February 15, 2018

Many Media Outlets Irresponsibly Imagine Racism in Jeff Sessions’ ‘Anglo-American Heritage’ Remark

The legion of the perpetually aggrieved “white supremacy”-obsessed jumped on a Monday remark by Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions to concoct a bogus “racial dogwhistle” when he used the term “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association. Three days in, many of them still haven’t acknowledged that former President Barack Obama and others in his administration have used the term without generating controversy.

Sessions himself added the four italicized words to the text of the speech “as prepared for delivery”:

… I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected Sheriff has been seen as the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and amenable to the people. The Sheriff is a critical part of our Anglo-American legal heritage of law enforcement.

The work that you do – that you have dedicated your lives to – is essential.

Sessions was speaking to the heads of collectively diverse organizations closely reflecting the nation’s demographic makeup. The minority component of full-time officers in sheriffs’ offices comprised 22 percent of all such personnel in 2013.

Charles Cooke at National Review noted in a Monday afternoon tweet that then-Senator Barack Obama used the term in 2006. Historian Kevin Kruse found “an Obama DOJ official using the same phrase in 2016.”

The DOJ’s response to the faux outrage was swift (well before noon Monday) and certain:

As most law students learn in the first week of their first year, Anglo-American law — also known as the common law — is a shared legal heritage between England and America. The sheriff is unique to that shared legal heritage. Before reporters sloppily imply nefarious meaning behind the term, we would suggest that they read any number of the Supreme Court opinions that use the term. Or they could simply put ‘Anglo-American law’ into Google.”

That didn’t stop a number of leftist journalists and pundits from seizing the opportunity to plant “the Trump administration is racist” seeds which will surely stick with many incurious followers:

  • Slate.com’s Daniel Horwitz played the Bull Connor card, and claimed that “Sessions’ most recent dog whistle was simply too loud to ignore,” and that ”Americans … should continue to demand his removal every single day”:


  • Vox.com’s Matt Yglesias was his usual immature self (he later explained the background of the supposedly offensive term):


  • MSNBC contributor Scott Dworkin: “Jeff Sessions is a bigot. RT if you agree.”

Politicians who piled on, and who from all appearances have not apologized, have included Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats.

Sadie Gurman at the Associated Press noted that “Other officials have said the same without much notice” in her Tuesday report’s second paragraph. That came too late to stop NBC and ABC from repeating the ignorant mistakes seen at lesser outlets. Dartunorro Clark and Adam Kelsey, respectively, both also irresponsibly used the occasion to rehash tired, long-refuted myths about Sessions’ alleged racist past.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.


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