Writer/producer David Simon is taking considerable heat online for using the N-word in a sarcastic tweet about a town hall meeting on black issues that aired on Fox News, featuring Donald Trump and with Sean Hannity as host.
"Hannity my n---a!" Simon tweeted on Monday. "If they couldn't get a Ta-Nehisi or Deray to host, then who but you on the pulse of black America."
Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author and essayist whose most recent book, "Between the World and Me," is an exploration of race relations in the 21st century. DeRay Mckesson is an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Baltimore in the democratic primary; he was named to the Baltimore City schools cabinet in June. Both are black. Hannity, a conservative radio and TV voice who has a weeknight show on Fox News, is white.
Reaction to Simon's post was swift, and demonstrated how perilous it can be for any white person, even one who has spent much of his professional life writing passionately about black issues and having predominantly black casts in his TV series (which have included "The Wire" and "Treme"), to use such a racially charged expression.
"Hello, fellow white person! I see you are using racially loaded in-group vernacular! Might I suggest rethinking this idea?" tweeted @sedna_51.
"You really could have made this point without using the N-word but chose to include it. Why?" @yinkadoodle tweeted in reply.
"Don't ever use the word in a serious or joking matter. You think the The Wire gave you the permission?" wrote @muluberhan89.
"This is NOT cool! Shame on you! Where's the outrage from this? People mad at skittles compare but not this?" tweeted @NikkiProverbs31.
Mckesson also weighed in, tweeting on Monday "David, let's talk."
For his part, Hannity shot back, "Checkmate David. Facts confuse and confound ignorant liberals like you. Are Americans better off after 8 yrs of BHO?" (In the wake of Simon's initial tweet, he and Hannity sent several often heated tweets back and forth.)
In speaking with the Post, Simon defended his initial tweet as obvious sarcasm, but acknowledged that not everyone was taking it in the manner in which it was intended.
"Obviously it veered off track for some people, but just as obviously I think it's clear that the intent and purpose wasn't to offend anyone other than a media group that feels entitled to appoint a white conduit for a birther candidate to discuss issues of import to the black community," Simon, a one-time reporter for The Baltimore Sun, told the Post.
"Would I do it again? No, as the intended purpose was lost amid debate over the word itself. And if that many people are genuinely upset, then their unhappiness is certainly not worth it for a 140-character critique of Sean Hannity and Donald Trump's racial presumptions. But no, I don't think the tweet evidences racism at all, or that the sarcastic tone of an unreliable narrator who claims Sean Hannity as the third-best choice to address black issues with Donald Trump can be lost on most people."
Simon had his online defenders as well.
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"Im not mad at you. @seanhannity hosting an African American forum is completely hilarious," tweeted @wonlov10.