A Los Angeles Times columnist on Monday slammed Republican Larry Elder as a “model minority,” the latest racially charged jab at the recall candidate from the state’s largest newspaper ahead of Tuesday’s special election.
The op-ed by Frank Shyongdeclared that Mr. Elder was the “embodiment” of the “model minority,” which he described as those who “sell out their own people” by, for example, promoting hard work versus blaming racial discrimination.
The article’s merits aside, what was striking was the opinion page’s decision to run another op-ed attacking Mr. Elder on racial grounds despite the backlash over its previous columns describing him as the “Black face of white supremacy” and warning that “If Larry Elder is elected, life will get harder for Black and Latino Californians.”
Even CNN host Brian Stelter, no friend of conservatives, noted Sunday the anti-Elder tilt after interviewing Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero, who had said Mr. Elder embraced a “White supremacist worldview.”
“Clearly, the L.A. Times’ opinion folks, you and others, have been very much against Elder,” said Mr. Stelter on “Reliable Sources.” “We will see what impact, if any, that has had in two days.”
Being routinely trashed as a traitor to his race by the West Coast’s most dominant newspaper could well have an impact on the election, which has trended for several weeks in California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s favor after previously hovering in statistical-tie territory.
Mr. Elder, the Republican frontrunner, responded at first by using humor: Shortly after the White supremacy column, he ran an ad featuring a photo of himself in college with an impressive afro and asked, “Do I look like a White supremacist?”
Since then, however, he has ripped the media coverage of his campaign, including the muted response to the Wednesday incident in which a light-skinned woman wearing a gorilla mask threw an egg toward him during a tour of homeless camps in Venice.
“Had I had a ‘D’ at the end of my name, this would have been a hate crime. They would have had a manhunt for her. They’d be talking about this in Bangladesh,” Mr. Elder said Monday on the campaign trail. “But because I have an ‘R’ at the end of my name, a lot of the mainstream media didn’t give a rip.”
Others also condemned the coverage. Fox News contributor Leo Terrell said that the “White woman wearing a gorilla mask attacking Larry Elder and his campaign staff is racism in its purest form. The media is silent because Larry Elder is a Black conservative.”
“It’s difficult to imagine the mainstream media’s reaction had a White woman wearing a gorilla mask hurled an egg at Barack Obama. A gorilla mask? How much more racist can you get?” asked Derrick Wilburn, founder of Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives. “However, since this was Larry Elder, a Black American with the audacity to hold conservative views and to run for office as a Republican, they chose to mostly ignore the story.”
The Los Angeles Times itself wound up becoming part of the story, not by ignoring it, but by initially running a headline and photo that suggested Mr. Elder was the aggressor.
The woman, Venice community organizer Soledad Ursua, lashed out at the newspaper, tweeting, “Are you kidding me? You use this picture to make it look like @larryelder is slapping me?”
“He was attacked by a white female wearing a Gorilla Mask,” said Ms. Ursua, who appears in a pro-recall ad. “Are you covering for racists? Disgusting.”
The Times changed the photo to a shot of Mr. Elder leaving the egg-throwing scene with the masked woman in the background, as shown in screengrabs posted by Fox News and California Insider.
Last month, the Times’ news pages ran an article about Mr. Elder using the n-word during a 1990s-era comedy club routine in which he mocked O.J. Simpson defense attorney F. Lee Bailey for using the word while cross-examining a witness.
Two people were quoted criticizing Mr. Elder in the article, which included a paragraph taking issue with “Elder’s pronunciation of the N-word.”
“He used an exaggerated tone, enunciating the ‘er’ at the end of the word rather than using the ‘a’ pronunciation, which is more commonly accepted among and used by Black people, studies have shown,” said the Aug. 20 story.
The byline listed metro reporter Julia Wick and columnist Erika D. Smith, which is unusual: Opinion writers typically don’t pen news stories. In addition, Ms. Smith is hardly impartial on the candidate, having written the Aug. 20 column, “Larry Elder is the Black face of white supremacy. You’ve been warned.”
The Washington Times has reached out to the newspaper for comment.
Mr. Elder, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and has written a syndicated column since 1998, said he has never had a friendly relationship with the Times, although in the past the newspaper mainly ignored him.
He said the Times has never run his column, while both the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register have; it ever reviewed any of his half-dozen books, two of which were bestsellers; and it never covered his 2020 documentary “Uncle Tom.”
“All I’m saying is the L.A. Times has never been a fan of Larry Elder,” he told The Washington Times. “I guess it’s because I’m not a victim. I guess it’s because I’m a Black person who doesn’t believe that racism is a major problem in America, and the L.A. Times believes in systemic racism, critical race theory, reparations, all these kinds of things are vital.”
After he made those comments on the campaign trail, the Times swung back with a mass review by former book editor David L. Ulin calling Mr. Elder’s books “nothing if not consistent, recycling the same outrage over the same issues, the same straw men (FDR, JFK, the Clintons) and supporting arguments.”
“Fielding a ‘model minority’ candidate will probably become a common electoral strategy for the largely white Republican Party as it attempts to maintain control of a rapidly diversifying nation,” Mr. Shyong said.
The Sunday staff editorial urging a “no” vote said that “Elder doesn’t want to lead, not really; he wants to do what President Trump did at the national level — to stoke division and undermine the state’s institutions,” while an Aug. 22 editorial called him a “despot/crackpot in the making.”
The page has also run some letters to the editor from readers disputing its Elder columns.
“If Elder is a white supremacist, then my uneducated, non-English speaking immigrant parents from Mexico are also white supremacists,” said Juana Maria Velazquez in a letter. “They taught their children the same color-blind values that Elder has advocated for decades.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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