Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Who Has '04 Election Edge?
Aired January 6, 2004 -- 16:30 ET
NOVAK: Not a happy week...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NOVAK: ... for Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. He won't have a free run for reelection in South Dakota this year.
The state's most popular Republican, former Congressman John Thune, announced he will run against Daschle. That promises a tough race for the Democratic leader, with the Republican ticket topped by George W. Bush, who collected 60 percent of the state's vote last time against Al Gore's 38 percent. Actually, Daschle should have been saved the trouble of opposing Thune.
In 2002, Thune would have been elected to the state's other Senate seat, but the election was stolen by stuffing ballot boxes on the Indian reservations. Now Tom Daschle may have to pay for that theft.
CARVILLE: That's pretty...
CARVILLE: That's — that's pretty out there. Has Thune said that the Native Americans are election thieves?
NOVAK: No, I — I said it.
CARVILLE: Well, no. Is that the Republican — is that the party line here?
NOVAK: No, it's my line.
CARVILLE: That Native Americans are election thieves, that they can't be trusted to vote? You hear that, my friends out in South Carolina? Tim Johnson won that race.
CARVILLE: They're Native Americans, Bob.
NOVAK: I call them Indians.
CARVILLE: They're people that have been here a long time. And they are very, very, very good Americans.
CARVILLE: And very patriotic Americans.
CARVILLE: And they get to vote who they want. Just because you don't like the vote, don't call them thieves.
The swift reaction
If James Carville's reaction wasn't enough, people quickly jumped on Novak's comments. From the Rapid City Journal, 1/9/04:
CNN's Novak under fire for calling American Indians election thieves
By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer
Robert Novak, nationally known political commentator, has drawn criticism from all corners of South Dakota for racially charged remarks he made Tuesday on CNN's nationally broadcast program, "Crossfire."
"In 2002, (Republican candidate John) Thune would have been elected to the state's other Senate seat, but the election was stolen by stuffing ballot boxes on Indian reservations. Now, Tom Daschle may have to pay for that theft," Novak said in an exchange with Democratic operative James Carville.
Carville called the statement "really out there" and said American Indians are "very patriotic Americans."
"Has Thune said that the Native Americans are election thieves?" Carville asked.
Novak replied, "No, I said it."
On Thursday, three people demanded Novak apologize. They are state Democratic Party chairwoman Judy Olson Duhamel of Rapid City, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Jandreau and Frank LaMere, treasurer of a political action committee.
South Dakota's governor, two U.S. senators, secretary of state, Republican Party chairman and Thune's campaign also issued statements.
"I can't conceive of anyone making that debasing statement about anyone in the human race," Olson Duhamel said. "This kind of racist, insulting remark is outrageous. There's just no excuse. I call on John Thune to repudiate that, and I expect other political leaders in both parties to make statements, to join me in demanding an apology."
Jandreau and LaMere sent letters to Novak's office. Novak, who is in Iowa, did not respond to a telephone message from the Rapid City Journal.
Jandreau took Novak to task for a series of anti-Indian remarks and included an excerpt of a Dec. 13 "Crossfire" transcript in which Novak said, "The Indians, they got the phony Indian votes out there."
Jandreau called Novak's accusations "outrageous, offensive and factually wrong."
"Our people deserve to have a voice in the democracy you and I both cherish, just like every other American," Jandreau wrote. "When people like you characterize our participation as suspect solely because you may not like the outcome, you undermine the fundamental principle upon which our great republic is built."
LaMere said Novak is eager to "paint with a broad brush a whole race of people who want what every American wants, a chance to be heard and a chance to be counted."
"Indian people did not stuff ballot boxes on Indian reservations and to even hint at that is insensitive and irresponsible at best and blatantly racist at worst," LaMere, treasurer of the Four Directions political action committee, wrote.
Thune's new campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, replied quickly to Olson Duhamel's call for a statement.
"Robert Novak's comments were inappropriate and certainly do not reflect John Thune's commitment to work hard for the Native American vote in 2004," Wadhams said. "The accusation overall is just off the mark."
Thune, a three-term Republican congressman, announced Monday that he would challenge Sen. Daschle, a Democrat, in South Dakota's 2004 Senate election. The race will watched by political pundits nationwide, just as they did when Thune lost to incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., by 524 votes in 2002.
Johnson and Daschle each issued statements through staff members.
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fischer said: "For Bob Novak, a seasoned political commentator, to throw around such allegations is yellow journalism at its worst. Those that say the election was stolen have been proven wrong and are serving up sour grapes over what was a very successful grassroots effort."
Daschle spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said, "The false allegations and efforts to intimidate voters on the reservations were a very dark moment in South Dakota politics."
Novak's statement alludes to the increased voter turnout on South Dakota's Indian reservations in the 2002 general election and to criminal investigations into some forged and allegedly forged voter registration applications that were detected before the election.
Secretary of State Chris Nelson, a Republican, said Thursday that despite Johnson's razor-thin margin of victory and the attempts at fraudulent voter registration, South Dakota's 2002 election was not compromised.
"There were no stuffed ballot boxes in South Dakota's 2002 election," Nelson said. "We all know there were attempts at voter registration fraud. I'm confident our county auditors and the law enforcement of this state were able to stop that and that no illegal ballots were cast."
Nelson said investigations into some obviously forged voter registration cards could not be resolved. (See related story.)
Republican Gov. Mike Rounds focused on the practical political considerations.
"I've made it very clear I want to compete for Native American votes. The Democratic Party did a better job than the Republican Party of activating forces on the reservations. Republicans have to work very hard at pointing out our interests at reconciliation," Rounds said. "We've got just as good a shot as the Democrats do in convincing them we have good ideas and ways of improving life on reservations. I think that's what Native Americans are interested in."
Asked whether he found Novak's statements offensive, Rounds replied, "I find it ignorant."
State GOP Chairman Randy Frederick had stronger words, calling Novak's statements "appalling" and "insane."
"There were problems, but they were attributable to one individual. To attempt to tag an entire race is totally out of bounds, uncalled for, discriminatory and shows prejudice," Frederick said. "Voter turnout on reservations went up. That is a good thing."
One tribal official who watched Tuesday's broadcast said she fears such charges could change that.
"That is slander to the Indian people of South Dakota. I hope it doesn't make the people want to quit voting because of how we get called down for what is our right. I would like an apology," Eileen Janis, finance coordinator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said. "He's a sore loser. They should quit crying around."
Political activist Mary Ann Bear Heels-McGowan of Pierre said her people have suffered such slurs for generations.
"We have been talked about for generations as being the savage heathens, prairie niggers and people that live off the government. We've listened to all of this. We're still walking around. We're survivors," she said. "I think it's a lack of education. He needs to come out here and visit us. I would send him a personal invitation."
More reactions to Novak
Rush Limbaugh joins the debate, showing that racial insensitivity (or is it racism?) for which he's famous. From the Native American Times, 1/9/04:
Limbaugh and Novak under fire for Crossfire comment
Accuses South Dakota Indians of stealing election
Rush Limbaugh, the controversial radio talk show host who is under investigation for purchasing illegal drugs has rushed to Novak's side on today's (January 9, 2004) broadcast. Limbaugh called criticism of Novak as politically motivated and that Novak is not a racist. Limbaugh then went on to mimic Presidential candidate Al Sharpton. The democratic candidate is African American and Limbaugh mimicked his voice in what some might describe as racially insensitive.
Limbaugh went on to say "there I said it, yes, there was stuffed ballot boxes on Indian reservations, let them come after me."
From the Native American Times, 1/12/04:
Novak reacts to outrage over his accusations over election theft
"I don't have any bias against Native Americans" conservative pundit says
"Bob Novak's comments were an unfair, offensive, and malicious attack on every Native American who went to the polls to exercise his or her right to vote in 2002. As wrong as Novak's comments were, they are just one in a long line of statements from members of the Republican Party that seem designed to discourage Native Americans from voting," said a statement from Daschle's office. "Even South Dakota's Republican Attorney General and Secretary of State have said that there is no evidence to support these outrageous allegations. It is time that Bob Novak and others who have worked to spread these false allegations apologize and put this episode behind us. The record levels of participation on South Dakota's reservations in 2002 is something that should be celebrated, not demeaned."
"Mr. Novak's comments about the Natives in South Dakota were unbelievably crude and derogatory. It is hard to believe that a racist statement—such as ‘the election was stolen by stuffing ballot boxes on the Indian reservations' would be made at all, much less by a journalist," said South Dakota Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Olson Duhamel. She called on Novak and CNN to apologize.
Novak defends his comments
From the Rapid City Journal, 1/12/04:
CNN's Novak responds to critics
By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer
Editor's note: The use of the terms "Indian" and "Native American" to identify the indigenous tribal people of North America is at issue in this story. The Rapid City Journal follows Associated Press style with the use of "American Indian" in first reference in most news stories. When "Native American" or "Indian" is used in a direct quotation, it is not changed. In some circumstances, the Rapid City Journal will identify a group of people using the name of a specific band or tribe, such as Lakota, Oglala Lakota or Winnebago.
Political commentator Robert Novak says he stands by remarks pertaining to voting irregularities on South Dakota reservations in the 2002 Senate election between Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican John Thune but that he didn't intend any bias against American Indians.
Novak responded to criticism -- levied mostly from many of South Dakota's statewide elected officials and other political leaders -- when he appeared Saturday on CNN's political roundtable program "Capital Gang." Novak did not apologize for saying Indians stole the 2002 U.S. Senate election in South Dakota by "stuffing ballot boxes." And he said he still believes there were problems with voting in this state, but his language was different than it was on his Jan. 6 appearance on CNN's "Crossfire."
On Jan. 6, he insisted that he called South Dakota's largest racial minority "Indians" after a fellow commentator suggested he use "Native Americans." On Saturday, Novak used "Native Americans." And "the election was stolen by stuffing ballot boxes" was replaced with "very serious voting irregularities."
Novak's unprompted statement was this: "Let me take a minute to say I've created quite an uproar in South Dakota with some remarks I made on 'Crossfire' about Native Americans voting. I did not intend any bias against Native Americans. I don't have any bias against Native Americans or anybody else, but I do feel, based on my reporting, that there were very serious voting irregularities in 2002 in South Dakota -- I still believe that -- which the Republican Party, for political purposes, did not want to protest."
In 2002, Republican John Thune lost by 524 votes to Democrat Tim Johnson. An increased voter turnout on South Dakota's nine Indian reservations was one reason often cited for the Democrat's victory.
Novak did not specify what voting irregularities he identified in his reporting and has not responded to telephone calls from the Rapid City Journal.
South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson has said he is confident that election officials caught attempts at fraudulent voter registration in advance of the 2002 election and that there weren't any illegal ballots were cast.
One Rapid City man was convicted of possession of a forged instrument, a felony, after farming out voter registration work to some homeless friends who used the phone book to fill out forms.
A woman, Rebecca Red Earth-Villeda, faces a trial that begins Monday, Feb. 9, for eight counts of forgery. State prosecutors say she forged voter registration applications. Red Earth-Villeda was hired as an independent contractor by the state Democratic Party. She was fired after a county auditor alerted party officials that forged signatures were appearing on applications for absentee ballots.
Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties, election officials and law enforcement officials have said the cases appear isolated to individual wrongdoing spurred by financial motivation rather than a centralized political effort. However, last week, Nelson said a series of clearly forged voter registration cards appeared across South Dakota and could not be traced back to anyone.
Novak's weekend statements were a response to calls for an apology and other reactions sparked by South Dakota Democratic Chairwoman Judy Olson Duhamel's demand for an apology. Gov. Mike Rounds, U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, both D-S.D., Secretary of State Nelson and state GOP Chairman Randy Frederick responded to Novak's statements.
Olson Duhamel said Novak defended his position instead of apologizing.
"It doesn't excuse the comment of ballot-stuffing. Now, he comes back and says he didn't mean to make a racist statement, but that statement stands," she said. "If he really did his research, he would see that, yes, there were some problems. But he would also learn that it was an election of integrity."
In addition to the response from statewide officials, Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Jandreau and political action committee treasurer Frank LaMere sent letters to Novak seeking an apology.
One tribal official said Novak's weekend response falls short.
"That wasn't an apology," Eileen Janis, finance coordinator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said. "The only improprieties is that the Republicans lost. I think he hurt his party a lot, especially on Indian reservations."
Janis said that despite the resounding disdain from South Dakota Republican leaders, Novak's remarks as a commentator for the political right, will hurt the GOP with many American Indian voters. And, she said Novak also insulted former South Dakota Attorney General and other election officials.
"He's saying they're not doing their jobs by not watching the voting," she said.
Some relevant quotes:
He is ignoble—base and treacherous, and hateful in every way. Not even imminent death can startle him into a spasm of virtue. The ruling trait of all savages is a greedy and consuming selfishness, and in our Noble Red Man it is found in its amplest development. His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts.
Mark Twain, The Noble Red Man, 1870
In 1871 Francis A. Walker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, considered Indians beneath morality: "When dealing with savage men, as with savage beasts, no question of national honor can arise."
"We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians stop and check the progress of the railroad," [General Sherman] wrote to General Grant in 1867 (Fellman, p. 264).
Thomas J. DiLorenzo, How Lincoln's Army 'Liberated' the Indians
The more things change....
More on the alleged voter fraud
Stereotyping led to Attorneygate
Rush Limbaugh is a big fat racist
. . .
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