Don't pop the Champagne

Many readers will be familiar with the brouhaha surrounding Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, (no relation). AT Editor Thomas Lifson, and FoxNews's "The Five," both covered the controversy. In a column about prospective Republican presidential nominees, Richard Cohen suggested that Republicans hold certain "archaic" views on miscegenation. He then went on to compare the Tea Party with the Dixiecrats. His comments understandably sparked outrage and calls for his firing. Still, if the Washington Post fires Richard Cohen conservatives may want to hold off on celebrating. Cohen didn't come under fire for smearing Republicans and Tea Partiers. Rather, the left has held a grudge against Richard Cohen for a long time and this is their latest excuse to get rid of him.

Matt Connolly's recent article exemplifies the trumped-up nature of most of the charges against Richard Cohen. Connolly repeatedly mischaracterizes the content of Cohen's columns, twisting his words and quoting him out of context. In a particularly egregious example, Connolly accuses him of defending Roman Polanski, and being a rape apologist. In reality Richard Cohen defended the Swiss decision not to extradite Polanski, because the victim no longer wanted to press charges, and the original judge planned on dishonoring the plea agreement worked out between the defense and prosecution. While one can certainly quibble with this reasoning, people should feel free to take such a position without losing their jobs and being branded rape apologists.

Connolly, and others, also cited his column linking contemporary teen culture to the Steubenville rape case. Contrary to what Matt Connolly alleges, Richard Cohen did not claim that Miley Cyrus was the "biggest culprit," in the Steubenville rape case. Rather he used Miley Cyrus's V.M.A performance as an example of what he labeled "teen culture run amok." To Richard Cohen, Ms. Cyrus's performance exemplified the vulgar, callous background culture in which tragic events like Steubenville occur. Once again, readers have ample room to disagree with Richard Cohen, but his column can in no way be construed as blaming Miley Cyrus for Steubenville.

The most substantial, and probably explosive, accusation is that Richard Cohen is a racist. This charge likely originates from a 1986 column that allegedly defended jewelry store owners who denied service to young black males. This author couldn't locate the 1986 column, but his more recent work does not appear to be racist. Readers are welcome to judge for themselves whether the column cited by Matt Connolly, Alex Pareene, and others, demonstrates an irrational fear of young black men. For those who lack the time or motivation to read this column, Cohen offered a defense of race as a factor in criminal profiling, but not as the sole factor in profiling someone.

The leftwing effort to purge Richard Cohen from the pages of the Washington Post bears all the marks of a typical campaign to restrict the boundaries of acceptable discourse. While conservatives have no stake in defending a left-wing jerk like Richard Cohen, his firing would not be a victory for conservatives. Rather, his firing would send an unambiguous message not to stray too far from the progressive line on race, gender, and sexuality. Which raises the question, if Richard Cohen's fairly mild comments regarding race and gender are outside the bounds of acceptable discourse, how narrow are those boundaries?