Home Posts Amid CNN's Silence On Rick Santorum's Racism, Native American Groups Launch A "Day Of Action"
Amid CNN's Silence On Rick Santorum's Racism, Native American Groups Launch A "Day Of Action"
Racism

Amid CNN's Silence On Rick Santorum's Racism, Native American Groups Launch A "Day Of Action"


It's been nearly a month since Native American activists and allies began calling on CNN to fire senior political commentator Rick Santorum after the former Republican presidential candidate said there was "nothing" in America before white colonizers arrived and that Native Americans haven't done much for culture anyway.

So, on Thursday, Native advocacy groups such as IllumiNative, the National Congress of American Indians, NDN Collective, and Native American Rights Fund will hold a "day of action" that will include a day-long tweetstorm with the hashtag #RemoveRick and a Twitter chat with Native journalists to discuss the impact of Native erasure in the media.

They also enlisted celebrities to help pressure the news network to cut ties with Santorum and make other systemic changes, citing “multiple instances of erasure, bias, and racism against Native peoples at the network,” according to the advocates.

“CNN needs to be held accountable for what they put on the airwaves,” said Crystal Echohawk, executive director of IllumiNative, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the visibility of Indigenous people. “Ignoring, silencing, and evading accountability to Native peoples are erasure tactics. CNN has consistently demonstrated that they are a willing participant in the erasure of Native peoples racism.”

The organizations will also distribute an open letter to CNN executives and advertisers, which has over 120 signatures from Native leaders, actors such as Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Helms, Mark Ruffalo, Piper Perabo, and Sarah Silverman, educators, and artists.

The letter was spearheaded by Ruffalo and Indigenous activist Allie Young of Protect the Sacred, an organization dedicated to empowering Navajo youth.

Here it is in its entirety:

CNN President and CEO Jeff Zucker,

Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, John T. Stankey, CEO of AT&T, Josh Silverman, CEO of ETSY, and Saeju Jeong, CEO and Co-Founder of NOOM

As Native Americans and allies, we are deeply concerned about the network's continued employment of senior political commentator Rick Santorum, as well as CNN leadership's failure to address and take proactive steps to correct multiple instances of erasure, bias, and racism against Native Americans.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network..Rather than being fired, Santorum was given a national platform on Cuomo Primetime, where he refused to apologize for his speech.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network..Rather than being fired, Santorum was given a national platform on Cuomo Primetime, where he refused to apologize for his speech..Furthermore, no Native Americans were invited to appear on the show or network to discuss how Native Americans have been harmed and why Santorum should be removed.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network..Rather than being fired, Santorum was given a national platform on Cuomo Primetime, where he refused to apologize for his speech..Furthermore, no Native Americans were invited to appear on the show or network to discuss how Native Americans have been harmed and why Santorum should be removed..By doing so, CNN increased its efforts to erase Native Americans.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network..Rather than being fired, Santorum was given a national platform on Cuomo Primetime, where he refused to apologize for his speech..Furthermore, no Native Americans were invited to appear on the show or network to discuss how Native Americans have been harmed and why Santorum should be removed..By doing so, CNN increased its efforts to erase Native Americans..Your continued support for Santorum as a voice validates his ignorance, racism, and homophobia.

By ignoring the Native community's outrage and failing to hold Rick Santorum accountable for his hateful and ignorant comments on April 23, you have failed in your mission to be a reliable news source..Allowing Santorum to spread racist and white supremacist views to the American public is reckless, and it is an insult to the dedicated journalists whose reputations have been tarnished by Santorum's presence on the network..Rather than being fired, Santorum was given a national platform on Cuomo Primetime, where he refused to apologize for his speech..Furthermore, no Native Americans were invited to appear on the show or network to discuss how Native Americans have been harmed and why Santorum should be removed..By doing so, CNN increased its efforts to erase Native Americans..Your continued support for Santorum as a voice validates his ignorance, racism, and homophobia..

This incident occurred in the context of other troubling incidents. On April 20th, CNN Anchor Poppy Harlow incorrectly identified Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the highest-ranking Native woman elected to executive office in US history, as a white woman. There has been no action taken by CNN leadership or Poppy Harlow to publicly apologize and correct the error.

During the 2020 election, CNN was chastised for releasing a poll with “Something Else” as a catch-all category, which included Native Americans. This issue was never addressed publicly, nor was there transparent action on how CNN would change policy and process to include Native Americans. The ignorance and bias that fueled these instances will continue to occur unless CNN actively commits to changing behavior.

Ignoring, silencing, and evading accountability to Native peoples are erasure tactics, and CNN has repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing participants in the erasure of Native peoples. This erasure is a form of racism that whitewashes history to uphold ideas of American exceptionalism and reinforces white supremacy, and it is a threat to all communities of color.

1. CNN must remove Rick Santorum from its platforms and commit to establishing standards and policies for its on-air talent and contributors that ensure respect for Native peoples and Indigenous cultures.

2. CNN must diversify its on-air talent and contributors, and Native and Indigenous peoples must be included as regular commentators.

3. A Native Affairs desk and team must be established at CNN.

4. CNN must receive anti-bias training and collaborate with the Native community to develop processes for engaging with Native peoples in a respectful manner.

Furthermore, these events are fundamentally inconsistent with WarnerMedia's, CNN's parent company's, diversity and equity statement, which states that content should reflect the "diversity of our society and the world around us" and that the company is committed to "preserving a culture of opportunity, inclusion, and respect." CNN's actions in relation to Native peoples have failed to meet those standards.

We have included CNN's major advertisers in this letter to make them aware that their financial support of CNN as a public, for-profit news media platform has significant negative effects on Native peoples. Advertisers' reputation as companies committed to diversity and equity will be harmed if there is no immediate change within CNN.

For too long, the concerns of Native peoples have been sidelined in the service of politicking, ratings, and profit. That CNN has three egregious mischaracterizations of Native peoples in just six months demonstrates a profound lack of commitment to their own diversity and equity standards, let alone the accurate communication of Native peoples' contributions.

CNN needs to improve its performance.

A CNN spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment right away.

Earlier this month, national civil rights and racial justice organizations chastised CNN for failing to respond to Santorum's racist comments.

“By failing to denounce these remarks, CNN intrinsically ties itself to a blatantly racist commentator,” reads a joint statement from groups including the NAACP and the National Congress of American Indians. “We call on CNN to take immediate and swift action, including immediately denouncing these remarks, issuing a written apology to American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and cutting ties with the racist commentator.”

Since making his offensive remarks at a Young America's Foundation event late last month, Santorum has appeared on CNN at least twice.

“We birthed a nation from nothing; there was nothing here,” he told students at the event. “I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Santorum was asked about the controversy during a subsequent appearance on Chris Cuomo's CNN show, and he said he "misspoke" about Native Americans and that his comments were "out of context."

The context of his remarks, on the other hand, was simply that he said them.

He made no restitution.

The Native American Journalists Association has expressed concerns about the environment being fostered at CNN and has warned Indigenous journalists not to work for the network. Other Indigenous-led organizations, such as the Native Organizers Alliance and Advance Native Political Leadership, have a petition with over 18,000 signatures calling on CNN to drop Santorum and do better with Native representation.

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