

      • John D. Foster

        Didn’t you see the post by Jessie on Chris Matthew’s comment that he forgot Obama was black? Last I checked he’s on msnbc. Not to mention Pat Buchanan, a regular commentator on msnbc, has been discussed at this site regularly for his long history of white supremacy. Look before you leap.

      • marandaNJ

        To Optioalpig:
        First of all, if you are Human, you indeed belong to the same species. Kilmeade got that wrong from the get-go. Secondly, if the guy knew any history, he’d realize that throughout history, one group of people conquered another and then married into that group. Or, as one group of people traveled globally, they met other groups and married into those groups. Thus, his entire premise is erroneous.
        Furthermore, since this site indeed posted your comment, even though it runs counter to the general opinion here, why do you acuse this country/website as being unfree? You were allowed to voice your views, correct? If you ran a website, I doubt you would be so liberal minded as to allow other opinions that did not respond with your own. Thanks for all the insight, guy!

  2. @Victor – The things that come from Fox can be sooo funny sometimes. The things these people come up with sometimes! I mean, the notion of eugenics aside, how can the race, or species, of a person’s spouse aside, how can one person effect chances of another person developing alsheimers? This is about the health benefits of just being in a marriage. Eh, duh!

  3. Phil

    I’m a student at Rockefeller University, the sister campus of Cold Spring Harbor, and I remember back in 2007 when Dr. Watson made his statement about the intellectual inferiority of blacks. James Watson then served as the chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor, after having served as its director for ten years. There graduate program at Cold Spring Harbor is still named after him. Dr. Watson was slated to receive a writing prize at Rockefeller for his new memoir just after he made those statements. One of the students initiated a discussion on the student listserve about whether they should attempt to convince Rockefeller’s president Paul Nurse against honoring Dr. Watson in light of his comments. Some of the students actually attempted to defend Dr. Watson and claim that, either, science is about “truth and not politically correct rhetoric” or that his comments should not be connected to whether or not he be recognized for writing his memoir.

    At any rate, Paul Nurse issued a rather tepid announcement that they canceled the event and that we should all take into account Dr. Watson’s age. It’s moments like this that accentuate why blacks don’t feel comfortable in the natural sciences, when there is still a very strong belief that intellectual exploration is the natural domain of “enlightened” whites.

  4. I can follow the logic that science is about truth, not politically correct rhetoric. In the same way that science can’t be obligated to religion. I get that. But don’t you have to question any “truth” that cannot be said in a way that’s “politically correct”? I mean, if Watson’s finding were scientifically valid, rather than meaning that blacks were intellectually inferior, couldn’t it mean that maybe we should change our definition of “intelligent”? I don’t think I’m being clear, but I hope you can get my gist.

  5. Rosalind

    While the clip may give a good chuckle, especially while seeing the newswoman looking bewildered, I am disturbed by the sobering reality that many people in the United States believe these things. Kilmeade is not alone . The current dissertation work I’m doing shows how these notions are internalized by people of color and I have Asian American men telling me that they are inferior to white women so they should stick to dating their own race.

  6. Bambi

    Little known fact about the power of eugenics: eugenics also taught that Blacks were less likely to feel pain than whites…so many doctors and scientists, who believed the myths of eugenics, experimented on Blacks (invasive surgery without anaesthia, administering experimental drugs) because eugenics taught that they were built to handle such treatment. This led to Black infants being the lab mice for brain surgery, young slave girls used as guinea pigs for the first OBGYNs, and older slaves as available test objects.

  7. Joe

    Bambi, good points, indeed. Also, In his main book, Notes on the State of Virginia, in the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson also argued the enslaved blacks do not feel pain like whites. Justified slavery.

  8. Victor Ray

    Hey Rosalind,

    As a bi-racial person, I realize that this serious, as I have been called all manner of crazy things by people who believe this crap (including some in my own family, who have refused to speak to me my entire life). But, I also have to laugh at it sometimes. I mean, this shit has been debunked for how long, yet (as I said in my first post) so many people believe it. What gets me is that, as Joe and others have pointed out, the white framing of this is impervious to fact. Dr. Watson is case in point. He was (is) one of the most esteemed scientists of the 20th century. He (with some stolen research) discovered DNA. Yet his views are incredibly non-scientific, or if they are supported by “science,” it is the same kind of prejudice reinforcing science that was used to justify slavery, eugenics, sterilization, lynching, etc. As Kuhn showed long ago, all science is embedded in a socio-cultural systems that influences the questions asked and interpretations given. This seems like a clear example of the racial idiocy dominant in a prior era being the frame through which Kilmeade is so wrongly interpreting the finding. So, I do realize how serious this is. But I also have to laugh at the stupidity. I already spend a large portion of my day angry.

    By the way, the dissertation research sounds interesting, and that is an unfortunate finding.

    Victor

  9. Jeff B.

    Interesting article. Victor Ray, as a “bi-racial” myself, I feel you.

    Not to get off tangent, but speaking of Fox News, there should probably be an article here about Bill O’Reilly’s lashing out against Michael Jackson, calling him a white wannabe, a greedy hypocrite and a pedophile. This racist and blatantly hypocritical guy is a joke.

    I think most people tend to forget that Elvis had a relationship with Priscilla Presley when she was 14 and he was 24 (something Bill probably wouldn’t even bring up, let alone what Elvis Presley did with his money).

  10. siss

    Victor Ray: [“As Kuhn showed long ago, all science is embedded in a socio-cultural systems that influences the questions asked and interpretations given. This seems like a clear example of the racial idiocy dominant in a prior era being the frame through which Kilmeade is so wrongly interpreting the finding.”] Well said.

  11. Melissa

    Victor Ray – how crazy of people! When I was little, one of my good friends was bi-racial. Her parents and my parents were really good friends. I feel fortunate that my parents raised me to respect people for who they are, not their race. I’m White so I don’t experience these things so it’s always shocking to me to hear people think like this, much less voice it on national television!

  12. Bambi

    Joe- Jefferson, a scientist before a politician, was known to buy slaves simply to experiment on them. Using eugenics to excuse his outright cruelty, he was a major fan of experimentation on blacks. But it is important to note that such thoughts have not ended with Jefferson. They continue to erode rational thought today. Look into the Tuskegee syphilis study in 1979, forced sterilization of Black women in North that continued into the 80s, and the push of birth control in the Black community today….all of these backed by faulty eugenics.

  13. Danette Hurt

    I cannot bleive how racist this station is??????? I we going over the website listings and this topic has popped up for years. How is it possible that they continue to get away with this type of behavior without any consequences?? I am shocked that this continues to happen. When I go in places they are playing FOX and there are Black people working in htese places. How can that be? I leave and don’t use the place but what about other places around the world? What ca be done. There has to be something that can be done.

  14. Bambi

    Danette: How can this be happening? Simple answer…its all about financial power. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, has a 34 per cent stake in Hughes Electronics, the operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, from General Motors for $6 billion. He also owned Dow Jones. In addition, because he is known as a media oligarch, he has made alliances with many powerful political figures (republican and democrat). With a hand in so many prominent cookie jars, it is no wonder that Fox is given certain allowances.

  15. Joe

    Actually, Fox was intentionally created to help preserve the racist, sexist, classist, and heterosexist systems of this society. Its minders, the conservative wing of the ruling elite, were worried that the main networks and think tanks were too liberal. It is, as they say, the Faux news network, and is designed to con its large, mostly white viewers. It operates openly to reinforce all those oppressive systems, and thus of course allows much racist hate speech, and other kinds of racist, sexist, homophobic, classist commentary. the intent is to preserve the US system for those who have run it from the beginning. It will stay that way, or grow, until we the people challenge it…. Eternal organization against such forces is the price of liberty.

  16. cb3n

    While this is somewhat off topic from the discussion going on here, and while I think the original post does a great job placing Kilmeade’s comments in their historical context, I felt that the (probably unintentional) implications of this sentence deserved comment:

    “While claims about “fitness” and “unfitness” were sometimes tied to inherited disease, just as often these designations were linked to poverty and race.”

    It should go without saying but I find that often it doesn’t. Of course forced sterilization of people who have diseases or disabilities that may potentially be passed on to their children is no more morally justified than determining who has the right to reproduction or life based on race or poverty. Ultimately the decision of whether or not to reproduce when newborn children will likely be disabled should be about informed consent on the part of the parents not arbitrary determinations made by doctors or institutions.

    Kilmeade’s comments were clearly evoking the history of eugenics as it relates to race and ethnicity, but I think its helpful to try and remember that ultimately eugenics isn’t totally a theory about race, it is a theory which has historically been used to frame race, class, sexuality, gender identity and other aspects of personhood as indicators of (dis)ability. What we’re talking about here is the justification of oppression of individuals based on race by defining them as disabled, and what we should be objecting to when objecting to eugenics isn’t necessarily the assertion that being a person of color is a disability but that disabled people should be denied reproductive, social or political rights or that disabled people are a detriment to society or humanity.

  17. JoshD

    Wow, this guy is pretty unbelievable….

    A theory:
    There were some peer concerns regarding a portion of the study where the presences of a specific gene was identified as being related to Alzheimer’s rates. Basically the point of contention was that the populations sampled did not represent a sufficiently “varied” genetic makeup (with respect to the presence of this gene and some others which are thought to be co-related with Alzheimer’s rates).

    My guess is some staffer mentioned this caveat in a random side note, and Mr. Kilmeade took that to mean the Swedes were too “pure-blooded” or some other such nonsense. I guess it’s easy to hear what you want to believe.

    In any case, it’s pretty irresponsible to go on the air and start blurting out whatever pops into your head without even thoroughly reading what’s been written down for you. Then again, I shouldn’t expect much better considering the source.

    If anyone is interested, the article can be found at:

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/jul02_2/b2462?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=marriage&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=date&resourcetype=HWCIT

  18. Mom to No1KState

    I am just writing this because after the recent dicussion regarding racism “in general” the other day, I started to look around, and I have to agree with the majority of what was being said too me….There is racism that still exits in this country…I don’t know your catch words like “poster child” or “white frame thinking”. I appoligize for my ignorance with regards to the subject matter…I would like to learn more about this topic…There’s really in nothing that I can do as an individual about a whole society, but I am willing to learn, and if possible, help in some small way. So, if you could suggest some reading materials on the subject I would be interested or at least have a better understanding of what’s being discussed on this site…Thanks:)

  19. Karen

    This thing about finland people and swedes have pure genes is a joke. Boy I tell ya, those ignorant white basterd at Fox News are absolutley ASSinine individuals and should be taken off the Tv period. White people DO NOT HAVE PURE BLOOD RUNNING THOUGHT THEIR VEINS! Do the RESEARCH!

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