After former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush patently ignored a question about how he personally related to the issue of racism in this country during a question and answer session for a Las Vegas campaign event, activists disrupted his event, chanting “Black lives matter”.
Perhaps in an effort to explain the way Bush just walked away from the young woman asking the question — blatantly ignoring her — the campaign put out a narrative that the Republican presidential candidate had met “face-to-face” with Black Lives Matter activists prior to the event. This narrative was published in many news stories about the event.
Bush met privately with members of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the scheduled town hall, according to his campaign, although they would not confirm if the activists who interrupted Bush were the same activists he had met with.
It turns out this hail Mary narrative is not accurate. There was a meeting, but no Black Lives Matter activists were present.
Dana Liebelson at Huffington Post busted the Bush campaign on Friday, writing, “There was a meeting, but no activists from the Black Lives Matter movement participated. Instead, Bush met with a local elected official, a GOP lobbyist and a staffer from an anti-poverty organization.”
In this meeting that did not include any face-to-face with any faction of Black Lives Matter (there are several factions of BLM, as with any movement), the Voting Rights Act and the shooting of a black man got a “lot of non-response”:
The Bush campaign did not comment on whether it stood by its statement that the candidate met with Black Lives Matter advocates. The campaign said that advocates were invited, and couldn’t speak to why people might not want to attend.
The private meeting was about fifteen minutes long, according to those who attended. Goynes-Brown told HuffPost that the meeting did not focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, although attendees did discuss criminal justice issues. Goynes-Brown said she strongly supports the movement, but would not call herself an activist.
Hooks said his organization brought up the Voting Rights Act and a black man, allegedly armed, who was shot in Ferguson recently. “There was as lot of non-response,” Hooks said.
Well, okay, if they were invited but did not attend, why did the campaign claim that Bush had met with BLM activists?
The real issue here is that politicians need to be willing to listen to the actual people they want to represent. Former Governor Bush shouldn’t have just ignored the question about how he related to the problems generated by systemic racism. It was a good question after his vague non-response to the first question, “We have serious problems and these problems have gotten worse in the last few years. Communities, people no longer trust the basic institutions in our society that they need to trust to create, to make things work.”
After that desperate dodge into nothing, Bush pivoted to education. “Education” as a pivot is Republican for pretending to care about everyone. Education will fix everything! Just look at No Child Left Behind.
Bush is hardly the only politician who doesn’t get it. But he missed a real opportunity here to actually listen to people, even if he doesn’t “agree” with them that there is a major problem with systemic racial injustice (this is a fact, hard to disagree with, many people just want to ignore it so they will fob it off as “disagreement”).
Bush made it even worse by misrepresenting the facts. Jeb Bush did not meet with Black Lives Matter activists prior to his Las Vegas campaign event.
Bush can’t answer their questions and he hasn’t come up with a practical and real policy idea to address the problem. Republicans have not shown any willingness to discuss real problems like this for over a decade.
Republicans would rather focus on stories of their own persecution, claiming that their religious freedom is being stolen due to other people getting to choose their beliefs or investigate Planned Parenthood for things that were never even suggested in the “evidence” they’ve put forth. They want to wave some flags, play Clint Eastwood and start another war, not discuss tough domestic problems.
Problems like jobs that don’t pay well, insurmountable income inequality, an inability to retire, lack of equal pay, damaging family leave policies, crippling college debt, disparity of resources between the haves and the have-nots, the murder of three women a day by their partner, racial bias so extreme it’s causing police officers to kill unarmed black men and physically attack a young black girl — these problems are not on the Republican docket.
Don’t ask and they won’t have to tell people that they met with you when they did not.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.