FORT LAUDERDALE – Rep. Alcee L. Hastings says President Obama of consistently disrespects the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Black Press, and graduates of historically Black colleges, key groups that were critical to his re-election in November.
Speaking Friday at the mid-winter convention of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), Hastings, a former federal judge, said the Congressional Black Caucus carefully vetted candidates they felt would be ideal for the second Obama administration, which has come under criticism for being dominated by White males.
“The Black Caucus of Congress then sent 61 names to the White House,” Hastings recounted. “Time went by. Not one of that 61 was selected – not one.”
In a speech that had a rich blend of seriousness, humor and expletives, Hastings said during the campaign, the CBC pressed the Obama campaign about the paucity of advertising with Black newspapers in particular. He said a top campaign official said Obama initially planned to spend only $650,000 with Black newspapers, a figure that was raised under pressure to $1 million – which meant that $999 million went to others.
“If I was president of the United States, there is no way in hell that I would raise a billion dollars and don’t spend but a million dollars with people who probably had as much to do with my becoming president as anybody,” the Florida Democrat said.
Hastings, the first African-American elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction Era, expressed admiration for the Black Press, saying it covers the full scope of Black life better than White-owned media.
“I spent more money in this election than I have in any election,” said Hastings, who has served in Congress since 1992. “And I believe Bobby [Henry, publisher of the Westside Gazette in Fort Lauderdale] will tell you that I spent an equivalent or more money than the Obama for America people did with his newspaper.”
Hastings said he also outspent the Obama campaign in other media in Broward County, which makes up part of his congressional district.
“I did that because I wanted Obama to win the presidency, but I particularly went to the ground in this election to prove to him and his minions that this was territory that had been watered, flowered, grown and harvested long before anybody knew his (expletive) name.”
Hastings continued, “…Because of your efforts –national Black publishers – because of many of your efforts, we voted 2 percent in this election more than we did in ’08. And I received 2 percent more in the congressional district that I serve than he did –and that’s the message I wanted to send to him.”
He said a strong message also needs to be sent to advertisers that fail to support the Black Press. According to a 2012 report by Nielsen titled, “African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing,” Black consumers will have a projected buying power of $1.1 trillion by 2012. Yet, of the $120 billion spent on advertising in 2011, only 2 percent was spent with African-American media.
Hasting criticized several Florida newspapers and local advertisers by name.
“Many of the same people that advertise in these [White-owned] publications don’t advertise with you and that’s insulting because we ultimately wind up using the products that they advertise and somehow or another, our news is ignored.”
Hastings graduated from Fisk University in Nashville and Florida A&M University Law School, both historically Black colleges. His said Obama has also demonstrated insensitivity to HBCUs. Obama administration officials disagree with that assessment, pointing out that he announced a plan to increase spending on HBCUs by $850 million over the next 10 years.
“It was nine months into the administration before he appointed a single person, not just at the cabinet level … ” Hasting recalled. “But when you look at the Schedule 1, Schedule 2, and Schedule 3, none in his first nine months of his administration was from a historically Black college.”
Hastings predicted that the nation will lose half of its 105 HBCUs over the next 15 years.
“They, like you, will not survive unless you begin to form consortiums and unless you understand that you are Black-owned and not necessarily Black when it comes to this media business,” he said. “You’re going to have to form conglomerates; you’re going to have to form bonds of trust like you elders had to give birth to this organization being here in place in the first place.”
Hastings said that unlike some journalists employed by White-owned media, NNPA publishers are not conflicted by race. He recalled a speech he gave to a National Association of Black Journalists convention in Dallas where journalists were pondering whether they were journalists or Black first.
“I said, ‘If you are not sure about whether or not you are Black, look in the (expletive) mirror,’” Hastings recalled. “’And if the mirror does not give you an answer, ask your mama.’”
The congressman said White-owned media is failing, in part, because of the rush to beat their competitors.
“The important thing for each of you is to be different from some of them,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about being first; most of you don’t publish but once a week. You’re last, so you can get the (expletive) story straight. And you can be accurate and, quite frankly, accuracy is what this online thing doesn’t allow for because everybody is rushing to be first.”
Hastings drew loud laughter when he discussed his deep aversion to social media.
“That rush to judgment that the media does is particularly damaging, especially when you got people in their bedrooms at 3 o’clock in the morning, sitting looking at a screen and Googling, twatting and tweeting all night long. It ain’t that much communications in the world,” he said.
“People ask do I have a Blackberry? No! A Whiteberry, either. The kids asked to give me an iPad. What do I need an iPad for? I have a flip phone and I have no contacts on it. I don’t give a (expletive) if nobody calls me. I want to be able to call when I want to call.”
In a more serious vein, Hastings said, “The substantive news has long since gone by the board you are the one that can still educate not only our community [but others]. Don’t you think they are not looking at your news.”
By George E. Curry
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.