On Fox & Friends, Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed former NYPD officer John Rafferty about the Sandra Bland traffic stop. Media Matters reported, Fox’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck Suggests Sandra Bland’s Lit Cigarette Could Have Justified Police Conduct. I don’t think that’s quite correct. The main thing about Hasselbeck is that she is an incredibly stupid person. But there is no doubt, she is pushing the idea that a lit cigarette is a dangerous item. And Rafferty goes with it in a big way, having himself been a police officer and thus being a perpetually frightened person.
What I find interesting about the segment is that it is pure apologetics. The point of it is to find a way to justify the officer’s behavior. And Rafferty is really interesting in this regard. For one thing, he mentions that people have “tried to” put cigarettes out on him. I just don’t believe that. It just seems like such a facile thing to say. In modern America where a police officer cannot even risk a hang nail, the issue isn’t people going after officers with lit cigarettes, but officers killing people for moving suddenly.
Also really interesting at the end of the segment is what Rafferty says after talking about how he (very very afraid) wouldn’t want a dangerous black woman getting out of her car with a lit cigarette, “But the way you say it, unfortunately you’re locked into it. Because now, it’s being recorded. Unfortunately, these officers have to remember that.” What is he talking about? Locked into what? Following the law? This comes directly after, “I’ve had somebody try to put a cigarette out on me. It happens. I guarantee, you speak to many cops out there.” He seems to just be saying, “It’s too bad we have these cameras so we can’t just attack people like Sandra Bland.
Ultimately, the whole segment is about going over the the video to find a reason to justify what the officer did. And there’s a reason for that. One of the main things that Fox News does is make old white people feel good about the world. I wrote about this before, Why My Father Watches Fox News. To admit that the police are a bunch of crybabies who jump when they see a black woman would be to admit that those minorities might have a real complaint. So Fox News is there to sooth away those worries, “It’s okay to believe that the only thing wrong in the world is that big bad Obama.”
If someone wanted to understand the Sandra Bland traffic stop, they would not bring on a police officer. At best, what that provides is the idea that this particular police officer “stepped over the line” and “took this too personal.” It’s just this one guy. It isn’t a systemic problem and we know that because the nice calm officer is on the television to explain the way it always is except for some minor exceptions like with Sandra Bland.
The right thing to do is to bring on a sociologist or a civil rights lawyer — or anyone who can put the stop in the context of policing throughout the United States, throughout time. But that is the last thing that Fox News wants to do. Their purpose to to dismiss Sandra Bland as an example of anything but this one “exceptional” case. Hasselbeck and Rafferty were acting as the equivalent of a police officer on the street after a car accident, trying to disburse the onlookers, “Move along! Nothing to see here!”