Media figures are calling out Rush Limbaugh for his racially charged assault on First Lady Michelle Obama for her recognition of the lack of diversity among museum attendees.
The conservative radio host attacked Michelle Obama this week for her reference to racial disparities in access to education opportunities like museums during a speech at the April 30 dedication of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Obama praised the Whitney's inaugural exhibit for its attempt to capture the range of cultures that have contributed to American art and called it “particularly powerful for our young people” because it shows them that “their story is part of the American story, and that they deserve to be seen.” Such engagement is important, Obama said, because “there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that's not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.”
Limbaugh accused Obama of claiming “museums are for white people” and of using the speech to “widen the racial gap.” Calling her an “angry First Lady” who wants to “rip this country apart,” Rush went on to suggest that black people simply didn't appreciate museums because they are “not in their cultural upbringing.”
Media figures are now blasting Limbaugh for the racist attacks.
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen declared that Limbaugh criticized Obama “for the sin of being black.” “The way he looks at it,” Cohen wrote, “Obama is not entitled to her experiences, certainly not to talk about it,” going on: "[J]ust as Eleanor Roosevelt articulated the experiences and plight of the poor as well as racial and ethnic minorities, so does Michelle Obama articulate the black experience. If that sometimes makes others uncomfortable, it damn well should."
Similarly, The New York Times' Charles Blow blasted Rush and explained how Obama's thoughts on the diversity of museum visitors “was right,” pointing to a 2010 report by the Center for the Future of Museums that found “historic patterns of segregation and exclusion as one reason that fewer African-American families instill museum-going habits in their young children.” Blow called out Limbaugh for trying to paint “the Obamas as failed racial messiahs at best, and active racial agitators at worst” :
But for Limbaugh, this wasn't about museum attendance at all. It was simply another opportunity to excrete the tired banalities about the Obamas as failed racial messiahs at best, and active racial agitators at worst.
Obama's sin, using [Rush's] line of logic, is that he failed to undo the system of oppression that he had no hand in constructing. It is that 400 years of damage was not undone in two terms. It is that he didn't encourage silence about inequity so that its benefactors could enjoy the cumulative fruit of centuries of racial graft without current-day guilt.
They wanted some mythical receipt of satisfaction of the debt. Let bygones be bygones. All is forgotten and forgiven. Clean slate. Fresh start.
If only it were that simple. But it's not. This whole line of reasoning is racial claptrap.
Such increasing focus on Limbaugh's racially charged attacks coincides with growing advertising woes for the radio host, who has been seeing advertisers flee from his program since his multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. Just last month, Emmis Communications announced it was dropping Limbaugh's broadcast from its WIBC lineup, which had aired the radio program for 22 years.