From Jim Gilmore, the former Republican governor of Virginia: “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.”Bill Moyers had a quite different response. He talked about a lynching of Jesse Washington, a black man in Waco in 1916.
Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, said in a statement that Mr. Obama was trying to “deflect guilt from Muslim madmen.” He said the president’s comparisons were “insulting” and “pernicious.”
And, of course, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News had a field day.
He had been sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. No witnesses saw the crime; he allegedly confessed but the truth of the allegations would never be tested. The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time. Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground, and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Jesse Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.” When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs. The party was over.
Between 1882 and 1968 — 1968! — there were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the US. About a quarter of them were white people, many of whom had been killed for sympathizing with black folks