Behind the Scenes at CNN
White in America
By ISHMAEL REED
“My overall grade for this documentary is incomplete and unsatisfactory. In fact, most of the recent endeavors by major networks on the subject of Latinos in America have failed. ‘Latino in America’ is incomplete because it ignores major Latino socio-demographic dynamics. It's unsatisfactory because it perpetuates a negative stereotypical depiction of Latinos in the U.S. While our (Latino) community is indeed troubled by many of the challenges Ms. O'Brien explores, it is unacceptable to paint that as the exclusive image of Latinos. Frankly, I expected better from Ms. O'Brien.”
--Victor Paredes, Advertising Age 10/27/09
“CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien should have her sisterhood card revoked immediately and never returned! She has damaged, betrayed, and disrespected the entire black female community with her negative, short-sighted, half-assed, stereotypical, and repetitive ‘investigative reporting’ on black women in America.
“Her program Black in America: The Black Woman And The Family was a complete and total fraud! This program did not address the lives and experiences of black women in America at all! It was two hours of the same negative racist and sexist stereotypes that the majority of white America believes about black people, particularly black women.
-- Professor Tracey, Aunt Jemima’s Revenge
Act 1, Scene I
Office of Jon Klein, president of CNN. He is a middle-aged white man whose attire is 50s. Dark blue business suit, striped tie. His hair is grey and white and he wears black-rimmed glasses.
KLEIN: Yessir, I understand that the shareholders are putting pressure on you and you’re merely the bearer of bad news, but we have tried to improve our ratings.
(So loud and belligerent is the voice on the other end after his reply that KLEIN removes the phone a little distance from his ear and makes a painful expression.)
KLEIN: Won’t you give us some more time? (Pause) But sir, with all due respect, I would like to avoid more staff lay offs. Come up with some cost cutting measures? Yessir. Tell all of my friends at Time-Warner.…Hell….He hung up.
(Outside, chants are heard: “Fire Lou Dobbs, Fire Lou Dobbs.” Goes over and shuts the window.)
KLEIN: How am I going to keep Lou from going to that three-ring circus at Fox? Wish we had their ratings though. (Returns to seat behind his desk. Lays his head on the desk.) If I don’t come through, I’ll end up doing weather in Boise.
(SOLEDAD O’BRIEN, CNN’s two-fer, three-fer and four-fer peeks in. Cheeky, a smile that nearly reaches her ears. Egg shaped face. Dark shoulder length hair.)
SOLEDAD: Jon, may I have a word?
(JON looks up.)
KLEIN: Sure Soledad, how may I help you?
(SHE enters the room.)
SOLEDAD: The memo, Jon. Requesting that CNN women wear more mascara like those over at Fox and MSNBC. Jon. Those Fox women look like Raccoons! Jon. Jon, are you listening to me? What’s wrong with you?
(KLEIN shoves the “Business Day” section of The New York Times 10/27/09 toward SOLEDAD. Right column reads, “CNN Last in TV News On Cable.” A hand goes to her mouth.)
SOLEDAD: This is terrible. What are we going to do?
KLEIN: How about doing a “Black In America, 3” narrated by Michael Vick or Chris Brown or maybe we can get O.J. out on bail? Or what about Gabourey Sidibe, the star of “Precious,” you know, the 350 pound black girl who plays a illiterate Harlem black girl who is impregnated by her father? Why she’s trampling from magazine cover to magazine cover and showing up at awards ceremonies like a baby elephant. She was even honored at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The only black person within five miles of the site.
SOLEDAD: (Thinking to herself) What is it with some of these white men and their fetish for overweight black women? Have to ask Paul Mooney next time I see him.
(Aloud to KLEIN) Er-- good idea Jon but I think that we can get a bigger share of the market if we did “White In America.” We’ve already done two “Black In America” shows where we traced the problems of blacks to their making excuses instead of institutional and structural racism and we did “Latino In America” in which we concentrated on mostly illegal immigration, desperation, poverty and crime, grafting ideas from “Cops” and “48 Hours”, which you used to produce, now maybe “White In America.” (Paces up and down the room.) The increase in the incarceration of white women, showing that Martha Stewart, Lindsay, Paris and The Barbie Bandits are not alone, the fact that California white women do more drugs than black and Latino teenagers, heroin overdoses and emergency room admissions on Long Island and the suburbs of Dallas, the thousands of rural white families destroyed by meth--not only poor people but upper class whites like Andre Agassi, hate crimes against black, gays and Hispanics committed by white male teenagers, Sam Roberts’ report that while two parent households are on the rise among blacks, those among whites are on the decline, the rash of kidnapping and murders by white male pedophiles, the cover-up of child abuse cases committed by male members of the orthodox community, reported by The New York Times--
KLEIN: OK. OK. I get the picture. Let me think about it.
(SOLEDAD exits. KLEIN dials.)
KLEIN: Yessir, about our conversation earlier. I think that I have a cost-cutting idea. Fire Soledad O’Brien.
Ishmael Reed's “Barack Obama And The Nigger Breakers,” a book of essays, some of which have appeared in CounterPunch, will be published in the Spring by Baraka Books, a publisher located in Montreal.”Ishmael Reed, The Plays” was recently published by Dalkey Archives.