To be clear from the start: Rep. Michael Grimm threatened a reporter last night for doing his job. He behaved like a thug, which is to say that he behaved as a “ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, or criminal” might behave, which is unacceptable for any law-abiding citizen, and outrageous for an elected representative. NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto had the audacity to ask the Congressman a direct question at the State of the Union address relating not to the speech, but to the Congressman’s fundraising, which is the object of an FBI probe. Grimm refused to answer the question, then cornered the reporter (on camera, though he did not know it, and said ominously , in an excellent soto voce imitation of Michael Corleone telling Fredo that he knows he betrayed him…
“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.'”
As the shocked reporter tried to sputter out a defense, Michael…that’s Grimm, not Corleone…continued,
“No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
That is thuggery, ladies and gentlemen. It also is an affront to the democratic process, the public’s need to be fully informed about the character of their elected representatives, and the duty of reporters to meet that need. Now, I suppose the Congressman could have argued that he answered the reporter’s question by behaving exactly like someone the FBI ought to be keeping an eye on, lest a horse head turn up in some reporter’s bed. Instead, Grimm claimed that he was justified in threatening the life and limb of a journalist, and refused to apologize. Good to know. Staten Island, your elected Representative is a thug, or plays one on TV. Republicans: “That’s your Congressman! That’s your Congressman!” (For some reason I have “The Godfather” movies on my brain today.)
But wait—can I call him a thug? Daily Beast race-baiter Jamelle Bouie has declared that “thug” is the new “N-word,” and that when conservatives (read “white guys”) use the word it is a coded racial epithet. In this he is taking his cue from Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks star who behaved like pugnacious jerk in a post-game TV interview, then put on his erudite Stanford grad persona and excused himself by 1) saying that this was his in-game persona coming out—as in Pazuzu, and not the real him, and 2) playing the race card, suggesting that those who called Sherman’s glaring at the camera, shouting “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”, and generally doing a credible impression of a street gang member threatening an intruder on his “turf” thuggery were racists. Bouie wasn’t the only one to endorse Sherman’s blame-shifting tactic: alleged comic and Democratic Party flack Bill Maher agreed that “thug” was now a racial epithet. Anyone could have predicted that someone on MSNBC would eagerly embrace this theme ( I think they draw straws), and sure enough, “PoliticsNation” guest Joe Madison used Sherman’s theory to conclude that Rush Limbaugh was really calling President Obama a nigger.
I didn’t call Sherman a thug; I called his performance arrogant, silly and rude. But thug would have fit, though not as well as it fits the white Republican Congressman, who, according to The Daily Beast, is likely to use “thug” as a code word for racial denigration. But if it’s code for the N-word, can I use it to describe Grimm threatening to break a reporter’s legs? It makes no sense to call him a nigger—does it?—especially since I wouldn’t call anyone that.
Wait,I think I’m beginning to understand the rules! Only a fair and ethical society, only a white man can be criticized for behaving like an asshole. If you criticize a black man, you must be racist.