Eboni K. Williams had never received anything like the responses she garnered after she aired her grievances with President Trump while on-air on “The Fox News Specialists.”
The co-host addressed Trump on Monday in her “Eboni’s Docket” segment, which she writes herself, berating him for failing to specify white nationalist groups in his condemnation of the violence that occurred at Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. She told Variety in an interview on Wednesday that her personal website, which usually receives an average of 10-15 emails after each segment, was inundated with over 150 emails, only three of which were anything other than “seething, scathing” takedowns.
“I should meet my maker soon, I shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets of New York,” she cited as some examples of the type of comments she received. “They heard that I live in Harlem — Harlem needs to watch out.” Her book publisher became so concerned that he asked her to request additional security from Fox News, which she did — Williams is now escorted to and from the building when she arrives to work. Her book, “Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success,” is available next month.
Williams explained that the typical responses she gets from Fox News viewers, while sometimes disagreeing with her views, often praise her ability to formulate her arguments and present them on-air, which is what makes this week’s digression so shocking for her. She chalked up the new level of vitriol directed at her as partly due to President Trump’s “tacit compliance” of violent political rhetoric, which she said was apparent in his Tuesday morning retweet — now deleted — of an image of a train running over someone with the CNN logo edited in over them.
“When you don’t speak out and condemn, that’s tacit compliance in my book,” she said. “So whether President Trump approves of it actually, or actually wants it, I think is irrelevant because what we know is that these people think they are acting on behalf of the President of the United States.” She added that the retweet was “typical and unfortunately expected” and that while it is protected free speech, it does little to help the situation.
“It flies in the face of what I hoped would be a better day post-Congressman Steve Scalise’s shooting, where for two seconds, everybody said, ‘Let’s do better, let’s do better, we can disagree, but let’s stop with the violent political rhetoric,’ and, really, what becomes violent political action.”
Williams reiterated her “Docket” belief that Trump’s supporters will never turn on him, and added that she thinks that’s where his power to call out the behavior that resulted in Heather Heyer’s death lies. “I truly believe what he said, that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they will stand by him,” she said. “So I think that empowers him to actually forcefully reject and speak directly to the fears and the anger that’s driving this level of violence and white supremacy and Nazism, I think he can actually speak it down in an aggressive way and they will still support him.”
Williams is a registered independent and voted for Obama, who she has nevertheless openly criticized in the past. Williams compared Obama’s stance on violence in Chicago to Trump’s stance now. “While I think President Obama was uniquely positioned as a black man and the leader of the free world in that moment to speak to those black males in Chicago in a way I would have better appreciated, it’s a similar thing with President Trump right now,” she said. “He’s a white male that represents…the patriarchal, white male dominant structure, so he could speak to white America in a way that Obama never could.”
Many of Williams’ critics took issue with their perception that she didn’t address the role of the counter-protesters in the violence that occurred at Charlottesville in her “Docket” speech. “I don’t think they were at fault because they didn’t drive a car into a crowd of people and kill Heather Heyer,” Williams said. “That was one individual that self-identified as a white nationalist and Nazi. To even have an analysis beyond that is irresponsible.”
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