July 18, 2013

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow today sent out a rather provocative tweet, with racial implications:

Rep. Darrell Issa is the powerful Republican who sits atop the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is white. Rep. Elijah Cummings is the ranking Democratic member of the committee. He is black. A white man calling a black man “boy”: That’s a big, scandalous deal.

In her tweet taking issue with Issa’s use of words, Maddow linked to this Huffington Post report, titled “Darrell Issa Compares Elijah Cummings To ‘Little Boy’ In IRS Hearing.” The full quote, as conveyed in that story, is this: “I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said at a House oversight committee hearing today.

In the hearing, Issa later made a point of clarifying that the reference to “little boy” was “intended to be about a small child” and nothing else. Cummings responded that he appreciated Issa’s statement. “Words can certainly be taken out of context and twisted and whatever.”

The Erik Wemple Blog forwarded Maddow’s “boy” tweet to Issa spokesman Frederick Hill, who said, “It’s extremely disappointing that anyone would try to do exactly what ranking member Elijah Cummings said he hoped they wouldn’t do, which is to whittle the statement down to project something that it was not.”

We asked Maddow via Twitter whether her abridgment of Issa’s comment was fair. No immediate response. We also sent an inquiry to an MSNBC spokesperson.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.