Yesterday, Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed that John Kelly’s comments about President Trump’s condolence call to the Gold Star family of Sergeant La David Johnson were an attempt to save his job as White House chief of staff. Wilson’s office then declared that she would have no further comment on this controversy. It stated:
The congresswoman will not be making any further comment on the issue because the focus should be on helping a grieving widow and family heal, not on her or Donald Trump.
This, of course, is where the focus should have been all along.
Specifically, according to Wilson, Kelly’s characterization of her is an “empty barrel” is racist. She said:
Okay, that’s a racist term too. I’m thinking about that one. We looked it up in the dictionary because I had never heard of an empty barrel and I don’t like to be dragged into something like that.
Wilson’s statement is self-refuting. She grew up the Miami area during a time of intense racism. She probably has heard every racist epithet in the book. The fact that she “never heard of any empty barrel” is strong evidence that it is not a “racist term.”
Even Lawrence (“stop the hammering”) O’Donnell, who tries to support Wilson’s thesis by invoking the fact that he grew up in Boston in a setting similar to Kelly’s, admits that “empty barrel” was not part of the racist jargon he heard. Watch him try to talk his way around this problem in the video posted here.
In fact, there is nothing anti-black about the term “empty barrel.” Wilson may not have heard of it before, but others have — from Gen. Kelly himself. He used the phrase to describe Rep. Luis Gutierrez when the Illinois congressman called Kelly a disgrace. As we noted at the time, Kelly responded:
As my blessed mother used to say, ‘Empty barrels make the most noise.’
Gutierrez is not black.
Those who cover Kelly know that “empty barrel” is a favorite Kelly put-down having nothing to do with race. Indeed, Kelly’s statement seems to assume familiarity with his use of the term by at least some members of the press conference.
It was inevitable that a hack like Wilson would play the race card, notwithstanding her promise not to engage further in this dispute. By doing so, she further discredits herself.
America has no sympathy for those who, when losing an argument they started, reflexively accuse their adversary of racism. The act has become tired.
And when, as with Rep. Wilson, the assertion of racism is self-refuting, the act only confirms the mindlessness of the actor.