Conservative media staple Larry Elder recently announced his bid to become California’s next governor in the upcoming special election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Elder, who is Black, has used his media platform over the years to dismiss violence and discrimination that Black Americans continue to face, as well as to push right-wing talking points about “Black-on-Black crime,” family structures, and police violence. Those decades of incendiary narratives are central to Elder’s prominence as a voice in right-wing media, making it crucial for media to avoid painting him as simply another recall hopeful.
Since 1993, Elder has been a well-known voice in conservative media through his nationally syndicated radio program, The Larry Elder Show, which reaches an audience of 1.5 million in addition to his social media presence of more than 2.5 million followers. Elder’s popularity as a right-wing radio host also helped feed the careers of other notable conservatives, such as former Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, whom Elder offered an internship.
With his July 12 campaign announcement, Elder joined a lengthy list of candidates hoping to unseat Newsom on September 14, when voters decide whether to remove Newsom from office and if so, who should replace him. After Elder initially failed to get on the ballot because of a tax dispute, a California judge ruled in Elder’s favor, ensuring his place in the September election.
The upcoming recall race could provide Elder with an even larger platform for his far-right rhetoric; here are just some of the lowlights from his toxic career in conservative media:
Declaring racism doesn’t exist in the modern-day United States
- In a July interview with the Los Angeles Times, Elder asserted, “It is bull— that racism remains a major problem in America." He elaborated to claim that racism used to exist in housing and employment, “but not now.”
- In a July 8 appearance on Fox News’ Hannity, Elder said, “It's an outrage to assault the flag when America has been so good for Black people. We’ve had troubles but we’ve struggled through it to become a more perfect union to the point where somebody like Barack Obama could get elected and reelected in America, for crying out loud.”
- In February, Elder expressed his disapproval of reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the United States, claiming that racism has never been less of a problem in the United States than it is today.
- Responding in January 2020 to claims that voter suppression impeded Stacey Abrams’ 2018 run for governor in Georgia, Elder characterized voter suppression as a conspiracy theory used by Democrats to “get Black people angry” and make them “believe that they’re victims.”
- In a 2014 CNN appearance following extended protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown, Elder emphatically claimed that racism is “not a major problem in this country.” He went on to say, “This is not your grandfather’s America. We ought not act like it is.”
- In a 2012 email to The Daily Caller, Elder repeated the phrase “racism is no longer a major issue in this country” three times before calling it “an affront” that “Democrats have convinced blacks otherwise.”
Minimizing violence against Black Americans
- When asked in July about police violence against Black Americans, Elder stated, “Police are more reluctant to pull the trigger on Black people than whites.”
- Appearing on Hannity one day after the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Elder claimed: “If these protesters had been Black, the likelihood is it would've been worse because the police would've been more reluctant, more hesitant to use force against Black people than white people.”
- Elder called the claims of racism in policing a “big Goebbels-type lie,” referencing the chief propagandist for the German Nazi Party.
- In a 2020 op-ed titled “Where's Black Lives Matter when you need them?” Elder asserted, “There is no epidemic of racist cops killing black suspects.” He argued there was no way to claim that institutional racism influenced the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody because of the prominence of Black individuals in the city’s government, in the case itself, and at the federal level with then-Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama.
- During an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity in June 2020, Elder defended the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks. He claimed that every officer he spoke to said Brooks’ killer “did everything by the book” and further justified the shooting by suggesting the officers didn’t know if Brooks was pointing a handgun or a taser.
- During a CNN discussion in the wake of the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Elder repeatedly suggested that conversations about the Confederate flag or the Second Amendment in connection to white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof are “a sideshow.”
- In an appearance on Nancy Grace’s HLN program in 2014, Elder defended George Zimmerman’s right to carry firearms after an extensive arsenal of guns was found at his home. Elder argued, “If anybody has the need for a firearm, it’s George Zimmerman. This is one of the most hated men in America for crying out loud. Leave the guy alone.”
Embracing right-wing narratives about “Black-on-Black crime”
- In a June 2020 Instagram post, Elder cited data from a report by right-wing commentator Heather Mac Donald saying that Black individuals “disproportionately commit” interracial violence and claiming that “a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.”
- While appearing on Piers Morgan’s CNN program in 2013, Elder discredited the murder trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, saying, “It’s outrageous to act as if … black America should fear some non-black guy stalking some black kid at night. The likelihood of a black person being killed by a non-black person is extremely remote, which is why this is became a big national issue in the first place.” Elder also pivoted the conversation to “seven thousand murders last year, Piers, of black people. Almost all of those were committed by black people.”
Blaming families for destabilizing Black communities
- While appearing on Tucker Carlson Tonight in June 2020, Elder suggested that somehow eliminating white racism in the United States won’t solve systemic issues disproportionately affecting Black Americans because “the problem is the proliferation of children having children, of unwed fathers in our homes.”
- In an April 2019 appearance on Fox & Friends, Elder suggested Black families were better off as slaves: “The real problem right now are left-wing policies that have made things worse. The welfare state has incentivized women to marry the government and allowed men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility. … Let's talk about what the welfare state has done to destabilize the Black family. During slavery, a Black kid was more likely to be born under a roof with his biological mother and biological father than today. That's the problem, let's deal with that.”