Update, 3 P.M.: Washington Post editorial editor Fred Hiatt defended Cohen's article to The Wrap, but added that he should have edited the piece more closely.
“Anyone reading Richard’s entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage. I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted. I think he is a terrific columnist,” Hiatt added. “I’m very happy to have him in the Post.”
12 P.M.: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has come under fire for some of his past articles, but his latest entry has drawn the Internet’s collective ire after he seemingly criticized interracial marriage.
A column discussing Chris Christie’s problems with the tea party should be rather uncontroversial. But somehow, in his latest column, Cohen (who, it should be noted, works for a paper in a majority-black city) managed to include a line criticizing New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio for, of all things, marrying an African-American woman. The statement has, understandably, attracted plenty of negative attention online.
Here’s Cohen’s offending paragraph (emphasis added):
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"Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all."
Even looking at this paragraph in the most generous light, there’s no way Cohen comes out of this as anything but offensive. It’s likely that Cohen himself doesn’t find interracial marriage objectionable but rather is making an attempt to get inside the mind of a typical “conventional” Republican voter -- one he believes literally cannot look at a white man and a black woman together without fighting off the urge to vomit. Even in its best interpretation, there are a host of problems with Cohen’s statement.
For starters, revulsion at the idea of interracial marriage is far from “conventional” for any demographics. As Slate notes, 84 percent of white Americans and 96 percent of black Americans have no qualms at all with interracial marriage. Even among Americans over 65 -- traditionally the most conservative demographic in the nation -- interracial marriage has an approval rating of 70 percent. Clearly, even the most conservative Americans aren’t all stuck in the 1950s, as Cohen seems to believe.
Perhaps even more importantly, though, is that Cohen insists this hatred of interracial marriage is somehow not racist. But his statement about interracial marriage can only be seen as racist. There’s really no way around it.