CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen received swift backlash after a heated exchange with former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, on “Cuomo Prime Time” Thursday night. Rosen’s attempt to later apologize only made matters worse.
Discussing the Vermont senator’s progressive policies on CNN Thursday, Turner referenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which the late civil rights icon addressed eight white Alabama clergy members, writing that he had been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”
Turner said Sanders’ policies are “in the spirit” of King, “who warned us — us being the Black community — about white moderates.”
When asked to address common criticisms directed toward Former Vice President Joe Biden — including his voting record in Congress, recent gaffes on the campaign trail and accusations that he has told false stories — Rosen took the opportunity to attempt to correct Turner on her reference to King’s famous letter.
“That’s actually not what Martin Luther King said,” Rosen said. “What he said was we should be worried about the silence of white moderates.”
“What we have in Joe Biden is a man who is not silent,” she continued.
Turner responded, referencing King’s mention about the Ku Klux Klan in his letter, adding that the civil rights icon was more concerned that white moderates wanted things “to be comfortable,” she said.
In his letter, King wrote in part: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”
The civil rights icon later wrote that another stumbling block for the Black community is a white moderate who “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” (Read King’s letter in full here.)
Rosen then accused Turner, a Black female activist, of using “Martin Luther King against Joe Biden,” she said. “You don’t have that standing. I’m sorry, you don’t.”
“Don’t tell me what kind of standing I have as a Black woman in America, how dare you,” Turner responded.
Rosen received wide backlash on Twitter for “whitesplaining” King’s words to Turner, with many people calling out the exchange as an example of white feminism.
Enter Rosen’s apology.
In a since-deleted tweet, the Democratic strategist addressed the exchange on Friday morning, writing that she wrong and that she was “sorry for saying those words.”
“Pls no need to defend me and attack angry black women,” she continued. “They have standing. I always need to listen more than I talk. We rise together.”
People on Twitter quickly called out Rosen for using the words “angry black women” — a racist trope — especially in her attempt at an apology.
Rosen later apologized, again, writing that she was “horrified that anyone would think [I] would call Nina Turner ‘an angry black woman’ I would NEVER!!”
“After the TV hit last night, I was getting tons of ugly messages to keep fighting her using that phrase,” she continued. “I was trying to tell people to STOP. Cause I KNEW I needed to apologize.”
In subsequent tweets, Rosen noted that her initial apology went “wrong” and that she has since called Turner to apologize.
“Whether or not she takes my call, I am still humbly sorry,” she added.
(Disclosure: Rosen worked as political director at The Huffington Post between 2008 and 2010.)