Black Conservatives: Olbermann Dead Wrong on Free Speech-Dred Scott Comparison

Washington, DC: As they did with Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), members of the Project 21 black leadership network are taking MSNBC talking head Keith Olbermann to task for his wrong-headed and offensive behavior in equating the free speech victory in the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to the infamous Dred Scott case.

The ruling in yesterday’s Citizens United decision eases certain restrictions on the free speech rights of businesses, associations, organized labor and certain advocacy groups with regard to their participation in political campaigns.  During a tirade on his “Countdown” program on MSNBC on January 21, Olbermann said: “Today, the Supreme Court of Chief Justice John Roberts, in a decision that might actually have more dire implications than Dred Scott v. Sanford.”

In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that black Americans who were either slaves or the descendants of slaves could not be, and never had been, U.S. citizens.  The decision, formally known as Scott v. Sandford, also invalidated the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in portions of U.S. territories in the west.

Olbermann also suggested the decision in the Citizens United case would lead to corporations and wealthy citizens essentially buying lawmakers.

In response, Project 21 members said:

Deneen Borelli: “For starters, to equate a decision that gives people more freedom of speech to a decision that denied basic rights to blacks is offensive and wrong.  Then there is Olbermann’s assumption that the American public today is a flock of sheep.  Unlike Olbermann, the Court realizes freedom of speech is under assault, and the American people can’t be bamboozled by the increased participation of a few rich individuals or companies.  I think the failure of Obamacare – despite massive spending by the drug lobby and unions to promote it – is proof of that.

“It also seems as if the pot is calling the kettle black.  MSNBC is currently owned by General Electric.  GE Capital was bailed out by the taxpayers.  GE CEO Jeff Immelt is a close advisor to President Obama, and GE would profit from Obama policies such as cap-and-trade.  Olbermann has served as a cheerleader for all of this.  Are Immelt and Olbermann simply afraid to allow others to possibly gain the attention and influence GE has had all along?”  

R. Dozier Gray: “The idea that Obermann would connect the infamous Dred Scott decision to this new ruling is appalling, though not surprising.  Olbermann’s comments are, at best, hyperbolic.  In my mind, the two decisions are opposites.  The Dred Scott decision denied rights to an entire class of people and their descendants.  The Citizens United decision recognizes both the rights of individual and entities that they can use to amplify their voice.  To bring up Dred Scott is to introduce race where it simply does not belong.”

Project 21 members yesterday criticized similar remarks by Representative Grayson.  That press release can be found at

Project 21, established in 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.