A panel of black political commentators on CNN imploded Thursday into a screaming match as they discussed the effect of President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts could have on the black community.
As the panel discussed the cuts, Paris Dennard, a Trump supporter, pointed out that HBCUs, the acronym for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, were not included in the list of proposed cuts. But host Don Lemon found the HBCU argument to be less important than other social programs.
"So a lot of people say HBCUs are important," Lemon declared, "but there are a lot of people watching here tonight going, 'HBCUs? I gotta eat, I gotta live somewhere. Great, yes, I would love to send my kid to a college, any college,' and hopefully, maybe they want to send them to an HBCU, but why are you rambling on about HBCUs when we're talking about urban development, about other education, about health and human services? There are more important issues than HBCUs."
Dennard seemed taken aback by Lemon's statement. "Whoa, Don," he said, "I would caution you by saying, by saying to all those 300,000 students who attend HBCUs — "
"I said there are more important issues," Lemon interrupted, "don't put words in my mouth, did you hear what I said? I said there are more important issues."
"I would say that HBCUs are important, and when you put up a graphic showing all these cuts—" Dennard was interrupted again.
"Paris, look, my entire family went to HBCUs," Lemon objected, "don't give me the lesson, I know what HBCUs, look at me, I know what they are, and I'm a product of an HBCU family. My point is there are more important things than HBCUs and you keep, you keep pointing to one of them, when I've gone down a list of things that are really important, and when I'm telling you that I'd rather eat than, or some people it's the priority for them is to eat rather than where they're going to go to college."
"All I'm saying, Don," Dennard continued, "is that on the graphic that you put up, you showed that where there were cuts, and I was pointing out to your audience that there might be a 13.5 percent cut to the Department of Education, but within that cut as it relates to African-Americans, no cuts to HBCUs, no cuts to Pell [federal student loan grants], when you look at other department things such as charter schools, there was an increase, to charter school funding, which African-Americans overwhelmingly support."
CNN's graphic details some of the budget cuts in President Trump's proposed plan. (Image Source: Twitter Video)
"When you look at things like building the wall," Dennard explained, "and enforcement and things that are going to directly impact jobs, there are monies going into DHS, which is going to lead to more jobs — ICE officers and immigration officers, which African-Americans can get those jobs. So you can make fun of HBCUs—"
"Paris wait, don't say I made fun of HBCUs, that's a flat-out lie," Lemon protested, "That's not, I didn't make fun of HBCUs."
Dennard exclaimed, "You said they weren't important," to which Lemon snapped back, "That's a lie."
"He didn't say they weren't important," Angela Rye broke in. "He said there were more important things."
At this point the panel broke down into yelling.
When things calmed down, Lemon gave Shermichael Singleton the floor.
If I could interject, OK, the president did not cut HBCUs, the funding remains the same as it did prior to the president being sworn in. OK, that's fine, but I want to talk about more critical issues such as housing. For example, 85 percent of HUD's budget, which oversees housing for a lot of poor people, who happen to be African-American, 85 percent is residual, so you decreased the budget by $6.3 billion and you will see a net loss of people who rely on housing vouchers. For example, predominately of them, again, are African-Americans, and so when you look at programs such as that when you're going to be potentially decreasing the number of housing vouchers that will assist people with moving out of public housing, into a home, a rental home where they're going to have a decreased rent because of government's ability to assist them, I think it's extremely troubling.
Clearly, you want to get people out of a bad neighborhood to a more decent neighborhood; to assist them with some point being able to move on to what we call a market-rate apartment, meaning essentially they can pay at market rate with anyone else. That's problematic when the president says, 'I want revitalize the inner cities,' et cetera, when you're cutting programs that will hurt people who you claim to want to assist. I think it's extremely hypocritical to say that.
"Many African-Americans are not concerned about a border wall," Singleton continued, "I hate to say that, many are not. When there's a large number of African-Americans who are living in communities where they're now going to have to worry if they are currently relying on a housing voucher, is that housing voucher still going to be there. If you're a single mother and you rely on WIC [Women, Infants and Children], will that program still be there?"
How will President Trump's budget cuts impact the African American community? https://t.co/qi1brsGtmI
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) March 17, 2017
Trump released his budget proposals Wednesday to much liberal consternation as they decried the cuts that would be made to many departments and offices. Included in the plan was a request to begin construction on the promised border wall to the tune of $4.1 billion for the next two years.