Texas-based radio host Michael Berry, whose racially-charged comments regularly draw widespread criticism, hosted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his show to discuss their long friendship and Cruz's new book, but steered clear of controversial issues like Berry's support for the Confederate flag.
During the June 30 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Berry gave Cruz a platform to promote his new book and upcoming book tour. During a discussion about an old nickname Cruz got for being so serious, Cruz confirmed his long friendship with Berry:
BERRY: You're not always so serious.
CRUZ: Well, you have got to have fun. You can't survive a campaign without having fun, without laughing and cutting up. You and I have, more than once, had the opportunity to perhaps kill a few liver cells and laugh at the joy of life.
According to Berry, his friendship with Cruz goes back over a decade. In 2012, after Cruz won the Republican primary in the Texas Senate race, Berry introduced Cruz at the victory party by saying "I am proud to say that Ted Cruz has been my friend for over 10 years." At a 2012 rally, Cruz also singled out and thanked Berry, who was standing beside him.
While Berry's long history of racially-charged, sexist and Islamaphobic remarks haven't caused Cruz to distance himself from his old friend, they have drawn wide criticism. The Texas Observer called Berry "more than your average hatemonger," adding, "He's a notable local figure, a three-term former city councilmember who ran for mayor in 2003" whose Twitter account is "full of racist and xenophobic tweets."
Berry has a history of referring to African-Americans as "animals" and discounting the views of minorities. After the McKinney, Texas pool party that resulted in the controversial arrest of black teenagers, Berry called the teens "jungle animals." In 2014, he said African-American students at UCLA who called for greater campus diversity were "pack animals" and suggested they "get the F over themselves." He has also claimed "black people don't believe black lives matter," and suggested that the election of Barack Obama "prompted the poorest, most violent segment" of African-Americans to clash with police in places like Baltimore.
Comedian Chuck Knipp, who performs in blackface as "Shirley Q. Liquor" has often appeared on The Michael Berry Show. Knipp's act includes making light of welfare recipients and the use of Ebonics. During Knipp's latest performance, right after Berry's June 30 interview with Cruz, the comedian posed mockingly as an Affordable Care Act navigator, doling out incorrect information about the health care law.
Berry has also vehemently defended the Confederate flag, claiming it represents "the heritage" of South Carolina, and has downplayed the racial motivations of the white man accused of the June 17 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.
During his interview with Cruz, Berry avoided discussion of any of these topics. Cruz has taken pains not to state a firm position on whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly over the South Carolina Statehouse, but his South Carolina campaign co-chair seems to share Berry's views. According to Politico:
State Sen. Lee Bright, Cruz's South Carolina co-chair, has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the move. Bright told the Charleston Post and Courier that taking the flag down was akin to a "Stalinist purge," a claim he expanded on in an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday.
"It's not just the flag," Bright said. "They want to take down the Confederate monuments; I've gotten emails from people who want to rename streets. ... Anytime you want to basically remove the symbols of history from a state, that's something that just is very bad. ... These are honorable men who fought for their homes, their home state; to disgrace them in the name of political correctness is just wrong. They're not here to defend themselves."
The full interview between Berry and Cruz, followed by blackface comedian Chuck Knipp, is below:
Radio host Michael Berry criticized the decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's Statehouse grounds by positing that if the gunman were Muslim, no one would be calling to "outlaw the Koran" or mosques in response.
On his June 23 show, Berry, who is an outspoken proponent of the Confederate battle flag, criticized the calls to remove the flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds in response to the fatal shootings of nine black church members on June 17. Dylann Storm Roof, who has been charged with the attack, told law enforcement officials he was influenced by white supremacists, who see the Confederate flag as a symbol of their beliefs. Berry said taking down the flag made no sense because when a Muslim commits a terrorist attack -- something he falsely claimed is more likely than an attack by a non-Muslim -- there aren't any calls to "outlaw the Koran" or to "outlaw mosques."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, attacks on Muslims after 9/11 "skyrocketed some 1,600%," and as recently as 2010, some 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes were committed. North Carolina and Florida have passed "anti-sharia" laws, and as The New York Times reported, towns in Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin have tried to stop the construction or expansion of mosques.
After South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) announced that she supported the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol, right-wing media figures responded by attacking the flag's possible removal as "cultural cleansing" and asking whether the American flag would be next.
Texas-based radio host Michael Berry criticized a Twitter user who, in the wake of the June 17 killing of nine black worshippers at an historic black church in Charlestown, South Carolina, tweeted that the state's governor had defended the Confederate "Stars and Bars" flag over the state capitol last October. Berry claimed the flag merely represents "the heritage of the state" and accused critics of wanting to "revise the history."
Berry spent a large portion of his June 18 morning show downplaying the racist motivations behind Dylann Storm Roof's attack on a prayer group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. While condemning those he said have rushed to judgement about the white shooter's motivations, Berry responded to a tweet by a former official at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that pointed out that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) had defended flying the Confederate flag outside the statehouse in October 2014. Berry said it was silly to blame the capitol's display of the "Stars and Bars" flag of the former Confederate States for encouraging the attack because it merely "represents the heritage of the state." He added that opponents want to "revise the history and take the flag away." Listen:
Berry, who called black teens at a pool party in McKinney, Texas "jungle animals" and told black UCLA students who were trying to improve diversity on campus to "get the F over themselves," has caused more than a few controversies with his racially insensitive remarks. His defense of the Confederate flag epitomizes what Philip Klein, managing editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, criticized in a recent column that said, "Conservatives who try to defend the flag (or who are afraid to criticize it) are only reinforcing the perception that supporters of limited government don't really care about the historical or modern day struggles of black Americans." But considering the fact that Berry's promotional material for his show features a picture of him wearing a Confederate flag hat, (see above), it seems unlikely he cares.
From the June 11 edition of iHeartRadio's The Michael Berry Show:
Loading the player reg...
Texas radio host Michael Berry has a long history of making sexist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, and anti-African-American comments on his radio show. He also has posted several racially-tinged videos to his show's YouTube channel that criticize African-Americans, and posted racially insensitive comments on social media like Facebook.
From the June 8 edition of iHeartRadio's Michael Berry Show:
Loading the player reg...
Syndicated radio host Michael Berry commented on the beating of a teenage girl at a New York City restaurant by saying, "You know why white lives matter? Because that's what white people believe. The dirty little secret is, black people don't believe that black lives matter."
On the March 12 edition of his Houston-based show, Berry described video footage of the beating, in which four girls attacked a 15-year-old girl at a McDonald's in Brooklyn. At first, Berry claimed, "I'm not going to tell y'all the skin color because it's not relevant." After delivering his description of the brutal attack, Berry asserted that "you can blame this problem on anything other than the root cause. But the reality -- and this is what makes people so uncomfortable with our show -- is this one fact that we are about to state. We have people living in our country who are savages. Absolutely, positively savages. To engage in this kind of behavior."
Cheered on by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, conservative activists spent the past year engaged in an anti-Muslim campaign that included efforts to block the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan and demonize the imam spearheading the project. The bigotry has culminated in a Florida pastor's now-"suspended" plans to burn Qurans on September 11 -- plans that the pastor has explicitly linked to the controversy over the Islamic center.