There are some days when I just love #BLACKTWITTER. Only via this creative hodgepodge of bloggers, reporters and internet Benita Butrells can you find out who Whiz Kalifah is dating, what the Obama’s had for dinner and which political celebrities just got called out. In this case it’s the third category that caught my attention, as Mo’Kelly, author of the omnipresent Mo’Kelly Report wrote an article ‘exposing’ Crystal Wright aka ConservativeBlackChick.com, an occasional political commentator for Fox, CNN and HLN who’s statements during the Zimmerman trial have earned her plenty of side eye from the African American community. Kelly proves that Wright is not a true card carrying Republican, but only plays the Black Ann Coulter on television to cash in on the lucrative business of GOP tokenism in the Tea Party age. And while his take down and subsequent online battles haven’t always been pretty; this whole affair does say a lot about the state of public discourse on black politics in the internet age.
In the interest of full disclosure I have met Crystal Wright in person exactly one time, and have been on radio or television with her a total of four times. In most of those interactions she’s been perfectly nice even if we disagree and I find some of her rhetoric to be unnecessarily inflammatory. Wright raised her profile in the last few months during the Zimmerman trial with a few particularly explosive appearances on HLN’s “Dr. Drew,” and for provocative tweets on everything from the number of black lawyers analyzing the trial on the cable networks to Sybrina Fulton’s fitness as a mother. People got angry, she got a ton of nasty tweets and new followers, and that’s likely what brought her to the attention of Kelly.
The Mo’Kelly report entitled Nouveau Black Republicans (Like Crystal Wright) Ruining RNC Minority Outreach outlines that despite Crystal Wright’s present day fire-brand Tea Party rhetoric, for years she gave money to Democratic candidates, and voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Ultimately he states that Crystal isn’t really a conservative at all, but a political opportunist who knew the fastest route to fame and notoriety was to be a conservative token in the post Tea-Party era. Kelly goes on to point out that it’s Republicans like Wright that keep the GOP from attracting and recruiting African Americans. Crystal angrily defended herself on Twitter, the whole thing went viral pretty quickly and provided hours of entertainment for those who could keep up with the hashtags.
Kudos to Mo’Kelly for doing some legitimate research, all too often disagreements with African American GOP’ers degenerate into slinging insults and calling each other racist names. But this wasn’t really an exposure along the lines of Armstrong Williams back in 2005. Armstrong was a long time conservative, from TV and radio and he got busted whenUSA Today wrote a story revealing that Williams was taking money from the Bush Administration to promote No Child Left Behind in his syndicated column. Like him or not, Armstrong Williams was a credible conservative, who probably would’ve supported NCLB anyway, but finding out that he was taking checks from Bush while promoting himself as an independent conservative thinker destroyed his brand. Crystal is no Armstrong Williams. Her brand is to be a political shock-jock, not a credible discerning political thought leader. Finding out that Crystal Wright might be an ideological fraud is like finding out that A-Rod is on steroids. You’re kind of taken aback that it’s finally OUT there, but you sort of suspected it all along. There are plenty of hardcore conservative African American Republicans out there like Ron Christie, Robert Traynum, Juan Williams or even Lenny McAllister who promote the party without playing the Black Ann Coulter Role that Crystal often does. The behavior of political pundits like Crystal Wright or Jesse Lee Peterson would be a charade if anyone ever thought their intention was to expand the base of the Republican Party or really advocate a specific set of policies. However, think tanks and PACS aside, their rhetoric suggests that has never been high on their agenda. Which isn’t in and of itself wrong, but simply reinforces the idea that you can’t expose somebody who’s game has been on front street since day one to anyone willing to walk by and take a look.
This story will be buried under a mountain of new Twitter news by next week, and no one’s opinion of Wright or Kelly will be fundamentally changed by these new revelations. However, what was made clear was this: In this age of opensecrets.org and easily traced money and email paths it pays (literally) to stay ideologically honest and consistent in the public sphere. What little credibility you can build can be ripped up in no time if #BLACKTWITTER catches you sleeping.
This article originally appeared online at the Michigan Chronicle.