The universe has a uncanny knack for adding perspective whenever popularity gets confused with significance. The actor Paul Walker was popular. Nelson Mandela was significant. Fox News should not be counted in the ranks of admirers of the revolutionary lion turned honored statesman. Cynics say there’s little difference in cable news, but sometimes the differences are obvious and stark. While CNN and MSNBC honored Mandela by turning over their evening programming to covering his life and times, Fox News stayed on message by largely relegating Mandela’s passage to the news crawl and pounding away with their anti-Obamacare propaganda. The media gossip site, Mediaite went deep into CNN, MSNBC and Fox’s coverage (or lack of) of Mandela’s passage and the clear loser lagging behind the field was the “news” network led by hardcore right-wingers Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. Hardly a surprise considering everything Mandela stood for are the very things Fox News is against. I flipped the television from Rachel Maddow interviewing Ron Dellums to Megan Kelly chatting amiably with a medal-winning soldier. While Lawrence O’Donnell was discussing how Mandela dismantled apartheid, turn over to Sean Hannity and there’s the ugly mug of RNC chairman Reince Preibus banging on the Affordable Care Act yet again. In fairness, Bill O’Reilly did mention Mandela’s passing. Mostly to remind Fox viewers the father of the modern-day South Africa was “a communist.” “He was a communist, this man. He was a communist, all right? But he was a great man! What he did for his people was stunning!… He was a great man! But he was a communist!” O’Reilly’s guest, Rick Santorum, was a bit more gracious than his obnoxious host, but even while he praised Mandela, the failed presidential candidate compared Mandela’s fight against apartheid to the right-wing’s war against Obamacare. With his success writing historical/fantasy novels like Killing Lincoln, it might be expected O’Reilly would know while it is true Mandela’s African National Congress was supported by the Soviet Union, the United States was a supportive ally of South Africa’s Afrikaner government even as it ruthlessly crushed Black protest against the evil of apartheid. Ronald Reagan called the racist regime, “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.” Reagan was more concerned about propping up a gang of White supremacists brutally putting their foot of the necks of millions of Black people than their freedom and sided with a bigoted minority over the oppressed majority. Mandela opposed hypocrites like Reagan who demanded the Soviets “tear down this wall” so East Germans could be free while telling Black Africans they should suck it up and suffer. Liberation movements are best loved by American conservatives when their interests coincide with their own. If Mandela was a Communist, Reagan was a bigot. O’Reilly is just a clown looking for a circus. When President Obama leads the U.S. delegation to the memorial service for his African counterpart, depending on their health, he may likely be joined by former presidents Carter, Clinton and both Bushes. Not too shabby for a former “communist,” but don’t hold your breath waiting for O’Reilly to acknowledge that or for his employers to offer anything more than tepid praise for a man they clearly despised. The approach of Fox to covering Mandela seems to be, offer tepid praise while openly hoping he’s really dead this time. Fox News. It’s graceless. It’s classless. It’s tasteless. But mostly it’s just racist. Jeff Winbush is the former editor of The Columbus Post and a freelance journalist. He blogs at

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