by Latoya Peterson
Continuing the Spike Lee/Clint Eastwood Discussion, I received an email from reader Elton alerting me to an exchange on the Hannity & Colmes show.
Leo Terrell, a civil rights attorney came on the show to debate the merits of Lee’s position. The conversation starts out fine:
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST:[…]Look, doesn’t Clint have a point, Leo? He was making about a movie about the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. There were not African-Americans as part of that. There were African-Americans who served in the military, but that wasn’t the focus of the Eastwood film. He was trying to be historically accurate. Isn’t that the issue?
LEO TERRELL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: No, because he didn’t show one black face during the entire four hours of that movie. I saw that movie.
Alan, there were 900 black men who fought in Iwo Jima. Fourteen of them got the Silver Star. There was a poor depiction — the fact that there was not a single African-American there, in the case that Clint Eastwood did not correctly tell history.
COLMES: But this was about the raising of the flag. That’s what this was about.
TERRELL: No, no. It was also about who was there, not just the raising the flag. But look at that movie, look at that clip right there. There were black men who served and died in Iwo Jima.
And then, the co-hosts decide to take the argument away from the original context and throw in some background information about the Lee/Eastwood feud:
COLMES: You know, look, Leo, he made a movie about Charlie Parker called “Bird.”
TERRELL: That’s not the issue.
COLMES: Well, no, it is the issue. He was criticized by Spike Lee for that, saying a white guy shouldn’t have made that film. Spike Lee could have made that film, as well, and he employed 90 percent African- American actors in that film. To suggest Clint Eastwood somehow does not care to employ African-American actors, which is the implication here, is wrong.
TERRELL: The issue here is it was a wrong portrayal of what happened in World War II in Iwo Jima. African-Americans died in that movie. They died in that war. They died in Iwo Jima. Nine hundred African-Americans, Alan, landed at Iwo Jima. Fourteen of them got the Silver Stars. Just like Ollie North, there was not a black face. That’s what Spike Lee is saying, not one black face in that entire four-hour movie.
Then Colmes decides to…well…if he was black, it would be called playing the race card. I’m not sure what to say when white people do it*:
COLMES: Isn’t the implication here that Clint Eastwood is racist? That’s the subtext here? That’s not true. He makes “Bird.” He couldn’t put a bunch of white actors in that film, which he did not do.
TERRELL: Come on, come on. It’s not like saying what have you done recently or what have you done lately? The point here is that that was a historical movie…
Now, I don’t believe anyone has called Clint Eastwood a racist. I believe Lee and others were pointing out what could be considered a historical oversight. But since we brought race up, Sean Hannity decides to jump into the fray:
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Leo — Leo…
TERRELL: … and to not have a single black face is wrong. That’s wrong!
TERRELL: Fourteen African-Americans received the silver star.
HANNITY: Leo, let me ask you a couple quick questions here. Do you think Larry Bird was one of the greatest basketball players?
HANNITY: And do you think when Spike Lee said he was overrated because of his race…
TERRELL: Oh, come on.
HANNITY: Spike Lee, “He’s overrated because of his race. You listen to the white media…”
TERRELL: Don’t change the…
HANNITY: “… and nobody ever played basketball before him.” That’s your — that’s your friend, Spike Lee.
HANNITY: Is that acceptable language to you, Leo Terrell?
TERRELL: I am not — don’t play the — don’t skirt the subject.
HANNITY: Is that acceptable language to you?!
Now, through all this, Terrell is trying valiantly to stay on topic:
TERRELL: World War — black World War II veterans were…
HANNITY: Let me raise it up a notch. Your friend Spike Lee, “Shoot Charlton Heston.” You want to defend that, Leo?
TERRELL: Listen, you are trying to change the subject. Nine hundred African-American men who fought…
HANNITY: Spike Lee, “Trent Lott is card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan.” Is that acceptable, Leo?
TERRELL: Look, you want me to answer those questions? You want to change the subject, Sean. The issue is very simple. African-Americans were in Iwo Jima. Why did…
HANNITY: Next question about Spike Lee and his race obsession. He said about — after Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophe, he said, “It’s not too far- fetched, I don’t think, to put past anything the United States government.”
TERRELL: I am not here…
HANNITY: Excuse me.
TERRELL: … to defend all those other issues.
HANNITY: “I don’t find it far-fetched that they tried to displace all black people out of New Orleans.”
Now, here’s where things get hilarious:
HANNITY: Do you agree with that, Leo Terrell? I know you’re O.J. Simpson’s friend.
Where the fuck did that come from?
Terrell is just as perplexed as I am:
TERRELL: You know what — what? What about O.J. Simpson?
HANNITY: Well, what about it? Do you think — do you think O.J. is a killer? Do you think he was guilty?
What the hell? Is that the ultimate white trump card? It feels like every conversation about race in this country is six degrees away from devolving into a conversation about OJ Simpson. And more importantly, the OJ trial seems to function as a litmus test to determine what kind of a black person you are dealing with. Can we PLEASE stop bringing up OJ? The verdict came in when I was in the seventh grade! We need to move past this because OJ is irrelevant in the lives of most people!
Back to the conversation:
TERRELL: I’m talking here about Iwo Jima, 900 black men serving in that war, fought in that battle.
Good job Terrell. Stay on topic, even if it kills you! Because it might – my blood pressure is going up reading this mess.
Oh wait, no we can’t stay on topic:
HANNITY: Spike Lee — I’m asking you if he — Spike Lee plays the race card continually. I’m asking you, if you have the intellectual honesty to admit it.
TERRELL: Why haven’t you asked me one question about that movie? Why haven’t you asked me one question about that movie?
HANNITY: I’m asking you about Spike Lee, who made an accusation about Clint Eastwood, because he portrayed it accurately in the film.
TERRELL: Why aren’t you asking me about the movie?
HANNITY: I just did. Didn’t you hear me?
TERRELL: I heard you, and I’m telling you that there were black men who were on that beach!
HANNITY: I agree. And Spike Lee or Clint, maybe one day, should do a movie on it. But that’s not what this movie was about.
TERRELL: Listen, in the entire movie, not one black face!
HANNITY: I’ve got one question.
Ah, dear readers, guess what the question is?
TERRELL: Yes, sir.
HANNITY: You’re friends with O.J. Simpson. Do you think he killed those two people?
COLMES: What year is this? What year is this?
HANNITY: I’m asking. Do you think — you’re friends with him.
COLMES: We’re now doing stills.
HANNITY: The last time I asked that question, Leo walked off the set. I was just going to see if he was going to do it again. Leo, you’re a good friend. God bless you.
COLMES: He’s a good friend?
HANNITY: We love you.
Leo is — you’re a friend. You consider me a friend, right, Leo?
And we’ll continue.
This is why I don’t watch Fox News. I don’t see the point.
Aside: Yes, Leo Terrell may very well be friends with OJ Simpson. It still has no bearing, whatsoever, on this discussion. And keep in mind, OJ finds a way to pop up in random places – like Nina Burleigh’s column for the Huffington Post.
*EDITED: From now on, this tactic will be called reverse playing the race card: When a white person brings up race in a discussion when they have no intent of having a quality conversation about it – it’s just a lead so they can start calling someone racist or accuse a person of color of racism. Nezua’s Wite-Magik Attaxs also apply but this refers specifically to white people on the offensive, not the defensive. Thanks Ottermatic!