How far does one have to tumble down the rabbit hole of denial before invoking the name of civil rights icon Rosa Parks as a shield against their own dubious deeds? Ask United States Rep. George Santos (R-New York). The congressman, facing 13 criminal charges and currently under local and federal investigations, has found himself on the receiving end of some hard truths on MSNBC’s The Sunday Show.
On a recent segment, host Jonathan Capehart had no time for Santos’ antics, shown clearly when he took the GOP representative to task for comparing himself to Rosa Parks. This comparison came to light during Santos’ appearance on the conservative podcast, Mike Crispi Unafraid, in which he criticized U.S. Senator Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) suggestion that he, Santos, should sit at the back of the room during President Joe Biden’s February State of the Union address.
Santos’ retort? “Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the back, and neither am I gonna sit in the back.” Yikes, talk about a misguided analogy.
Capehart asked his guests, Basil Smikle Jr., a political strategist, and director of the Public Policy program at Hunter College, and Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham, for their takes on the matter.
Smikle didn’t mince words: “It’s idiotic.” He went on to describe how painful it was to watch Santos attempt to navigate New York politics while downplaying the immense impact of civil rights leaders to inflate his political kleptocracy. “He stole this election by lying about everything that he is and everything that he’s done and then compares himself to one of the greatest leaders of our nation. It diminishes the power of Black leaders…It’s normalizing hate and diminishing all that has made progress in this country.”
Capehart didn’t shy away from echoing the sentiment. He called out the ongoing trend of ignoring or diminishing the contributions of African Americans, only to later exploit their legacies to cover up personal failings or bad faith actions.
And as for Graham? She delivered the knockout punch: “Rosa Parks did not sit in the back of the bus. But you know what else she didn’t do? She didn’t lie about every aspect of her life. And when she got arrested, she was protesting Jim Crow laws. Unlike George Santos, who’s facing 13 federal counts for everything from fraud to money laundering. So, yes, he needs to keep the sacred name of Rosa Parks out of his lying mouth.”
In an era of political theatrics, it’s moments like these that remind us of the need for accountability, respect for history, and the power of speaking truth to power.