One peculiar footnote of the Jeremiah Wright controversy has been the repetition -- by educated black men on national television -- of a stubborn myth. That the U.S. government "injected black men with syphilis."
Rev. Wright said from the pulpit, in a video clip shown on Fox News: "The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment! They purposely infected African-American men with syphilis!"
Wright is wrong. That's not what the Tuskegee experiment was.
In the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," federal researchers refused to treat a group of black men who already had syphilis, long after a cure had been found.
Instead, doctors treated these men like laboratory animals, studying the course of the disease over decades.
The Tuskegee experiment was the most shameful episode in the history of the U.S. Public Health Service. President Bill Clinton apologized on behalf of the nation in 1997.
But the government did not infect black men with syphilis.
To invoke the Tuskegee experiment to suggest that the government invented AIDS to kill black people, as Rev. Wright did... that dishonors the truth. There is no excuse for it. It must stop.
Yet here's what Obery Hendricks, a professor at New York Theological Seminary, said on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night in defense of Rev. Wright: "We do know the government injected black men with syphilis."
On "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on Tuesday, journalist Ed Gordon said it's "not so far-fetched" to suppose that AIDS is weapon of genocide... considering that "the government was giving syphilis to black men."
Likewise, CNN contributor Roland Martin said last Friday: "I was watching another channel where they played a sermon where [Rev. Wright] said that America infected African-American men with
syphilis, called the Tuskegee experiment. That actually did, indeed, happen."
No. It. Did. Not.
And the only reason Obery Hendricks, Ed Gordon and Roland Martin weren't humiliated on national television is because Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper are more ignorant about black history than they are.
I recommend they do so before popping off again in public about the Tuskegee experiment. Same goes for Jeremiah Wright.