Following civil rights leader Coretta Scott King's January 7 funeral, numerous media figures highlighted the purportedly "partisan" nature of the event, in some cases describing it as a "Democratic pep rally," a "Bush bashathon" and a "Democratic convention." The controversy stems primarily from tributes delivered by civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, which included a reference to prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and what many interpreted as Carter's reference to President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. But many of those same media figures accusing speakers of politicizing the King funeral did not show the same aversion to the politicization of the 2004 death of a figure of a different political stripe: former President Ronald Reagan. Nor did they apparently think it worth noting that the Reagan funeral included no Democratic speakers, but a long roster of Republicans, including President Bush, who was running for re-election and was reportedly trying to attach himself to the Reagan legacy.
Held near Atlanta and attended by 15,000 people, King's funeral included speeches from four U.S. presidents -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Carter -- as well as numerous civil rights leaders and friends.
I really recommend that you take the time to click through and then to scroll down and read what some members of the right wing press have to say about the funeral. Here's a sample:
*National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne said, "Liberals don't seem to be able to keep politics away from funerals." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/7/06]
*Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that "the Democratic party now crashes funerals ... trying to pick up votes" and said, "I think Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King -- if there was to be any anger from above looking down at that -- it would be from them." [Fox News' Your World, 2/8/06]
*Fox News host Sean Hannity said the comments were "inappropriate" and "designed to stick it to George W. Bush and to embarrass the president." [Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, 2/7/06]
*MSNBC host Tucker Carlson described the comments as "rude as hell" and "completely graceless." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/7/06]
*Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said, "When I die, I don't want my demise to be used as a political rally, and that's what happened yesterday." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 2/8/06]
*Wall Street Journal opinionjournal.com editor James Taranto called Carter's comment a "moment of true malice."
*National Review Online editor-at-large and Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg noted Carter's "mildly ghoulish exploitation of Coretta Scott King's funeral."
Two points: First, this was one public event in which Bush's handlers were not able to require loyalty oaths from those in attendance and so he had to listen to what a lot of normal people really think of his policies.
Secondly, what seems to be overlooked is the patronizing racism of the right-wing criticism. Who do they think they are to tell black people what their funerals should be like? Mrs. King's entire life was about political struggle. And they think her funeral service shouldn't have mentioned that? So the wing-nuts wanted a staid, solemn, "neutral" (read: white) occasion, did they? The ultimate control-freaks were not able to control this event. That's why they're so enraged.