Joe Lieberman Blackfaced, Jane Hamsher Redfaced

Jane Hamsher Joe Lieberman Blackface Photo A rather innocuous HuffPo post by Jane Hamsher yesterday, entitled “On the Ground with Lamont/Lieberman,” was illustrated with a PhotoShopped image of Joe Lieberman and Bill Clinton depicted at right.

Michelle Malkin and a slew of conservative bloggers jumped on it yesterday and the image was quickly and quietly removed. Oddly, the bottom of the post still says “(Graphic by DarkBlack)” even though there is no graphic. Whether DarkBlack specializes in putting blackface on photographs is unclear at this writing.

This is the second major incident involving Democrats putting blackface on opposition candidates as part of a campaign. The first time was Maryland lieutenant governor/U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele. It was especially bizarre in Steele’s case, given that Steele is already black.

Hamsher has issued a typical Hollywood non-apology apology: “I sincerely apologize to anyone who was genuinely offended by the choice of images accompanying my blog post today on the Huffington Post. It’s also important to note that I do not, nor have I ever worked for Ned Lamont’s campaign. However, at their request, I removed the image earlier today.” So, she doesn’t think she’s actually done anything wrong here but, hey, if you’re offended–but only sincerely offended, not just somewhat offended–she’s sorry you’re so stupid as to be offended.

As to her non-connection to Lamont’s campaign, that is, quite frankly, a lie. Dan Balz points out in today’s WaPo, “She is not on the campaign staff but has actively promoted Lamont’s candidacy and helped raise money for him through her blog.” Later in the piece, Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein notes that, “She travels with him, she’s raised money for them and has become the primary mouthpiece for him in the blogosphere.” But even that substantially downplays Hamscher’s role in the campaign. She has, for example, produced a television commercial for Lamont. That featured Lamont. Tom Maguire has the details. View it on Flickr (via Malkin).

The truly bizarre thing about all this is that nothing in the blog post in question even remotely dealt with racial issues. In the non-apology apology, she explains,

For weeks, Senator Lieberman has attempted to woo African Americans by pretending to be someone he clearly is not. Meanwhile, his campaign has liberally distributed race-baiting fliers that have the “paid for by” Joe’s campaign disclaimer at the bottom, lying to the press about their intended recipients.

But the “race baiting” is the kind of stuff that white politicians of a certain age always use when courting blacks, noting that they marched with Dr. King and the like. The message, “I’ve always been on your side” is not “race baiting,” it’s pandering. The flip side of the flier, meanwhile, notes that Lamont resigned from a (mostly?) white country club once he decided to run for the Senate and a quote of Lamont saying “I didn’t pay much attention to that before the race began, to tell the truth.”

Does that merit putting Lieberman in blackface? Certainly, a Republican general election campaign would be excoriated for using it against a Democrat. As political satire, it’s incredibly risky, period. But to use it in the context of a blog post that has nothing to do with the flier, or race relations in general, is just inexplicable. As AllahPundit puts it,

Incidentally, what message, do you suppose, was she trying to convey with this bit of ‘shoppery? Gilliard’s photoshop of Michael Steele was a comment on how conservatives supposedly see blacks, with the blackface a grotesque symbol of Steele’s perceived willingness to play to racial stereotypes. Hamsher’s image presumably is a comment on Lieberman being a closet Republican who’s posing as a Democrat, her symbol for which is … minstrel make-up?

John Hawkins adds,

Who writes a post like that and then goes, “You know, what would really make this post hum? A picture of Joe Lieberman in blackface for no reason whatsoever. After all, there’s nothing more hilarious than a Jew in blackface!”

In terms of the Lamont campaign, Kevin Ayward makes the most salient point:

Coziness with bloggers like Hamsher (and several million of his own dollars) helped propel Lamont from nowhere into a tight race for the Democratic nomination U.S Senator, but that coziness comes with a price. When one of their biggest boosters has a Kos-style “Screw ‘Em” moment like this, they have little choice but to distance themselves; potentially alienating their biggest boosters…

Guerrilla campaigning has its costs. Of course, without the netroots, Lamont would have been eliminated from the race months ago. That he’s in position to topple Lieberman Tuesday is simply stunning. If this incident caused a backlash and derailed his campaign, it would be positively Shakespearean.

Update (Steve Verdon): The Commissar points to this rather disturbing tendency to call Senator Lieberman’s volunteers the “LieberYouth”. Apparently the following blogs have all used this terms,

Couldn’t be any relation could it? Naw that would be downright despicable.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Pretty freakin’ tasteless. Hamsher should apologize, tho I won’t hold my breath.

    Lamont would be well advised to hold a press conference, today, where he holds up the picture and declares that he would rather lose the primary than win with support like that. Sistah Souljah, etc.

  2. MT says:

    Maybe I missed it above, but today’s Vent is on the subject if anyone is interested.

  3. Anderson says:

    Well, Hamsher did indeed apologize, kind of. I stand corrected. Lamont still needs to seize the moment, however.

  4. Bithead says:


    I wonder what Hamsher had to say about Mel Gibson?

  5. Bithead says:

    As a seperate issue, interesting that the other person in the picture was Bill Clinton, the self proclaimed first Black President in American history.

  6. Anderson says:

    the self proclaimed first Black President

    Wait, so Toni Morrison and Bill Clinton are the same person?

    I knew I’d never seen them in the same room together. Makes the whole Monica thing just that much kinkier.

  7. Pug says:

    Wait, so Toni Morrison and Bill Clinton are the same person?

    No. No. Toni Morrison self-proclaimed Bill Clinton as the first black president. What’s wrong with that?

  8. slickdpdx says:

    Excellent post title.