Super Tuesday was all set to go down as a set of recycled, unimaginative narratives until Van Jones had a moment with Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord. Jones, a former Obama advisor, and Lord, a former Reagan staffer, had a glorious, four-and-a-half-minute exchange last night on CNN during the network’s coverage of the primaries.
What we’re calling an exchange has been referred to, in varying accounts, as a meltdown, an eruption, a “fiery debate.” But we’re not getting into a semantic argument over which word makes a better headline, nor do we think the fact that an argument transpired is what makes this a story.
It was Jones, on cable television, being allowed to devote more than a sentence or so to deconstruct Donald Trump‘s history of divisive tendencies.
“The things that Donald Trump has done, and not just in this race, are horribly offensive. You can go back, with this guy, for a long time. You can go back to the Central [Park] jogger case, where he came out and had innocent black kids winding up in prison,” says Jones.
“There is a dark underside here…he is whipping up and tapping into and pushing buttons that are very, very frightening to me, and frightening to a lot of people.”
But Jones moves away from the overt, easy symbol of racism that is the KKK and returns to the Central Park joggers. “But it’s worse than that,” Jones says. “That whole thing with those Central jogger kids. He got the entire city of New York whipped up on this idea that these kids had done something wrong. And then when it turned out they were innocent–we all make mistakes–he never apologized to those kids. And that’s a stain on him. And you could walk through time after time where he’s done stuff like that. The stuff he said about Native Americans being criminal organizations and mafias.”
In a recent article in the Guardian, Oliver Laughland recounted Trump’s prominent role in stirring up emotions in the Central Park jogger case, as well as the accusations leveraged against a Native American group that Jones references.
It is at this point that Lord cuts in. “What you’re doing right here is dividing people. We’re all Americans here,” Lord tells Jones. “This is what liberals do. You are dividing people by race.”
Because calling people out on their racism is divisive, but actually being racist isn’t.