Tamika Mallory’s performance on “The View” this week was baffling, but not inexplicable. Her plummeting stature is a product of her own success, which was fueled by a cheerleading press corps that mainstreamed an unabashedly radical group. In other words, the link between the Women’s March and Louis Farrakhan is relevant now only because the media exalted the nascent organization in the first place.
“Radical” is not a dirty word to Mallory or her fellow Women’s March co-presidents. Far from it. One could actually see in her refusal to condemn Farrakhan on “The View” a moment of intellectual honesty: to achieve her goal of social justice, she does not accept the rules by which the rest of us agree to operate. If Farrakhan’s naked bigotry is determined to be outweighed by other projects (“What he’s done in black communities,” as Mallory suggested), praise and cooperation can be justified. It’s terrible logic, and it’s why the fact they ever made their way onto a platform like “The View” is telling.
Because President Trump is genuinely disliked by a fairly wide swath of women, the Women’s March had a built-in advantage when planning their massively successful post-inaugural protest. Another built-in advantage they enjoyed was a media eager to undermine Trump, so eager that it failed to adequately scrutinize the group’s leaders.
If you didn’t detect a whiff of dubiousness from the Women’s March at its outset, were you even trying? A glance at their list of partners as of January 2017, accessible to any journalist at the time, shows they allied with organizations including CODEPINK, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Communist Party USA, Greenpeace, and Occupy Wall Street.
The absence of Jewish people from their laundry list of groups threatened by Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign should have been conspicuous enough to spark inquiries at the time. Perhaps we wouldn’t have had to wait two years for Tablet Magazine to report some of what it did last month. Remarkably, there was virtually no mainstream coverage when Angela Davis (this Angela Davis) was given a speaking slot at the D.C. protest.
Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez were fully visible as leaders of the movement in the weeks ahead of the march. Take this laughably glowing Vogue profile of the organization from Jan. 10, 2017. Here’s an excerpt that actually made it into the piece: “Fists raised, they followed Perez in a call and response chant cribbed from Assata Shakur, the Black Liberation Army member controversially convicted of murder in the ’70s, who escaped prison and has lived for decades in exile in Cuba.” That apparently raised no red flags, because the rest of the feature (which included a nice photoshoot) was friendly, to say the least.
To be fair, there was a good amount of coverage focused on the division over racial questions among organizers (there were concerns white women were overrepresented in leadership roles) and mainstream outlets covered the group’s decision to split with pro-life feminist organizations. But for an industry that loves digging up questionable social media posts, the media sure missed a lot of Sarsour’s. And Perez’s. And Mallory’s. (Note how many of the posts compiled here came in the year or so before the 2017 march.) There appears to have been no serious vetting process of the co-presidents, which made it easier for celebrities to join the march and nudge it further into the mainstream.
This, by the way, was all before the initial rally even occurred. More evidence of the co-presidents’ radicalism emerged steadily in the aftermath.
These are not women even a liberal host on “The View” would find much common cause with. They are radicals, out of place amid the culture of lukewarm progressivism in the corporate media, and proudly so. That is why Mallory did not condemn Farrakhan in the warm glow of daytime television. For two years, nobody had pushed her quite like Meghan McCain, despite Mallory finding herself in front of plenty of journalists.
In short, we missed the story. If you’re a glossy magazine reporter tasked with profiling these women, you’re probably not thinking about whether an organization partnering with a host of radical leftist groups should have widespread appeal, or if that might be indicative of something curious about its leaders.
On “The View,” Mallory was navigating how to stay true to her activist roots on a mainstream platform. That incongruity finally crystallized. But with a little more critical reporting we could have avoided elevating someone willing to justify her sympathy for anti-Semites in the first place.