Two things seem certain on Tuesday morning: Hurricane Harvey is not letting up and President Trump’s threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t allocate money for his border wall with Mexico is careening towards fulfillment. During his news conference with the Finnish president at the White House on Monday, Trump promised Texas disaster funding would not be impacted by a shutdown—ignoring the fact that salaries for first responders and the military, and benefit funding for Medicaid and Medicare recipients would all be dramatically effected.
The LGBT community is trying to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, with a new fund set up by the LGBT Montrose Center in Houston, Lou Chibbaro Jr reports for the Washington Blade. The Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church was flooded on Monday.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence went on several radio shows Monday to discuss the federal governments efforts. Interestingly, Pence seemed to limit his interviews to right-wing radio, based on transcripts posted on the White House.
“I think it is important that all of your listens (sic) know that this is still a very dangerous storm. Particularly people in the affected areas, in Texas and Louisiana, need to approach this with great caution. Listen to local emergency management officials. Heed their warnings and their direction,” Pence told Rush Limbaugh. “And people within the sound of my voice who are in the affected areas or have families should know that they can go to DisasterAssistance.gov and they can already begin — we have some 22,000 that have already registered for disaster assistance, and there’s a broad range of financial support that is available to support housing, to support businesses that are affected by storms of this magnitude. And we think there might be as many as a half-a-million people ultimately eligible, given the enormity of this storm.”
Limbaugh’s audience is not exactly racially diverse so those within the sound of Pence’s voice are presumably straight, white and politically conservative. Additionally, as Media Matters points out, Limbaugh has a history of using natural disasters as conspiratorial political weapons against Democrats.
“During Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, Limbaugh stated that ‘it’s in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change’ and that the National Hurricane Center is ‘playing games’ to convince people of climate change,” Media Matters reports. He alsoaccused Katrina victims of “waving guns at helicopters,” “shooting cops,” and “raping people on the street.”
As if to underscore Pence’s particular penchant for right-wing-skewed outreach, the vice president also went on Michael Berry’s KTRH show to deliver essentially the same talking points.
“Berry has been known for making sexist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, and anti-African-American comments on his radio show,” says Media Matters. “Berry has posted several racist videos to his show’s YouTube channel that criticize African-Americans and has referred to African-Americans as ‘jungle animals,’ ‘pack animals,’ and used blackface comedian ‘Shirley Q. Liquor’ on his show to tell jokes based on racial and religious stereotypes.”
After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was the “unintended and blameless victim of a September 2015 drive-by shooting,” the Chicago Tribune reported, Berry chortled: “He won’t have to live with that name anymore.”
“At least they’re not indiscriminately firing at black people,” Berry added. “At least they’re saying, ‘Are those the black people, because we want to make sure we get the right ones?’ even if they didn’t.”
“Here’s a guy who plays bingo with his audience about the murders in Chicago,” Angelo Carusone, president of progressive watchdog Media Matters, told TheWrap. “The idea that the vice president would dignify that kind of program with his office should be alarming.”
Berry has regularly booked gay white “comedian” Chuck Knipp on his show. Knipp used to be nationally infamous for his blackface character “Shirley Q. Liquor,” who called herself “Mammy Welfare Queen.” In 2007, pressure from the Black press and members of the LGBT community—shocked that some gays would find blackface funny—shut down Knipps’ appearances in Los Angeles. That started a cascading backlash that continues in some quarters around the country.
“It’s the same blackface stuff you would have seen 100 years ago that has disappeared from our society for a long time and he resurrected it,” Carusone said. “Berry even put up a billboard promoting his radio program with Shirley B. Liquor on it. That’s how much that character was a part of the show.”
The White House’s selection of radio programs to which Pence has granted interviews is a stark indication of who the administration is trying to reach and prioritize for help—and they don’t appear to be people of color.