Media outrage on Donald Sterling comes too late

By Neal McNamara | April 28, 2014
Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

It appears that in our media culture, getting caught saying something racist is worse than actually carrying out acts of racial discrimination.

That’s certainly true for attorney and Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Over the weekend, someone leaked a tape to the website TMZ of a man who is allegedly Sterling saying a bunch of racist things. When TMZ published the tapes, the Internet, the mainstream media, and even President Barack Obama exploded in outrage.

“It bothers me that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” the man identified as Sterling says to V. Stiviano, apparently his mixed-race girlfriend. “Do you have to?”

It’s correct to condemn what Sterling allegedly said on those tapes, but he has a long and well-documented reputation as a racist. The immediate furor and calls for his resignation because of the tapes had KTTH host Ben Shapiro wondering why the media did not dispose of Sterling – who is apparently a Democrat – years ago.

“People are more outraged over thought crime than actual crime. What people think garners more weight with the media than actually doing something wrong or evil,” Shapiro said.

Here’s evil: In 2006, Sterling paid the federal government $2.73 million to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit. Among other accusations, Sterling would not let blacks live in his housing developments in Beverly Hills, and said that blacks “smell and attract vermin.” Sterling is worth $1.9 billion.

In 2009, storied basketball player and then-Clippers executive Elgin Baylor, who is black, sued Sterling for race and age discrimination. Among other accusations, Baylor’s suit said that Sterling was willing to pay a white head coach $22 million per year, but had frozen Baylor’s pay at $350,000 for nearly a decade.

Throughout it all, there was no media uproar, no calls for Sterling’s resignation, and the NBA allowed him to remain owner of the Clippers.

Host David Boze characterized Sterling as “sleazy” – an accusation backed by a 1996 sexual harassment lawsuit, and his own statements about paying women for sex.

Boze was also upset that Cliven Bundy – caught on tape last week making racist comments about blacks being better off under slavery – was automatically identified as a Republican, but Sterling wasn’t identified as a Democrat. Sterling has been a donor to Democratic causes in the past.

“When people do evil things it matters to identify them as Republicans, but if they do an evil thing, it doesn’t matter enough to identify them as Democrats,” Boze said.

Host Michael Medved condemned Sterling as a “terrible” person, but said Sterling and Bundy are not comparable since Sterling was taped surreptitiously, and Bundy was talking to a reporter from the New York Times.

“It’s taken Cliven Bundy out of the focus. What I love is people trying to compare Cliven to Sterling. Sterling is a billionaire. Cliven Bundy is a relatively modest rancher. The whole idea that these two are comparable [is wrong]” Medved said.

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