Hannah-Jones claims innocence in gushy CNN segment: 'I just produce journalism'

Media top headlines July 8

CNN scolding critics of critical race theory, Parler cheering on Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech, and the Washington Post giving the White House ‘Three Pinnochios’ for claim Republicans want to defund the police round out today’s top media headlines

New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones claimed to be baffled by the criticism she’s received since creating the controversial but award-winning 1619 Project, which examines the long-term consequences of slavery in America, and her decision to turn down tenure at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. 

Earlier this week, Hannah-Jones rejected UNC’s offer and explained to CBS’ Gayle King that it was because of “what it took” to get tenure, as the school initially did not extend an offer. The board, however, argued that was due to miscommunication, not politics. Still, Hannah-Jones suggested race played a role in the UNC’s dragging its feet because of backlash over the 1619 Project, saying, “Every other chair before me, who also happened to be White, received that position with tenure.” She revealed to King that she instead accepted a position at Howard University.

Hannah-Jones continued her argument on CNN’s “New Day,” arguing that she didn’t know why people find her “so threatening.”

“I’m a journalist,” she said. “I just produce journalism.”

She suggested to have been the victim of “powerful people” who have failed to recognize “systemic inequality” in the country.

“And I think powerful people have a big investment in maintaining the status quo,” she said. “They don’t want us to recognize the systemic inequality in our country, because if you recognize it, then you have to fix it. So I’ve just kind of been caught up in this larger concerns about the demographic shifts in our country, about the balance of power in our country, and, you know, trying to really silence me at the university as part of a wave of these anti-1619 Project, anti-critical race theory, anti-history bills that are being passed. And they’re being passed in the same legislatures that are also passing voter suppression laws. So these two things are going hand in hand.” 

She noted that the United States is facing a reckoning after the death of George Floyd, where we are starting “to see some real shifts in the understanding of kind of the structural inequality of racism upon which this country was built.”

Joined by Hannah-Jones in the CNN segment was University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Media Dean Susan King, who was one of her champions at the school. King pledged to not “give up” the fight that had engaged Hannah-Jones. CNN anchor John Berman also appeared to take the journalist’s side, asking King “how much it hurt” to lose Hannah-Jones and “how did UNC blow it so badly?”

“I know my faculty won’t give up that fight and we’re united as a campus around the issues that Nikole’s candidacy brought, in a way that I’ve never seen before,” King said.

King was also featured in a CBS “This Morning” segment on Wednesday in which she praised Hannah-Jones as a “once-in-a-generation journalist.” The CBS panelists themselves joined in in heaping praise on Hannah-Jones, noting that Howard University was “lucky” to have her. 

CBS correspondent Jericka Duncan also suggested the UNC board had influenced by race, arguing that Hannah-Jones was not just “fighting for herself but on behalf of the many people whose opportunities are stifled because there are certain people that don’t want certain people at their institutions.”

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