Journalist should learn from Senator Sander’s mistake

Earlier in the week, Alabama senator Hank Sanders  interviewed with CNN’S Anderson Cooper regarding a robocall Sanders released during the midterm elections.

The call was created to garner support for two of his fellow Democratic colleagues, but the message did far more than that.

Link to Sander’s interview with Anderson Cooper on “Anderson 360” http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/02/video-race-baiting-robocall/

Senator Sanders said that voting Republican would put black people “back in the cotton fields of Jim Crow.”  This statement was very passionately made, but unfortunately, Senator Sanders failed to defend his claims with the same amount of clarity and enthusiasm.

When Anderson Cooper asked Sanders what evidence he had to back his claims, Sanders stuttered and appeared confused. He tried to come up with a logical argument, but his attempts were futile.

In an agitated response, Sanders told Cooper he had lived through Jim Crow and that he was trying to persuade the people of Alabama to do something positive. Needless to say, he was inferring that voting democratic was the only way to keep black people from being thrust back into the days of Jim Crow’s legal disenfranchisement.

Anderson Cooper asked Sanders the same question repeatedly in hopes he would either say something to validate his claims, or explain the rationale behind them. Sanders wasn’t the only frustrated one, Anderson Cooper became flustered as well.

I don’t think this was because he disagreed with the statement Sanders made, but because he had made an insidious claim  that he couldn’t explain or defend at all!

As a journalist, I understand Anderson’s pain. There is nothing worse than dealing with someone who has made strongly opinionated claims, even worse… accusative claims that they can’t defend or even explain.

People have the right to say and believe as they please; however, no one has the right to regard claims based on opinion and cultural theory alone as fact.

Sanders lived through the Jim Crow era and  feels that if Republicans are in control of the government, there is always a chance that the country could slip back into that kind of oppressive infrastructure.  This is compelling and relevant to his argument, but it isn’t enough…there must be facts behind every argument.

So the lesson is… If you want people to believe what you say, at least be able to explain it!

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