Why NBC News Went Way Too Easy on Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal
Courtesy of NBC

Regardless of all the star broadcasters NBC News threw at Rachel Dolezal for a series of on-air interviews Tuesday, it was a relative unknown that stood out.

Instead of Matt Lauer on “Today,” Savannah Guthrie on “NBC Nightly News” or MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, it was Amber Payne of NBCBLK — a small, NBC Universal-owned website devoted to black culture — who uttered the only question that seemed to yield some new information about Dolezal.

“How do you do your hair? Is it a perm or is it a weave?” asked Payne.

When Dolezal revealed that she does, in fact, have a weave, it was perhaps the most ridiculous moment to emerge from a string of interviews suffused with an almost surreal level of inanity. And yet the most absurd aspect of NBC News’ Dolezal Day was how straight-faced its interviewers sat as their subject grew loonier the more she spoke.

Perhaps the anchors’ timidity could be chalked up to wanting to avoid being too aggressive with someone who isn’t shy about bolting mid-interview. This was the same woman, after all, whose controversial saga began when she dashed off camera while being interviewed at a local news station, which challenged her regarding her parents’ race.

But what a difference a few days of preparation makes, considering how unflappable she seemed Thursday. Whatever you might think of Dolezal, she’s clearly a very bright woman capable of speaking her mind coherently enough to convince herself that her trans-racial evolution is a perfectly rational turn of events.

In language evocative of Caitlyn Jenner, Dolezal describes herself as “definitely not white” since she was a girl, when she described drawing her own image with a brown crayon. Dolezal is lucid enough to understand that the world does not see her the way she sees herself, yet is insistent that if everyone understood the “reality” or “truth” of her own experience, there wouldn’t be any confusion.

Lauer and Harris-Perry somehow didn’t ask a single question that really challenged Dolezal, who was given free rein to self-mythologize a story that even the most sympathetic observer would have to concede is just begging for some tough questions. Instead, it was as if the sheer peculiarity of an eloquent woman professing to be black despite being born white had knocked them so off-balance that they might have been better off just standing there slack-jawed.

Where the anchors really fell down was on keeping the focus on how many people Dolezal misled, regardless of how entitled she might feel she is to pursue her racial calling. Though they brought up the notion that she had acted inappropriately, as when Lauer point-blank asked her if she had been deceitful, when her answers betrayed zero sense of accountability for her actions, neither he nor Harris-Perry bothered to follow up.

Guthrie fares much better than her colleagues, challenging her subject repeatedly enough to yield the most memorable moment of the interview, where she has Dolezal openly questioning whether her biological parents actually are, in fact, her parents. “There are no medical witnesses to my birth,” said Dolezal, dispelling lingering doubts as to whether she is playing with a full deck.

It’s the kind of moment that demands the interviewer shift the tone of the interview and point out how nutty Dolezal is sounding, but Guthrie just keeps politely pressing her as if everything is normal. Rather than risk spooking their big “get,” Guthrie et al. fail to ask the cutting questions that could send Dolezal from ripping her microphone off, like whether she has ever sought psychiatric treatment.

NBC News will likely be just the first stop on a full-blown media tour for Dolezal; if social-media conversation is any indication, she will be a ratings draw. Given all the curiosity and how comfortable she seems on camera even spouting nonsense, you can’t help but fear she could even eventually get hired as a correspondent focusing on racial issues. Given what we saw from NBC News today, she can’t do much worse than the talent they already have in house.

See more video of Dolezal on Today; NBC Nightly News; NBCBLK; Melissa Harris-Perry.

 

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  1. Doug says:

    How is this comment still here ?? Are there no mods ?

  2. The Memetrix says:

    Reblogged this on The Memetrix.

  3. Theresa Corigliano says:

    I am just stunned at how off-the-rails this has gone. The discussion should be this simple. She’s lied about practically everything, specifically about being African American. She can double talk all she wants, but lying is lying. If she’d just owned it, that would be that, and then she can identify herself anyway she likes, and we could all move on. Just shaking my head at this one. “Are you African American?” “No.”

  4. Discussing whether or not this Dolezal joke is funny or offensive right now – what’s your vote? http://funnyoroffensive.com/aint-jemima/

  5. Optimistic Pessimist says:

    It blows my mind to see support for this women on this website. Regardless of your political leanings, doesn’t integrity matter to anyone anymore? Or should I direct it at the liberals who seem to be more than happy to support Rachel’s fantastical world. As long as she supports your ideology, you could care less how many lies she told, people she misled, or taxpayer money she wasted (see her false claims). Shocking. I guess that is why 50% of the nation supports a lying weasel like Hillary.

  6. Jack R. says:

    When did Variety get so bigoted? She transracial, so get over it already.

  7. Fred says:

    Her racial identity is no different than Bruce Jenner’s gender identity.

  8. mezanine10 says:

    A high school kid could have conducted a tougher interview than these people. How sad. NBC pays Lauer $20+ million/year to not ask tough questions.

  9. Miffy says:

    Ah liberals, see the ridiculousness your views have wrought! We have Bruce Jenner, the fake woman; Elizabeth Warren, the fake native american; and now this person, the fake African-American.

    Do what feels good, no matter how divorced it is from science or the truth, right liberals?

  10. Reader says:

    Jenner “identifies” himself as a female; Dolezal “identifies” herself as African-American. Therefore, I’m “identifying” myself as Napoleon. I am available for any media interviews and magazine photo shoots. Have a lovely day.

  11. Sanga says:

    I support Dolezal. She can be black, that’s how she identifies. This article is extremely one sided. She isn’t “intitled” to be black, she IS black.

    • clarnee says:

      Is she “entitled” to lie about hate crimes and paint her community as racist heathens and make up horrid lies about her parents, etc.?

  12. Michael Buie says:

    Lies in this article. Lauer outright described he behavior as deceitful and fraudulent multiple times, and demanded she explain why that was not the case. As for Perry, I get the sense she was trying to give Dolezal a voice to express and explain herself without the color of making judgement herself.

  13. Isaac says:

    She is wearing a costume. The ultimate black face.

  14. Web Guru says:

    Between the age of 3 to 8 I grew up a white boy in Newark NJ. When we moved to the suburbs I started the second grade in a new school. It was a confusing day for me because I didn’t see anyone like me. I ran out of the school hopped on a bus and headed back to Newark. My best friends mom took me back home and explained that the black kids weren’t sick that day there were no black kids at my school.

    When I went to school the next day I was met by the vice-principal and school nurse who sat me down and explained that I was white. I can appreciate identifying as a black child since i thought I always was, coming from Venderpool street and having gone to Christopher Columbus catholic school in Newark.

    However I put my foot down when six months later my mom converted to the Jewish faith and i was scheduled for a circumcision. It was the only case in the history of Beth Israel Hospital of a bare bum 8 year old white kid being collected by the PD to have a brisque. She obviously had 8 days and 8 years mixed up. Didn’t matter though. because she left the faith and became an Episcopalian, a dull religion with no sacrifices. what a relief.

  15. KatieScarlettOhara says:

    Perhaps it is an America that REFUSES to acknowledge its mixed-race ancestry that is lying and delusional! Every so-called “black” vs. “white” racial controversy receives endless media play. Why was this important study buried? Of course, Divide and Conquer has always been the strategy.

    http://www.vox.com/2014/12/22/7431391/guess-where-white-americans-have-the-most-african-ancestry

    “Many Americans who call themselves white might be surprised to find out that they have some African ancestry. Especially in the South. In a study published in The American Journal of Human Genetics in December 2014, researchers used the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white.

    It turns out that self-identified white people who live in the South have the highest concentrations of African DNA. In South Carolina and Louisiana — the states shaded the darkest green on the map above — researchers found that one in 20 people who called themselves white had at least 2 percent African ancestry. And in a lot of the South, about 10 percent of people who identified as white turned out to have African DNA.” MORE AT SITE

    It was rather humorous to watch Matt Lauer somberly grill Dolezal about “passing” for black. Jews have only fairly recently been considered “white”, and there’s been many a nose job and many a name change to that effect.

    [Maybe now Turner Classic Movies will think twice about running Imitation of Life every other month! That goes for Showboat, Pinky, and the rest of that ilk of mindkontrol dramas.]

  16. Her hypocricy is astounding. She insists no one may challenge her self-conception and performance of identity but two of her brothers report she criticized them because in her view they weren’t behaving black enough and she denied a student participation in a classroom exercise because she didn’t look Hispanic enough. And she claims to champion racial equality but sued Howard by falsely (read the court documents) claiming she was treated unjustly becauae she was white. She told Lauer a “real” and “plausible” mother of a biracial or black kid has to be viewed as black. This woman is a piece of work.

  17. fredalf says:

    It’s simple.Dolezal is to black as Matt Lauer and Today is to news reporting.

  18. Jalynn Tatum says:

    we need to re-frame this discussion. This is about how we define race in America. Not so long ago, people with one drop of African American Heritage were subjected to Jim Crow and slavery even if they looked white. Some of them chose to pass as white. In order to do so, they had to shun their family and live in constant fear of discovery.

    Remember Sarah Jane from Imitation of Life.

    We need to re-examine racial identity in America.

    President Obama has a white mother and a black father, but he has been established as the first African American President.

    And I still don’t understand why Rachel’s parents are so upset over her racial self-identification.

    • Sheila B says:

      Are you f’ing kidding, Jalynn? “I still don’t understand why Rachel’s parents are so upset over her racial identification”. Maybe because she is shitting all over who she is – who they are – who her grandparents are…..and any sacrifices they may have made to raise her.

      She is a delusional, narcissistic ass who promotes separatism. What’s wrong with just being a person? And working for causes you believe in because they have meaning to you. Not because you have deluded yourself into believing that you share the experience of the people you are helping, but because you empathize with them as fellow human beings.

      She has transferred an entire separate race’s experience of life to herself. How insulting. And how convenient for her that she can backtrack whenever she likes. As many African American commenters have pointed out, she can claim her whiteness whenever she wants to and her family didn’t go through anything even remotely similar to what the African American experience has been either here or abroad.

      She’s an emotional carpetbagger.

  19. Max Powers says:

    What Black Community ??? … hell are some y’all talking about ? …. you mean the one that this lady services everyday. She’s Blacker than most Black people in the “Black Community”. #foh

  20. John Hughson says:

    I think there will always be flamboyant “out of the closet” weirdos who do nothing but mythologize, i.e. people like Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan, John Wayne, Elton John, Malcolm X, Mark Twain, Andy Warhol. Sometimes we love them, and sometimes we hate them. I think people are always disturbed when a flamboyant exotic person comes OUT OF THE CLOSET. In a weird way, Rachel was more herself and out in the open —> just like Bob Dylan, as a slightly sociopathic & powerful & sexy poetic-racial enigma. And people can’t deal with that. Much easier to live in the picket-fence and orderly world OF THE CLOSET.

  21. JFitzgerald says:

    The interview was a disgrace to Blacks and to women.

    I was prepared to feel empathy for a woman who allowed her lie to lift through an atmosphere of unchallenged query until – pop! – It blew up in her face.

    Her need to identify as “Black Female Victim,” finally out-distanced any value her education and advocacy provided the minority community.

    God willing, there’s a correspondent of Color out there who take this woman to task for declaring herself blessed by an, “Immaculate Complexion,” and send her packing back to Montana before we’re subjected to another freak whose “celebrity” is based more on what they are not, than what they have accomplished.

    • Fred says:

      We let people identify as they choose in this country.

    • Rachel Dolezal is an example of how some people exploit the Black community for their own agendas. Dolezal identifies as “White” when suing Howard University for reverse discrimination, and then deceives African Americans by professing to be Black when it fits her fancy. The foremost danger to the integrity of Black culture is not its enemies, but corrupt “friends.”

  22. Mary Johannsen says:

    NBC should have vetted Ms. Dolezal before interviewing her on live television. She is quite possibly mentally ill, not because she identifies with or rejects a particular race, but because she openly states that she doesn’t have DNA proof that her parents are actually her biological mother and father. Even people who have legitimate reasons (abuse, abandonment, brainwashing, etc.) for hating their parents don’t go on national television and say, “Even though I have a birth certificate, I can’t prove they’re my mum and dad.” Probably most of us don’t have DNA evidence, but we don’t question our parentage unless there is pretty compelling evidence. Ms. Dolezal seems to wish one or both her parents are black, but wishing something doesn’t make it so. The least NBC could do is to pay to a DNA test, although I doubt Ms. Dolezal will take one.

  23. Nicholas P. Schiavone says:

    Why?

    Brian Williams Redux!?

  24. cadavra says:

    Did she kill anyone? Did she rape anyone? Did she rob a bank, sell drugs to children or bomb a building? Did she in fact break any laws at all? No? So why is this even newsworthy?

    • ImjustHereForTheComments says:

      This all started with accusations she made about a hate crime that may or may, not have happened. Given her propensity to spin lies for her own benefit I’d love to have seen her thoroughly questioned about these fables. There was a Susan Smith vibe to it and I would hope some little kid wasn’t harassed for planting a noose or writing letters filled with hate speech because she wanted to get on the news and show off her new weave.

  25. Alana Reed says:

    Rachel Dolezal signed an exclusive contract with #NBC which is why Lauer and Melissa Howard Perry gave her softball questions.

  26. Scree Krull says:

    I hope they go easy on Johnny Storm too. He is a great hero and I support his choice to change race. His sister Sue may not have accepted it, but Reed and Ben are on his side too.

  27. Craig says:

    So Variety celebrates Jenner and rejects Dolezal? For shame!!

  28. Carlo says:

    Why don’t they quit this white-black; black-white and just act as people. It should be person first, race or gender last. Come on, people, just grow up and act with some intelligence.

  29. Charlie says:

    You are so right in pointing out how slack NBC Today Show was intwrview if the trannsy woman NAACP former leader. Today has become so irrelevant and inane I have begun to resent their big salaries for a show that is little more than a self aggrandizing pep rally for the hosts and their ‘friends’ as they call the ‘stars’ and musicians they deign to interview. I wish Today would just go off the air.

  30. 1favored says:

    It’s ironic how the black trans-racial to white gets more understanding than white to black trans-racial. It like if a white person identifies as black she is crazy, but a black person identifying as white is “better” . Is being white really better than being black? I think why people think she’s nuts boils down to the “elephant question in the room”…”Why would a white person ever want to be black I America?”

  31. dean says:

    So you’re ok the way the press a*s licks Caitlyn Jenner?

  32. Louise Connors says:

    If she identifies as black, then why did she sue Howard University for discriminating against her for being white??

  33. Mjkbk says:

    Dolezal a future NBC correspondent?

    Well sure, if NBC has its way. But she will be too busy writing the book and screenplay about her supposed life story.

    Count on it.

    • JFitzgerald says:

      Ms. Dolezal’s future is suggested below:

      Ms. Dolezal reports that the kerfuffle over her alleged falsehoods had nothing to do with her resignation from the NAACP.

      “Of course not. It’s time for me to do more for my peeps. I’ve been approached by a major cosmetic group and will be marketing my new line of products.

      “We’re calling it, ‘Yo, Girl! One-and-Done.’ We’re targeting it toward all our White sisters who, for years. have struggled to find their way out of their bland pale selves.

      “We’re really excited. Our theme song is, “It Only Takes a Minute Girl,” by Tavares. That describes how fast it is to apply our blush.”

      When asked which celebrity she’d like as the “face” of her new product line, Ms. Dolezal laughed. “Well, me of course! Who else does ‘Made-Up…err, “make-up” better?”

  34. David Goldsmith says:

    *teased* not *traded.* Autocorrect.

  35. David Goldsmith says:

    Melissa Harris-Perry did in fact ask her about her hair. It was traded between segments on All In. She also asked her point blank if Dolezal was a con artist. Check your tape, then write your article.

    • Joy Karen says:

      Thank you David Goldsmith for your insightful comments because people constantly refer to events in Rachel’s past as if their references are “gospel”. As Pope has written, “A little learning is a dangerous thing…”, this certainly applies. Most people who cite things that happened at Howard University or Rachel’s early upbringing–these folk do not know the total story and are merely guessing , speculating and/or only half reading. Too many Black people are constantly making jokes about Rachel while whites seem to HATE Rachel because it has never happened in any of their lifetimes that anyone would cede their whiteness and actually opt for blackness. Blacks should be celebrating Rachel instead of following behind those who post downright racist things about Rachel. One tweet said that since Rachel has opted for blackness that she must have always believed that OJ Simpson was innocent. What did that comment mean–other than rampant racism.

      • hellifknow says:

        Blacks should be celebrating Rachel? Yes because we Blacks need to be told what to do and who to celebrate. Thanks for letting us know. Rachel is a con artist and a fraud and NOBODY should be celebrating her. But you go ahead and tell us what ‘we’ should do. Surprised you didn’t throw in a ‘you people’ while you were at it.

      • playproducer says:

        Ironically she didn’t cede her whiteness when she sued Howard University for suspending her scholarship so they could give her free tuition to a black student who was actually black. She accused them of prejudice because she was white, and she admits it during this interview – “no, i didn’t think it was fair” – but Matt Lauer doesn’t say a peep about her blatant entitlement and how she conveniently identified herself as a white woman when it served her. No follow up, nothing got contested. This interview was a joke and an insult to the intelligence of all who watched it.

      • roger says:

        In our society, we no longer seem to hold people responsible for lying. Misrepresenting the facts. Making stuff up. Pretending to be what they aren’t. How would you feel if you were an actual African American colleague of this woman in the NAACP, finding out that she completely mislead you as to her race? Would you feel sympathetic, or duped?

        I could pretend to be a doctor, and treat patients, because I “identify” as a doctor. It doesn’t make me one. Would that be okay?

        This woman has real problems because despite being outed as white, she refuses to admit it, even faced with obvious facts it’s impossible to deny.

        She’s a highly neurotic individual. She needs psychiatric help. Period. Wake up and smell the coffee, as Ann Landers used to say.

      • Blacks are rightly upset with what she did. She’s essentially appropriating the “black experience” for her own personal gain.

        The above is far more rational than the psuedo-pomo construct you’re envisioning.

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