POLITICS

Sandra Bland's Arrest Was So Messed Up, Even Fox News Sees It

"The Nightly Show" host Larry Wilmore couldn't believe it.

Something unusual happened on Comedy Central’s "The Nightly Show" on Thursday: Host Larry Wilmore found himself agreeing with Fox News about Sandra Bland’s arrest.

Wilmore first lamented CNN’s coverage of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from the Chicago area who was found dead on July 13 in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days after being arrested. Wilmore noted that CNN effectively blamed Bland for escalating the incident leading up to her arrest.

Then, Wilmore turned to Fox News, which he expected to be even worse. “I’m not sure if I can watch,” Wilmore said, shaking his head. But instead, he was pleasantly surprised to see two Fox legal analysts unequivocally condemn Bland’s arrest and imprisonment.

“Wow,” Wilmore responded, chuckling. He expanded on that shock with some explicit language: “This is how you know how fucking crazy a situation is: when I totally agree with white people who are talking about race on Fox! That’s how crazy this is.” 

Wilmore also expressed surprise that even Donald Trump condemned the arrest.“You've got to be shitting me,” Wilmore quipped.

“Even Trump agrees! OK, we have lost cabin pressure, you guys,” he said. “Something ain’t right! Put your mask on first.”

Those were light moments in an otherwise intense episode. Wilmore, who made his name as “senior black correspondent” for "The Daily Show" before launching "The Nightly Show" in January, frequently focuses on contemporary issues of race. He has not lacked for material in recent months as the country has witnessed a series of high-profile incidents highlighting the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community.

But at times on Thursday, Wilmore seemed to be at a loss for laughs. His emotion was palpable.

“I mean how do you go from not signaling a lane change to sitting in a jail cell with a $5,000 bond?” Wilmore asked in his opening monologue. “That is not a setup for a joke. Someone needs to give me a fucking answer.”

Wilmore was visibly upset after reviewing the dashcam video footage of  Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia arresting Sandra Bland, after escalating what had been a routine traffic stop.

“Here is what I saw: I saw a woman who complied with everything the officer asked of her. Then it got confusing because he asked her to put out her cigarette, but then offered to light her up by pointing a taser at her head,” Wilmore said, his voice breaking.

On Thursday, Warren Diepraam, a Waller County prosecutor, presented the preliminary results of an autopsy showing that Bland had committed suicide by hanging. The prosecutor’s office has been treating Bland’s death as a possible homicide until it is satisfied that there is proof to the contrary. Diepraam offered few details on the circumstances leading to Bland’s suicide, but he made sure to note that Bland had marijuana in her system at the time of her death.

Bland’s case has sparked national controversy as African-American activists -- and now, a wide array of political figures -- have questioned the mysterious circumstances of her death in custody. The 52-minute dashboard camera video of Bland’s traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal that escalated into an arrest and struggle, released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday, has only added to the sense that Bland is the victim of racially motivated mistreatment by the police.

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