CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Thursday seemed at times unable to contain her frustration with Breitbart.com editor in chief Joel Pollak during a discussion about the release of a video of then-Harvard Law School student Barack Obama raving about Professor Derrick Bell.
As The Blaze previously reported, BuzzFeed.com on Wednesday published a 1991 video of Obama at a rally praising Bell. In a post on Breitbart.com just hours later, Pollak said the video was one of the promised Obama college tapes Andrew Breitbart had said would be released, but charged BuzzFeed’s version was “selectively edited.” Pollak and Breitbart.com editor at large Ben Shapiro on Wednesday night unveiled a fuller version of the video, including a hug between Obama and Bell, as well as an admission by one of Obama’s Harvard Law mentors, Charles Ogletree, that he “hid” the video during the 2008 campaign. Bell, Pollak contended, “was the Jeremiah Wright of academia,” particularly for his role as the originator of a school of thought called critical race theory, which holds, they said, that the United States is a fundamentally white supremacist nation.
Speaking with Pollak — a Harvard Law graduate himself — Thursday morning, O’Brien belittled the significance of the tape and openly challenged his definition of critical race theory.
“What part of that was the bombshell? Because I missed it. I don’t get it,” O’Brien said. “What was the bombshell?”
“Well, the bombshell is the revelation of the relationship between Obama and Derrick Bell,” Pollak replied.
“OK, so he’s a Harvard Law student and a Harvard Law professor, yeah.” O’Brien cut in.
“Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia,” Pollak said. “He passed away last year, but during his lifetime, he developed a theory called critical race theory, which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown.”
“So that is a complete misreading,” O’Brien interjected. “I’ll stop you there for a second — then I’ll let you continue. That is a complete misreading of critical race theory. As you know, that’s an actual theory. You could Google it and some would give you a good definition. So that’s not correct. But keep going.”
“In what way is it a critical misreading?” Pollak shot back. “Can you explain to me? — Explain to your readers what it is.”
“I’m going to ask you to continue on,” O’Brien replied. “I’m just going to point out that that is inaccurate. Keep going. Tell me what the bombshell is. I haven’t seen it yet.”
“Well, wait a minute,” Pollak said. “You’ve made a claim that my characterization of critical race theory as the opposite of Martin Luther King is inaccurate. You’re telling your viewers that, but you’re not telling them what it is.”
“Critical race theory looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law and as a legal academic who would study this and write about it, he would advance the theory about what exactly happened when the law was examined in terms of racial politics,” O’Brien said. “There is no white supremacy in that. It is a theory. It’s an academic theory and as one of the leading academics at Harvard Law School, he was one of the people as part of that conversation. So that is a short definition.”
“I’m glad we’ve got you saying that on tape because that’s a complete misrepresentation,” Pollak replied. “Critical race theory is all about white supremacy. Critical race theory holds that civil rights laws are ineffective, that racial equality is impossible, because the legal and Constitutional in America is white supremacist.”
The two continued on that track, with O’Brien repeatedly demanding to know what “your bombshell is,” with Pollak making the point that the video exposes Obama’s connection to “a radical legal theory” and said when Obama was a teacher himself he had his own students read Bell’s work.
“A lot of law students read Derrick Bell!” O’Brien exploded. “You really don’t understand critical race theory, do you?”
At that point, CNN panelist Jay Thomas cut in and asked whether Pollak whether he was “frightened” of a “secret black movement that’s going to start killing white people?”
Pollak, incensed, said Thomas‘ question didn’t even deserve a response, though he answered anyway.
“No, I’m not afraid that black people are going to be violent and take over the country. What I‘m pointing out is that there is a pattern in Barack Obama’s associations with Derrick Bell with Reverend Wright that carries over into his governance,” he said. “At every point in his life when he could have followed the path of Martin Luther King, he threw in his lot with the Jeremiah Wrights and the Derrick Bells of the world,” Pollak said.
As the racial accusations continued, GBTV’s Amy Holmes — also a panelist — jumped in and asked why the video hadn’t surfaced in 2008.
“Of what?!” O’Brien burst out, sounding increasingly outraged. “Of hugging Derrick Bell, the renowned Harvard Law professor?”
“Hold on,” Holmes responded. “This would be something for the public to decide, not for the media to decide, and I think that is a worthy discussion to have, which is that the media as the gatekeeper of information here did not allow this to be put in the public square.”
As Glenn Beck said during his radio program Thursday, he too felt letdown by the footage released, saying the disappointment stemmed more from the high expectations that had been set for the videos following Breitbart’s death last week.
“It was, like, the last story Andrew Breitbart did,” Beck said. “‘Very important video?’ and you’re, like, ‘Not so much.’ That’s not his fault.”