On Monday, Jan. 13, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker suspended his campaign for president. On Outnumbered, Fox News host Melissa Francis took it upon herself to theorize about why Booker may have ended his campaign, as first reported by the Daily Beast. Her big idea? After some discussion between her colleagues on whether Booker went too far left politically, she mentioned she’s heard that he’s “lazy.” Her reference point? Democrats who have appeared on the show’s couch. And no, she didn’t name names.
“Well, he really did not have a message to begin with,” Lawrence Jones, a Fox News contributor, began in regard to Booker. “He talked about a lot of progressive ideas, but he kind of was under the radar, most of the debates. He did not have a breakout moment. I don’t think his campaign was really organized.”
After a bit of back and forth on why Booker didn’t rise to the top in spite of his enthusiastic supporters, Francis drops the “lazy” theory.
“Jeanne, we’ve had Democrats on the couch who’ve worked with him who say that he’s lazy,” Francis then said to Zaino, another host of the show.
“Cory Booker?… I would not suggest that Cory Booker is lazy,” Zaino countered. “But I do think the campaign from the beginning… He could not find his footing.”
Suspending his campaign or not, what has Booker done for his constituents? He literally—literally—saved a neighbor from a burning building. He went on a hunger strike to raise awareness as a city council member. He personally patrolled the streets of Newark (with his security team) shortly after becoming mayor. How many times has he shoveled snow for his constituents? Numerous.
Booker is clearly far from lazy. But even if he hadn’t done any of these heroic things—not all of us will rescue someone from a burning building—the use of the word “lazy” in such a coded way would never be acceptable.
In addition to being patently incorrect, this comment rests on a truly racist stereotype. Studies show that even our movies and television inaccurately (and unfairly) over-represented black families as absent, lazy, or involved in crime. Even the Republican talking point of the “welfare queen,” often directed at black mothers, relies on the racist stereotype of laziness. One study on the way white educators view black (and other youth of color) finds that the harmful racist stereotypes that black people are violent, unintelligent, and yes, lazy, persists even when regarding small children.
Given that out of the remaining major contenders for president—Gov. Deval Patrick is technically still in the race—every single candidate left is white, her insinuation is especially maddening.
All of this discussion is to say: A word like ‘lazy’ isn’t just rude in this context, it’s actually racist.