Media figures claimed Clinton played “race card” but ignored her 2004 comments and similar “plantation” comments by Republicans

Media figures have accused Hillary Clinton of “race-baiting” and “playing the race card,” because her “plantation” analogy was made before a largely black audience on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The same media figures failed to report that Clinton made a similar “plantation” analogy during a 2004 interview and that numerous Republicans have used similar “plantation” analogies to attack Democrats.

Speaking at a January 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at New York's Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) compared the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to a “plantation,” stating: “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about. It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary point of view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard.”

In response, conservative media figures have accused Clinton of “race-baiting” and “playing the race card,” because her “plantation” analogy was made before a largely black audience on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But in doing so, these commentators did not report that Clinton made a similar “plantation” analogy during a November 2004 interview on CNN -- which garnered no media attention at the time and which cast some doubt on accusations that she was motivated by the racial makeup of her audience or event's timing. Nor did these commentators report that numerous Republicans and conservatives, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), have used similar “plantation” analogies to attack Democrats.

On the January 17 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, host Carlson asked viewers: “Hillary Clinton shoots off her mouth on Martin Luther King Day, likening the Republicans to slaveholders. Should she be reprimanded for using the race card?” Appearing on the January 17 edition of CNN's Live From ..., Ron Christie -- a former special assistant to President Bush and former policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney -- accused Clinton of making “terrible racially divisive comments.” And in a January 18 editorial, the New York Post called Clinton's comments “naked race-baiting.”

Similarly, on the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews opened the show by asking viewers: “Hillary Clinton says Republicans are guilty of running the Congress like a plantation. Do you believe it? Does she? Is she willing to say the same thing to the country she said up in Harlem?” In fact, as the Rev. Al Sharpton -- a former Democratic presidential candidate -- pointed out later in the show, Clinton had already told “the country” substantially the same thing. On the November 18, 2004, edition of CNN's American Morning, Clinton used the “plantation” analogy in response to a question from co-host Soledad O'Brien:

O'BRIEN: Another thing we were talking about in the news today, of course, is the House Republicans changing the rules to essentially inoculate Tom DeLay if, indeed, he is indicted. No, don't laugh before I finish my question here. What do you make of that this morning? We're hearing lots from -- from Capitol Hill about this.

CLINTON: Well, I mean, what can I say? It's just so typical. I mean they're running the House of Representatives like a fiefdom with Tom DeLay as, you know, in charge of the plantation. I think it's kind of a sad commentary. I don't think it's good for democracy. I don't think it's good for the Republican Party. But again, I don't have a vote in the Republican Caucus in the House. They'll decide what they want to do.

In addition, Matthews asked Sharpton: “Suppose a white conservative were to say to a white Democrat, 'You've been running the blacks in the Democratic Party for years, using them to get votes and never electing any blacks to major national office. And you're running the place like a plantation.' Would you have taken offense at that?”

Though Hardball viewers would not have known it, Matthews' question was more than a hypothetical scenario. As the Think Progress weblog has noted, an October 20, 1994, Washington Post article reported on one such comment made by Gingrich:

“I clearly fascinate them,” Gingrich said of the Democrats. “I'm much more intense, much more persistent, much more willing to take risks to get it done. Since they think it is their job to run the plantation, it shocks them that I'm actually willing to lead the slave rebellion.

The following year, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-FL) called Democrats “overseers of the last plantation in America,” as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 16, 1995:

Calling Democrats the “overseers of the last plantation in America,” Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. yesterday rebuked Democratic colleagues who accused the GOP of cruelty toward children in its welfare legislation.

Shaw (R., Fla.) and his GOP colleagues on a Ways and Means subcommittee had just approved sweeping welfare-reform legislation that would turn over most of the nation's poverty programs to the states.

“You (Democrats) have jealously guarded a corrupt poverty program for the past 40 years, and we are here to right the wrongs that were made,” Shaw said.

On June 25, 1992, The New York Times reported that then-Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-PA) also used a “plantation” analogy to attack Democrats:

But such criticism paled in comparison with the hyperbole served up by Representative Robert S. Walker, Republican of Pennsylvania. First Mr. Walker likened the tight reins of Democratic control to the plantation system of the South before the Civil War, a comparison that visibly upset Southern Democrats. Then he reached farther afield and said, “It's a little like when the people of Nazi Germany were stripped of their rights.”

In addition, numerous conservative commentators have used “plantation” analogies when discussing minorities in the Democratic Party.

  • Robert D. Novak, syndicated columnist and former CNN host, now a Fox News contributor.

From the January 25, 2005, edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: This afternoon, President George W. Bush met with 24 prominent African-Americans, 14 members of the clergy and 10 leaders in business and nonprofit agencies. Tomorrow, the president meets with the Congressional Black Caucus, 43 members, Democrats all.

It's good for the Republican president to sit down with the black lawmakers, though I'll doubt he'll make much progress with them. But today's meeting with black non-politicians may be another matter. The black reverend clergy are particularly attracted to the Bush faith- based aid programs. That terrifies Democratic politicians.

Where would the Democrats be if they're not picking up around 90 percent of the black vote? What if black voters started moving off the Democratic plantation?

From the November 7, 2003, edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: It seemed a moment of fairness in the relentless Democratic attack on President Bush's judicial nominees. Presidential candidate Al Sharpton told columnist Armstrong Williams in a television interview that California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown should be given an up-or-down Senate vote for Confirmation, no filibuster.

But Democratic senators put the heat on the Reverend Al. He issued a statement yesterday which called for everything possible to be done to block Justice Brown's confirmation. That means a filibuster. Al Sharpton has been around long enough to know the rules. Blacks are not permitted to leave the liberal plantation to be a conservative, like Janice Rogers Brown. She threatens the Democratic monopoly on the African-American vote.

From the September 4, 2003, edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: This is a -- this is a -- this is a sad day for politics and a sad day for America. [Judge] Miguel Estrada asked for withdrawal of his nomination by President Bush for the nation's second most important court. He is a brilliant 42-year-old lawyer who is part of the American dream. He came here as a 15-year-old refugee from Honduras, could not speak a word of English.

Nobody denies that he is superbly qualified, but he is a conservative Latino. And the Democratic plantation bosses cannot permit such a breakaway and would not let his nomination come to a vote. Will such an outrage stand? It's up to the American people.

From the September 26, 2002, edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: The brilliant 40-year-old Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada groveled today before Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee and party line votes has killed two highly qualified Bush nominees for the federal appellate bench. Estrada may be next, so he promises senators that he would have an open mind on the court and follow the facts instead of his own views. His own views are conservative, which constitutes one strike against him.

The second strike is that he would be the first Hispanic-American named to the prestigious circuit court from the District of Columbia. That terrifies Democratic strategists who want to keep Hispanics on their democratic plantation.

  • Armstrong Williams, syndicated columnist who accepted money from the Bush administration to promote Bush's education policies.

From the “Novak Zone” segment of the March 6, 2004, edition of CNN Saturday Morning News:

ROBERT D. NOVAK (segment host): And now, the big question for Armstrong Williams. Mr. Williams, about 90 percent of your fellow African-Americans vote Democratic when they vote. Do you think the leaders of the Republican Party are doing enough to attract black people to the standards of the GOP?

WILLIAMS: You know, until -- it doesn't -- they do much in terms of outreach, in terms of trying to create positions on Capitol Hill, faith-based initiatives, I mean, appointments. But I think Congressman [Tom] DeLay (R-TX) said it best. Until they elect more officials like [Maryland Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele [R] and people like J.C. --

NOVAK: Michael Steele's the --

WILLIAMS: Lieutenant governor of Maryland. And [Rep.] J.C. Watts [R-OK], who is an ex-congressman. Until we can prove to the black elite that black conservatives can be elected in districts where there is a high percentage of black voters, I think then and only then will we gain the kind of credibility that we need in order to have a mass exodus of blacks from that Democratic plantation.

  • Oliver North, syndicated columnist and former Reagan administration official, joined by Williams.

From the July 6, 2000, edition of MSNBC's Equal Time:

RON LESTER (Democratic pollster): How is making a major tax cut going to help the black community? By robbing money from education and Medicare, from Social Security --

NORTH (co-host): It doesn't rob money.

LESTER: That is going to help the black community? It is illogical.

NORTH: It's disingenuous and deceptive because what George W. Bush wants to do is encourage the entrepreneurial class of middle-income blacks who can rise up above being kept on a Democrat plantation of welfare.


LESTER: That's going to help a few people like me and Armstrong. But it's not going to trickle down to the masses of folks.


WILLIAMS: What about Bush's supporting J.C. Watts' program of urban renewal, offering tax incentives to businesses that want to go in the inner city? What about that? You're saying to me that's not going to benefit American blacks? See, you know what the problem is here? At least I will admit when Ron talks about Bush going to Bob Jones, I will say that's wrong. See, you're so wrapped up in that Democratic plantation, you're unwilling to even see the forest for the trees. The Democratic Party is not the answer for American blacks. Yes, they get a better job with symbolism (ph). And yes, they've had outreach, and they have blacks in the hierarchy of the Democratic party --

  • Rush Limbaugh, nationally syndicated radio host.

On the September 30, 2005, broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, a caller described Rev. Jesse Jackson, radio hosts Tavis Smiley and Tom Joyner, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), “all of the Democratic delegation up there in Congress” , “the [Sen.] Ted Kennedys [D-MA], and ” anybody who's in the leadership position in the Democratic Party" as “pimps” who attempt to deceive black people into remaining on the “Democratic plantation.”

The caller also described liberalism as “a form of mental illness” that is “actually a type of rebellion against God and virtue through the justification of ... immorality, things like abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity, prostitution, racism, even race-centered thinking.” After confirming that the caller was black, Limbaugh paraphrased the caller's comments, saying, “So liberalism is a mental illness. It's borne of people that do not like any judgmentalism against their depravity.” Limbaugh was so pleased with what he described as “one of the greatest oral final exams and dissertations ever presented” to the “Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies” that he awarded the caller a free one-year subscription to the Rush 24/7 website.

  • Neal Boortz, syndicated radio host.

From the January 10, 2005, edition of The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: One of the reasons that Armstrong Williams is under such heat, by the way, is that the No Child Left Behind Act is not popular with liberals. Neither are black conservatives. He has strayed from the plantation. He must be punished. And anybody that promotes the idea of school vouchers must be punished because liberals, of course, need to maintain their death grip on education. How else are young people indoctrinated into the wholesomeness and the sanctity of the state?

From Boortz's April 11, 2002, column at the conservative news website NewsMax:

The REAL reason the Democrats are going to Bork [judicial nominee Miguel] Estrada is because he is the one type of person they fear the most: a smart, hard-working, educated minority who happens to be a conservative.

The minorities must be kept on the Democratic plantation. Success stories like Miguel Estrada must not be showcased.

  • Ann Coulter, right-wing pundit and columnist.

From the December 8, 2004, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

COULTER: They [liberals] feel like they have blacks on the plantation, they can say whatever they like. And, interestingly, you don't even hear Hispanic conservatives attacked in the same way that people like [then-National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice and [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas are, and -- and, I mean, just look at it. Look at what the Democrats' minority leader [Harry Reid D-NV] in the Senate said this weekend. He praises [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia as “Oh, he's one smart guy, and his opinions, can't dispute the logic, though I disagree with them,” and then he says of Clarence Thomas “He's an embarrassment. His opinions -- they're just poorly written.”

  • Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor.

From the December 6, 2004, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

KRAUTHAMMER: In the end, you've got to ask yourself, why [Justice Antonin] Scalia, good, Thomas, bad in the eyes of a man like [Senate Democratic Leader Harry] Reid [D-NV]. I say it's the liberal plantation mentality, in which if you're a man on the right and white, it's OK. If you are the man on the right and you're African-American, it's not.

From Parker's March 22, 2005, column:

President Bush's Social Security initiative has gotten off to a shaky start. However, polls indicate that voters are warming up to the idea of personal retirement accounts. It's time for the Bush administration to start making crystal clear the core principles that distinguish its approach on Social Security reform from that of Democrats.

Whereas Bush is selling his reform under the theme of an “ownership society,” I would call the Democratic alternative the “plantation society.” The “plantation society” is characterized by a wealthy class of owners who want to limit the choices, opportunities and freedom of working-class Americans.


House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, worth $16.3 million, is an appropriate spokesperson for the plantation caucus. This past week she stood at a press conference with other Democratic leaders stating uncompromising opposition to personal retirement accounts. The Democrats' message: no negotiation on Social Security until “privatization is off the table.”


The owner/masters of today's Democratic plantation reject all attempts to roll back government and give working Americans more choice and freedom. The response is the same whether it's personal retirement accounts or choosing where to send your kid to school. Anything reducing government control gets rejected.


Social Security reform, with a crucial central component of personal retirement accounts, is being threatened by elitist Democratic liberals. They preside over a government plantation over which they do not want to relinquish control. It's time to let the slaves free. Transforming taxes into ownership is an important way to do it.

From the November 29, 2004, edition of Fox News Hannity & Colmes:

PETERSON: And so what they are trying to do right now is to discredit President Bush, and this is nothing, [co-host] Sean [Hannity]. It's going to get worse after the holidays are over. They're going to try to discredit the president. They're going to say that blacks were disenfranchised, whatever they can do in order to regain power, to keep black Americans angry in order to keep them on the plantation of the Democratic Party. It's about that and nothing else.

From a January 26, 2005, BOND press release:

For the last 15 years, I have said that most liberal Democrats are racist toward blacks. Liberals believe that blacks should all think and vote the same. And they loathe any free thinking black who dares to walk off their plantation.

From Alt's September 5, 2003, National Review commentary:

Unfortunately, Estrada is the first to fall prey to [Sen.] Ted Kennedy's [D-MA] obstruction, but he inevitably won't be the last. Who will be the next victim of the Democrats' racism? Most likely California supreme -- court justice Janice Rogers Brown. While the Democrats in the Senate are likely to say that they only oppose her because she is conservative, their actions will prove otherwise. Listen for comparisons of her to Clarence Thomas, and note that she will be treated much differently than was her White fellow nominee John Roberts. That Teddy's 45 should treat Republican minorities differently is disappointing but not shocking. After all, nothing upsets Sen. Kennedy and his pals more than when those they view as intellectual slaves dares [sic] to leave the Democratic plantation.

From a September 25, 2004, Las Vegas Review-Journal article:

The politics of race flared up in Lynette Boggs McDonald's Clark County [Nevada] Commission race this week in an unusual way: as a result of the black commissioner's own comments likening Democrats' treatment of blacks to slavery.

Boggs McDonald, a former Democrat who has held local offices as a Republican since 1999, was quoted in Thursday's Las Vegas Sun as saying she regrets having been a Democrat.

“From my perspective, there is one last plantation in America, and it's called the Democratic Party,” Boggs McDonald said.

In an interview Friday, the commissioner said she was simply trying to explain her beliefs that Democrats take black voters for granted and offer them little in the way of policies that improve their lives. She said that blacks have the same statistical percentage of the nation's wealth today as they did after the Civil War.

“One party believes they're owned, and that's the Democratic Party,” Boggs McDonald said. “My party doesn't do enough, but at least it doesn't presume that African-Americans are along for the ride. I have always earned my votes from African-Americans.”

  • Deborah Simmons, Washington Times columnist.

From Simmons's February 4, 2005, column:

Indeed, while many conservatives cringe at the prospect of losing the homosexual vote, the fact of the matter is black America has never embraced that demographic, helping, perhaps, to explain why, while most blacks remained faithful to the Democratic Plantation, er, Party in the 2004 presidential election, the black vote for the Bush-Cheney ticket increased. Look at Ohio, where black support for Mr. Bush rose from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2004, handing the Bush-Cheney team an outright victory over Kerry-Edwards - a feat that the we-shall-overcome crowd has yet to accept.

  • Joseph Perkins, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist.

From Perkins's October 25, 2004, column:

The America Coming Together handbill is racial demagoguery at its ugliest. It is a big lie meant to keep black voters on the Democratic plantation. Then there's the suggestion by Kerry that Bush has a plan to revive the military draft.

  • Joseph Farah, syndicated columnist and founder and editor of conservative news website WorldNetDaily.

From his November 19, 2003, WorldNetDaily commentary, titled "Racism on Dem plantation":

I've suspected there are essentially two motivations behind the Democrats' promotion of racial preferences -- or what they call “affirmative action” :

  • It's a self-empowerment plan to keep minority votes on the new Democratic Party plantation by offering them special race privileges.


    Now [Sen. Edward] Kennedy [D-MA] has demonstrated his utter contempt for women in the past - for instance, by leaving a drowning woman and the scene of an accident. But it seems to me Kennedy is speaking in racist code language here. Could “Neanderthal” be the new “N” word he and his colleagues use to discuss minorities who are disloyal to their Democratic Party patrons and others who leave the “progressive plantation” ?


    Thankfully, more than a few courageous minority leaders are blowing the cover on this racist campaign for a new plantation mentality in America.

  • Alan Keyes, radio host and former Republican presidential and senatorial candidate.

From an April 29, 2000, speech:

KEYES: People always badmouth slavery, with good reason you know, but, when you read in depth about it, what you realize is that there were the “good plantations” and the “bad plantations.” There were plantations on which people were deeply brutalized, and abused, and treated worse than animals, and destroyed in their integrity, and so forth. And then there were others that were run by half-way decent people, in which the only thing that they were deprived of was their human dignity and the essence of their humanity! But in every other respect, they ate well, dressed well, slept well, were cared for in their health, had a guaranteed job, a little income on the side, and nothing too much in the way of abuse. When the Clintons are done and the Socialists have triumphed, you tell me what will be the difference between America and that plantation with a good master!

  • J. Matt Barber, Republican strategist.

From Barber's January 19, 2005, commentary on the website The Conservative Voice:

You see, the Democratic Party, the liberal mainstream media and the rest of the cultural elites are having a very hard time handling Dr. Rice's rise to power. They've waged a disgraceful, racist and cowardly back-door assault against her. Why? Little Ms. Condoleezza has wandered away from the plantation. She refuses to slave in the cotton fields of progressive ideology.