Hometown Editorial: McDaniel Isn’t A Racist Because He Played Basketball

July 8, 2014 2:09 p.m.

A newspaper editorial in Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s (R) home county argued that McDaniel couldn’t possibly be a racist since he played basketball in college.

The editorial by the Laurel Leader-Call of Jones County, Mississippi, the newspaper from the town where McDaniel was born, echoed arguments from his supporters that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) engaged in race-baiting against McDaniel to get African-Americans to vote for Cochran in the runoff election for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. Cochran won the runoff and McDaniel campaign has since been gathering evidence to fight the results.

“It’s been frustrating to see so many people in the black community be convinced that Chris McDaniel was a racist just because someone they trusted told them he was,” the editorial, published on July 2, read. “If they did a little research on their own, they would find out that McDaniel was a basketball standout at South Jones and Jones County Junior College.”

The editorial continued:

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At the risk of stereotyping, what color do you think his buddies were on those teams? They not only played ball together, but they went to each others’ homes, ate together, hung out together, shared each others’ problems and dreams. It would’ve been nice if some of those old teammates had come forward to talk about the Chris they know, but being labeled “Uncle Tom” is almost as damning as being labeled a racist. It’s a sad reality.

It’s interesting that the same folks who put Thad Cochran back in his leadership position in the Senate — compromising some of their beliefs because the federal money he delivers is so important to our state — were just as adamant about knocking Trent Lott out of his leadership position back in 2002 because statements he made at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party were interpreted as racist.

It’s insulting to the election process and to their intelligence that black people are still letting their votes be “delivered” in blocs to certain candidates. One would think that the terms “bought and sold” would make them cringe. But that’s just what they allowed themselves to do — all to keep wealthy, powerful white men in power. It’s ironic. The more free our society is, the more enslaved it becomes.​

The editorial, which is behind a paywall, can be read here.

Mark Thornton, the editor of the Leader-Call who wrote the editorial, told TPM on Tuesday that the argument behind the editorial was really based on the friendships McDaniel had with his teammates.

“It was more because of the friendships he had, that they didn’t just play on the court too,” Thornton said. “And if you’re taking me to task for saying there are more black people in Mississippi that play basketball I mean, you’re not going to find a basketball team at a public school that’s not mostly black. That’s just a reality, that’s not a racist statement.

Thornton said McDaniel and his teammates hung out with each other a lot.

“It’s one of those things you hate to even say the phrase because it’s become such a cliche to even say ‘I have lots of black friends.’ Instead of saying that, I was trying to say that he did —he spent the night at his teammates’ houses, they spent the night at his house. They did things together. It was more than just playing on the court.” Thornton said. “I know for a fact that they were dear friends of his, his teammates were and they were all the same.”

Thornton stressed that he wasn’t on McDaniel’s side in the campaign.

“I went through the whole campaign without ever saying anything because I’m not on his side or anybody else’s side, we’re just on the side of the truth and finally, after all of the things that you see about him being a racist and I know from my own observations and from people who grew up with him that that is just so far wrong that [I] finally just wanted to mention it,” Thornton said. “We never even came to his defense on that and, again, we’re defending the truth rather than the candidate —the person.”

Earlier in the race, after racially tinged comments McDaniel made while he was a radio host came to light, in an interview with the Weekly Standard McDaniel was asked how he would reach out to African-American voters.

“I reach out to them because they are fellow Mississippians. I love them,” McDaniel told the the magazine. “They’re my friends. They’re my neighbors. They’re who I went to school with. They’re who I played basketball with. They’re wonderful human beings.”

See a picture of editorial below:

This story was updated.

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