After the surfacing of an email sent to NBC News’ staffers from the network’s standards department telling them not to directly refer to Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) recent comments about white supremacy as “racist,” journalists have come out on social media to lambast the network for doing so.
“Definition of racist: A person who ... believes that a particular race is superior to another. King wondered why White Supremacy — the belief that white people are superior to the black race — is offensive. That is the DEFINITION of racism,” tweeted political reporter Emily C. Singer.
On the heels of the backlash, NBC revised its guidance on King.
“We revised our guidance on Rep. Steve King’s comments. It is fair to characterize King’s comments as ‘racist,’ and point out that he has a history of racist comments, and the context can be shared that others hold that view as well,” said a statement from the network.
The email, obtained by HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali, was sent to staffers on Tuesday by Susan Sullivan, a senior employee in the standards division at NBC News. It read, “Be careful to avoid characterizing [King’s] remarks as racist. It is ok to attribute to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that.”
King has long been known for being a white supremacist and making racist comments. However, the ninth-term congressman has only recently been under the microscope in Congress after he did an interview with The New York Times, published on Jan. 10, where he said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Since then, many of his fellow Republicans have come out to denounce him, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the third-ranking House Republican, who said on Tuesday that King should step down. Republican leaders have stripped him of his committee assignments for the current Congress. Additionally, Democrats are offering measures to censure King.
In light of this, it’s a bold move for a network to implore its employees to not use rhetoric that directly pertains to the behavior that King is exhibiting. Here’s what many journalists from CNN, The Washington Post, USA Today, and elsewhere said about the email: