The Last Word on Cohen

TNC takes on the apologists at the WaPo:

I read the entire column. I saw the preceding grafs where Cohen offers a rough history of the Dixiecrats and segregationists wing of America. And then I read this:

    Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

The problem here isn’t that we think Richard Cohen gags at the sight of an interracial couple and their children. The problem is that Richard Cohen thinks being repulsed isn’t actually racist, but “conventional” or “culturally conservative.” Obstructing the right of black humans and white humans to form families is a central feature of American racism. If retching at the thought of that right being exercised isn’t racism, then there is no racism.

Context can not improve this. “Context” is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear. And horse-shit is the context in which Richard Cohen has, for all these years, wallowed. It is horse-shit to claim that store owners are right to discriminate against black males. It is horse-shit to claim Trayvon Martin was wearing the uniform of criminals. It is horse-shit to subject your young female co-workers to “a hostile work environment.” It is horse-shit to expend precious newsprint lamenting the days when slovenly old dudes had their pick of 20-year-old women. It is horse-shit to defend a rapist on the run because you like The Pianist. And it is horse-shit for Katharine Weymouth, the Post’s publisher, to praise a column with the kind of factual error that would embarrass a j-school student.

Richard Cohen’s unfortunate career is the proper context to understand his column today and the wide outrage that’s greeted it. We are being told that Cohen finds it “hurtful” to be called racist. I am sorry that people on the Internet have hurt Richard Cohen’s feelings. I find it “hurtful” that Cohen endorses the police profiling my son. I find it eternally “hurtful” that the police, following that same logic, killed one of my friends. I find it hurtful to tell my students that, even in this modern age, vending horse-shit is still an esteemed and lucrative profession.

The man is a walking embarrassment and has been for years, and America’s concern troll needs to find a desk next to other cranky old racists like Marty Peretz and John Derbyshire. For that matter, Weymouth needs to work on her resume, because her head is clearly up her ass as well.

84 replies
  1. 1
    wasabi gasp says:

    Maybe you could hire him to give Anne Laurie a foot rub or something.

  2. 2
    balconesfault says:

    I suppose Cohen wouldn’t find a blue-blood retching because a Jew was allowed membership in their Country Club to be anti-semitic either. Just some poor cultural conservative having problems with the pace of change in America.

    Worst thing about Cohen has been all the times over the years wingnut arguments have started with the phrase “even a liberal like Richard Cohen agrees that …”

  3. 3
    Yatsuno says:

    Last I checked, both Peretz and Derbyshire were still employed by their relative publications. There is no consequence for an expression of racist behaviour because, well, their white readers understand where they’re coming from amirite? Until heads roll Cohen is just gonna keep keeping on, and the Wapo will still keep publishing his bullshit, even though he should be living under a bridge right now calling out to Peter Jennings’ wife endlessly.

  4. 4
    Cluttered Mind says:

    Perhaps an office next to David Broder or Tim Russert would be more appropriate at this point.

  5. 5
    Belafon says:

    The evidence suggests that Cohen will do this again, probably soon. This may be the last time we talk about this particular instance of Cohenism, but we’ll be back again. Wait until he justifies shooting a black girl in the face at four in the morning.

  6. 6
    tybee says:

    guess i missed my chance to pontificate about the innertubulars and archiving old speeches

  7. 7
    Aaron Baker says:

    Wow–you took TNC’s magisterial ass-hammering and made it an even bigger ass-hammering. Way to go, John Cole!

  8. 8
    Chris says:


    Worst thing about Cohen has been all the times over the years wingnut arguments have started with the phrase “even a liberal like Richard Cohen agrees that …”

    That’s more generally the entire attitude towards the non-Fox media. Oh, they’re not frothing at the mouth demanding the rounding up of all Muslims or claiming that women can’t become pregnant from rape unless they like it. Or at least that’s not the only view. Well then, they must be liberals!

    … etc

  9. 9
    Cacti says:

    Dave Weigel offered an insight today on how Cohen shouldn’t be “Mau-Mau’d for casual bigotry”.

    Irony is truly dead.

  10. 10

    @Cacti: Then he responded to criticisms on the twitters that “mau mau” may be racist with “READ A BOOK”.

  11. 11
    I am not a kook says:

    TNC FTW. That is all.

    Except I give him extra props for giving a whack at the publisher too. I doubt a mattyglesias or even an ezraklein would dare to criticize a potential employer. They are more career oriented, TNC is all about The Work.

  12. 12
    beltane says:

    @Cacti: This represents a passing of the torch from the old-time racists like Cohen to the ignorant-of-history young whippersnappers like Weigel.

  13. 13
    Anna in PDX says:

    @Yatsuno: Derbyshire was canned from National Review last year. Peretz, I believe, stepped down as the owner/publisher of the New Republic a few years ago and does not write much anymore.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    I’m working on the Unauthorized Biography of Richard Cohen and I wonder if you all could help me.

    This is what I have so far:

    Richard Cohen is a privileged, talentless parasite who uses his position to advance ideas that are harmful and idiotic. Beyond dressing himself (one assumes) and ingratiating himself with the powerful (one knows), he has never done a lick of work in his life.

    OK, what am I forgetting?

  15. 15
    Gin & Tonic says:

    I think I’ve lived a pretty full, varied and complete life so far (I’m in its second half) and I have never once read a column by Richard Cohen, nor would I recognize him if I bumped into him in the street. It is possible to be reasonably well-informed and yet completely ignorant of his ouevre. You should try it. It’s never too late.

  16. 16

    I saw someone somewhere refer to Cohen as “Yogurt beard” and it was fantastic.

  17. 17
    Ash Can says:

    Weymouth needs to work on her resume

    Yeah, if only. It goes without saying that her job is deplorably safe.

  18. 18
    MaximusNYC says:

    As Atrios pointed out on Twitter yesterday:

    don’t think anyone else has said it. in cohen’s piece “harry belafonte” is code for “crazy negro”

  19. 19
    BGinCHI says:

    @MaximusNYC: Daylight come and he wanna go home.

    Obviously in the bag for the undead.

  20. 20

    TNC’s cavalcade of horse-shit links is epic and should be required reading. Richard Cohen: a one-man Augean Stables.

  21. 21
    MattF says:

    @BGinCHI: The time he had an offer to be dragged down through the gates of hell and into Satan’s anus, but decided to stay at the WaPo.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @BGinCHI: Cohen obviously has feelings of inadequacy about his banana tally.

  23. 23
    BGinCHI says:

    @MattF: I thought the story is that said anus was already plugged with David Brooks.

  24. 24
    Jay C says:

    Personally, I think the best think the Washington Post could do in this instance is send Richard Cohen out to pasture to the knackers, and give his column-inches to Ta-Nehisi Coates. The latter typically has more to say, and wiser, in a few paragraphs than all of Cohen’s collected crapola for the last forever.

  25. 25
    JPL says:

    The cultural conservative bothered me as much as the term conventional. In all my years I’ve never heard the klan referred to as cultural conservatives. The Washington Post is hiring folk for a race to the bottom and they are catching up to the Washington Times.

  26. 26
    Trollhattan says:

    High time Cohen gave up his seat–I’m sure he has enough stashed away to pay the rent for a few decades. My suggetion for a replacement: Batman bin Suparman. Because Batman bin Suparman.

  27. 27
    Citizen Alan says:

    Honestly, I try not to think about Bigot Cohen. After his idiotic and warmongering “fool or a Frenchman” column, I chose to pretend that he wasn’t real, just a parody of a limousine liberal perhaps generated by a computer program.

  28. 28
    Chris says:


    I liked the implied admission that “cultural conservatism” and white supremacy are the same thing. Given how often people today who call themselves or their allies “cultural” or “social” conservatives vehemently deny that these things have anything to do with white racism. (“After all, the segregationists were Democrats and MLK was a Republican, doncha know. And a Christian! He’d totally agree with us!”)

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Poor Richard Cohen. Hurt because he’s described, accurately, as a racist.

    Hurt him some more.

    Make him suffer.

  30. 30
    eemom says:

    oh my fucking God.

    I live in a world where Richard Cohen is fucking news that people give a shit about. Yes siree Bob, I actually do.

  31. 31
    JPL says:

    @Chris: If Cohen had said that they can see their wildly bigoted culture changing, then I could forgive him and his column. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

  32. 32
    Jay says:

    @Cris (without an H):

    From a far distance, “Augean Stables” reads like “Amity Shlaes.”

  33. 33
    MattF says:

    I think there is one more point to make. Cohen’s favorite rhetorical ploy is that he’s only writing what everyone really thinks, but won’t say out loud. It’s important to say plainly that this is just a lie.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Here’s a thought. Richard Cohen’s attitude toward marriage is little different from the authors of the Nuremberg Law of 1935.

    Think about it, Richard. Seriously.

  35. 35
    Ash Can says:

    The trouble is, there are way too many people — beginning with the vast majority of whites — who define racism only as active hatred of and malice toward the group in question. I was one myself for many years, and my re-education is ongoing. It’s not enough to not mean to do any harm. We need to understand what the objects of racism have known all along — that racism can come in pretty packaging, can be passive and seemingly benign, can be found as much in what is not said and done as in what is said and done. We don’t have to wear white sheets or wave the Confederate flag — it shows up in our assumptions, our imaginings, our questions, our ideas. We need to understand that it’s not just hatred and insults that constitute racism, it’s carelessness and ignorance and habits and omission as well. We need to redefine the problem for ourselves to realize just what the problem really is, and only then can we really begin to solve it.

    (Edited slightly for clarity)

  36. 36
    Chyron HR says:

    Today’s GOP is […] deeply troubled

    Troubled, troubling, close enough.

  37. 37
    Chris says:


    Oh, I’m not trying to excuse Cohen. He deserves all the shit he gets. I’m just delighted that, yet again, one of them let the mask slip on what their pious “cultural conservative” dog whistles really mean.

  38. 38
    BGinCHI says:

    @Ash Can: Great comment.

  39. 39
    Chris says:

    @Ash Can:

    The trouble is, there are way too many people — beginning with the vast majority of whites — who define racism only as active hatred of and malice toward the group in question.

    The problem is also that they believe they and they alone are the rightful arbiters of whether or not they’re prejudiced, and that you can’t judge them unless you know what’s “in their hearts.” That their prejudices translate into actual results that harm actual people isn’t something we should trouble ourselves with, because it’s all about them and their own internal compass.

  40. 40
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    I agree entirely with TNC on this one. Keep in mind however:

    Fred Hiatt, editor of the Washington Post editorial page, said Tuesday that he should have edited Cohen’s “conventional” line to prevent misunderstanding. Cohen said that no editors objected to the phrasing the first time around. “Nobody, not a single one of my editors — and believe me, they’re super sensitive to this sort of stuff — said, ‘Wait a minute.’

    Just as far as the “Cohen has to go” idea. Sure, but there’s a bigger house cleaning than that needed. Which will never happen of course.

    It’s not like he snuck something in the back door; Fred Hiatt read it, thought it was fine, and sent it out.

    The Washington Post has become like what would happen if everyone’s crazy uncles got together and started their own newspaper. It’s crazy uncles all the way up though.

  41. 41
    White Trash Liberal says:

    He’s not even the worst opinion columnist making enormous sums of money and defended by the highest echelons of power.

    Friedman is substantially worse and sleeps with his Pulitzer. He has a say in who wins the prize. Brooks is worse and has a special seat lecturing people about humility. Halperin is worse. Rubin is worse. Douthat is worse.

    Cohen just had the misfortune of mouthing outdated bigotry. Replace black with Muslim in his offending paragraph and it would have caused a bit of seat squirming, but not this outrage.

    When Coates can take his hammer to the statue of Brooks or Friedman and pound them into dust– that will be extraordinary. Their horse shit is so much more pernicious because they peddle modern lies and deal in modern taboos.

  42. 42
    BGinCHI says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: Newspaper are the walking dead: destructive and headed for the grave.

  43. 43
    MattF says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: After all, Hiatt also regularly reads Will, Krauthammer, Thiessen, Gerson, et. al., and doesn’t see a problem.

  44. 44
    geg6 says:


    WTF? Seriously?

  45. 45
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @MattF: Right and I forgot to mention Katherine Weymouth praising Cohen’s “conventional” article as “brilliant”. This is an institutional problem, not just one writer.

  46. 46
    Aji says:

    @Jay: There’s a difference in the output?

  47. 47
    gnomedad says:

    What amazes me is not how many people are stupid enough to hold these beliefs, but how many are surprised by the reaction to their expressing them. Or else they think they’re fucking heroes for fighting “political correctness”.

  48. 48
    Aji says:

    @Ash Can: This. Plus the structure, infrastructure, and superstructure of this society. It’s not the sort of thing, after more than half a millennium, that gets demolished simply by making it a social gaffe to run around in a sheet and a hood and use certain terms in public.

  49. 49
    Ash Can says:

    @Chris: Sure. It’s the ignorance factor — they feel that since they didn’t mean any harm, they’re not guilty, and at the very least should be given a pass. It’s only a small step from that to “blacks (or whatever group is in question) shouldn’t be so sensitive,” and the all-time classic “but I have black (or whatever) friends, and they don’t mind when I talk like that.” They get all defensive, but the proper response is not “but I didn’t mean it,” it’s “whoops, I didn’t know that; I’d better learn from my mistake.”

  50. 50
    geg6 says:


    Both you and Ash Can are spot on. Great comments.

  51. 51
    JPL says:

    @gnomedad: When bozo boortz started his fight against political correctness, I mentioned to a friend that he would next be asking what happened to common decency. duh….
    In order to prove that I’m not politically correct, I might mention that I choose not to be with the fuckin bigots of the world.

  52. 52
    Ash Can says:

    @Aji: Yep. Our society as a whole has improved insofar as it has ditched much of the overt stuff, but it can’t fool itself into thinking that it doesn’t still have a long way to go.

  53. 53


    What amazes me is not how many people are stupid enough to hold these beliefs, but how many are surprised by the reaction to their expressing them.

    I think the answer to this is pretty simple: they’re used to expressing those ideas in private without a fuss. Whether that’s because they hang out with people who feel the same way or because a lot of people are uncomfortable pushing back in person, it gives them the idea that their views are much more popular than they actually are. It’s only when they get out into the broader public with its much greater diversity that they receive criticism, and it always comes as a surprise.

  54. 54
    Aji says:

    @Ash Can: Well, [most of] it actually does fool itself into thinking that most of the time, IME. More comfortable that way. And as Elon’s top link in the next thread shows all too painfully, we POC have internalized it in really brutal and damaging ways, too.

    @geg6: And thanks. Ash Can did the heavy work, though. :-)

  55. 55
    rammalamadingdong says:

    “”Context” is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear”

    I need a T-shirt with this.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ash Can:

    It’s the ignorance factor — they feel that since they didn’t mean any harm, they’re not guilty, and at the very least should be given a pass.

    Anna Sewell obliterated that excuse long ago, but I suppose the literal-minded think she was only talking about animal cruelty despite the examples used.

  57. 57
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    “Political Correctness” was originally leftist snark.

    It took the right to be deadly serious about it, and they enforce it rigidly.

  58. 58
    fka AWS says:

    Apparently Gawker has dug up a lot of things that make Richard Cohen gag

    The results aren’t pretty. As it turns out, Cohen is something worse than a casual racist: he’s a blatantly shitty writer who keeps going reflexively back to the same tired metaphor. Diving into the Post’s archives, we found that Cohen, and the many real and hypothetical subjects of his columns, have been gagging in print for over 25 years. Here, a complete list:

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: Every once in a while, some “fellow white person” will say something to me along the lines of “I don’t like black people.” Aside from telling them that I don’t really care for bigots, I always end up looking back through my conduct to try to figure out what I may have said or done that gave the person the idea that I would be receptive to such a remark. I think they just assume that all white people feel that way.

  60. 60

    @Omnes Omnibus: It could be that they sense that you don’t feel that way and want do do a “tribe check”. I have a friend that does this but uses racist jokes.

  61. 61
    El Cid says:

    They must not drop Richard Cohen as a columnist, as it is obvious that within this nation of teeming hundreds of millions, none could possibly be as informative, carefully researched, thoughtful, and well-written as he.

  62. 62
    Anna in PDX says:

    @fka AWS: Wow, that was really hilarious. Especially how around 1990 he used “gag me with a spoon” about 50 times. Never mind that “Valley Girl” was released in 1982 – I guess he is pretty slow on the uptake.

  63. 63
    JPL says:

    @fka AWS: That article almost made me feel bad for him because he obviously has problems with gag reflexes.

    also, too.. I said almost…

  64. 64
    At This Point I Am An Angry Black Woman says:

    Richard Cohen is probably about the same as most of the white males who dominate and control the MSM. Richard Cohen won’t be fired for the same reason that Laura Logan and Jon Karl won’t be fired: They are doing exactly what their right wing masters want them to do. There are no mistakes or accidents with these people. They get out the messages they want.

  65. 65
    Schlemizel says:

    Have not gotten to TNC the last few days as my life has once again gotten more complex then I like. But the thought of Mr. Coates to actually use the word horseshit is indicative of his anger an frustration. In many years of reading his site I have read him discuss many painful issues from slaver to jim crow poverty and many others but I cannot recall him ever using coarse language. He has dealt with some of the worst most vile commentors and trolls with a grace an dignity I could hardly hope to maintain, That fat ass brain damaged slug of a putative human being at the Post has managed something I can’t image to have happened. He would be embarrassed and ashamed if he were capable of human emotions.

  66. 66
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Well, that is a more positive spin on it – from my point of view. Nevertheless, it’s disconcerting.

  67. 67
    geg6 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    This. I do the same thing–wonder what the hell I said or did that made this idiot think I’d agree with their bigotry.

    ETA: I know I used bad grammar but fuck it. This shit drives me to despair. And bad writing.

  68. 68

    @Omnes Omnibus: Agreed, disconcerting. These sorts of people don’t feel comfortable unless their environs reflect their values but don’t really see a downside of outing themselves as racist.

  69. 69
    Baud says:


    I think you write good.

  70. 70
    leeleeFL says:

    @Ash Can: this is brilliantly stated. I think the truly insidious nature of racism is based in no small part in the privilege enjoyed by any and all whites over any and all blacks and browns that began in the shared wealth of the slave economy. White people who make the effort to understand and overcome racism are more evolved. It’s that simple.

  71. 71
    PIGL says:

    @eemom: nice to be so above it all. How’s the air up there?

  72. 72
    Suffern ACE says:

    @El Cid: yep. In his defense, he called few guys in Iowa who vote in the caucus and asked him if bill diblasio’s son made them less likely to vote for Chris Christie. He mistook their chuckles for gags.

  73. 73
  74. 74
    rikyrah says:


    Dave Weigel offered an insight today on how Cohen shouldn’t be “Mau-Mau’d for casual bigotry”.

    Will never ever forget Weigel’s columns from Charlotte and the DNC Convention about ‘ all the Black people’ he was seeing.

    For real..that’s what he wrote.

  75. 75

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    It’s not necessarily you; in a lot of cases it’s a casual assumption on their part that all whites must feel the same way. Some of them may even believe that you secretly want to say the same thing but feel to oppressed by the PC machine to let it out in public, and they can show you it’s OK by doing it themselves. I’ll bet they’re as shocked by your response as you are by their statement.

  76. 76
    gogol's wife says:


    I always miss the funny threads around here. Why do I have to work?

  77. 77


    “”Context” is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear”

    I need a T-shirt with this.

    But Cohentext is. (Or so Cohen seems to believe.)

  78. 78

    @Jebediah, RBG:
    Being a pundit means never having to say you’re sorry, at least not honestly.

  79. 79
    debbie says:

    God, I love TNC’s writing!

  80. 80
    debbie says:

    God, I love TNC’s writing!

  81. 81
    Gravenstone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’m reminded of how the crusty old bastard whose house I was about to buy (closing hadn’t happened yet) confided in me how he had an arrangement with the guy who was about to become my next door neighbor as to how neither would sell their houses to on of them “colored folks”. To my shame, I simply stood there somewhat slack jawed rather than informing him that his actions were patently illegal, and that he was fortunate I wasn’t turning him in for discrimination.

    In a somewhat ironic turn about a year after I moved in, the other racist who was now my neighbor provided a section of his land to his son to build a new house next to mine. And wouldn’t you know it, the son’s wife has a decided brown hue to her skin.

  82. 82
    mainmata says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Good for you, haven’t missed anything. As an intermittent resident of the DC area I encountered Cohen on the WaPo OpEd pages quite a while ago and was immediately struck by the utter lack of analysis and vapidness of the writing. Cohen is a waste of space whereas Robert Samuelson is a long time right wing economic troll on the same page. Krauthammer is just ludicrous. So quite a group of clowns. When is Amazon going to get rid of these bogus products?

  83. 83
    mainmata says:

    And my oh so bland comment is immoderate why?

  84. 84
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @mainmata: I just had a vision of Amazon instituting an online reader rating/review section for its columnists, with George Takei reviewing EvenTheLiberal Richard Cohen.

    It would be glorious.

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