It was Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. In a 2008 profile, the Washington Post noted Johnson had made more than $2 million in campaign contributions since 1990, 99 percent of which went to Democrats. In the last two election cycles he's donated another $52,400, every cent of it to Democrats.
Johnson is immunized against the accusation of racism that is routinely hurled at Obama critics. Not long ago, criticizing the president was regarded as an admirable expression of dissent. Now, almost any untoward reference to Obama can get you labeled racist.
Slate's Timothy Noah wrote that a Wall Street Journal story on Obama's skinniness was a coded appeal to racism, because "any discussion of Obama's physical appearance is going to remind white people of the physical characteristic that's most on their minds."
Karen Hunter, a journalism professor and MSNBC analyst, said an Associated Press transcription of an Obama speech was "inherently racist" for accurately recounting the president's deliberate dropping of G's - "Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'." - a device he frequently uses to sound more folksy.
Melissa Harris-Perry, a Tulane professor who also does commentary for MSNBC, declared that a failure to reelect Obama would be proof of the irredeemable racism of even liberal America: "If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors."
But nowhere is the racist calumny more cheaply employed than in the left's ritual smearing of the tea party. According to a new CBS poll, those alleged tea-party racists put Herman Cain in a tie for the lead in the GOP presidential race. The unfunny comedienne Janeane Garofalo quipped to the even less funny Keith Olbermann, "Cain is probably well-liked by some of the Republicans because it hides the racist elements of the Republican Party."
You see how this works. If you don't vote for the son of a globe-trotting interracial couple who was raised in Indonesia, attended a private school in Hawaii, and went to Columbia and Harvard, you're racist. But if you do vote for the son of a chauffeur and a housekeeper who grew up in the Jim Crow South and went to Morehouse College and Purdue, you're also racist.
Now Rick Perry is accused of hunting on a lease on which sits a racist rock. If true, does it show such insensitivity and poor judgment as to render him unfit to be president? Before you answer that, ask yourself if sitting for 20 years in the pews of a church led by an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist does the same.
Sadly, real racism and bigotry continue to exist. Desperate attempts to save a sinking presidency with despicably false accusations make it harder to battle the real thing.
Jonathan Gurwitz writes for the San Antonio Express-News.