Audience: Condoleezza Rice Is No Black History Hero

Host Michel Martin and producer Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," report on the critical reaction to a Black History Month tribute to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They also offer an update on the story of Mississippi sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott. The two were recently released from prison where they were serving life sentences for a 1994 armed robbery (for which they have maintained their innocence) on condition that Gladys donate a kidney to her sister Jamie, who is on dialysis. But doctors now say both women are too overweight to proceed with the transplant.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me as he is most Fridays. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, TELL ME MORE is wrapping up its commemoration of Black History Month. And as you know, since the beginning of February, we've been airing a series of short essays by NPR staff and a few of our regular contributors. We thought it would be a good idea to have them talk about the figure or event from black history that they admire most.

But one of those tributes in particular created quite a stir this week. And I'm talking about Republican columnist and blogger Mary Kate Cary's salute to Condoleezza Rice. Rice was the first female national security adviser and later the first black female secretary of State under George W. Bush. Here's a clip from Mary Kate's tribute.

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Ms. MARY KATE CARY (Columnist, U.S. News and World Report): Condoleezza Rice grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. In her recent book, "Extraordinary Ordinary Lives," she vividly recalls the violence of the Ku Klux Klan and the death of four girlfriends killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. Her extraordinary ordinary life is a role model for American women, including ones like me who are not African-American.

HILL: Now, Michel, after that aired, we heard from listeners who didn't think Condoleezza Rice was worthy of such a tribute and Michael(ph) posted this comment on our website. He writes: becoming a powerful member from a minority group does not make one a hero in any sense. Rice was a terrible secretary of State who helped frame some of the worst policies in decades. In a just world, she, Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney would be in matching orange jumpsuits awaiting trial.

MARTIN: Thanks, Michael. But, remember, we asked each of our guests to offer a tribute to the person they most admire and this is their personal opinion and they're entitled to it. But, Michael, thank you for your perspective.

Lee, listeners might remember the Scott sisters. We've been following the story of the Mississippi siblings Jamie and Gladys. They were convicted in 1994 for their part in an armed robbery, which authorities say may have netted them as much as $11. They deny their involvement, by the way and have consistently done so. A jury imposed two life sentences on the women. They were freed by Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, last month, after serving 16 years. They spoke to us shortly after they were released. Here's Jamie Scott.

Ms. JAMIE SCOTT: Even though all of our appeals had been denied and rejected, I kept believing that one day God was going to send somebody, because I couldn't see a God allowing us to spend the rest of our life in prison for a crime we didn't commit.

MARTIN: They were released on condition that Gladys Scott donate a kidney to her sister Jamie, who is on dialysis. This week we learned that both sisters are too overweight for that transplant to proceed. A doctor has told Jamie that she must lose close to 100 pounds to receive a new kidney. And her sister Gladys must lose 40 pounds, and she also has to quit smoking.

Lee, what else?

HILL: Well, Michel, on a lighter note, I know you remember this.

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Mr. JIMMY MCMILLAN (Former Gubernatorial Candidate, New York): I represent the Rent is Too Damn High Party. My main job is to provide a roof over your head, food on the table and money in your pocket. This is politics as usual, playing that silly game. And it's not going to happen. The Rent is Too Damn High Movement, the people I'm here to represent can't afford to pay their rent.

HILL: Well, that was Jimmy McMillan. He was one of the candidates for New York governor last year. And those comments, at a gubernatorial debate in October, went viral online and skyrocketed McMillan to stardom. And, Michel, I can't tell you how many times I watched that clip on YouTube myself. As we know, he did not win the governor's race. Andrew Cuomo did.

But McMillan has found himself back in the news. He's officially a Republican now. And guess what, Michel? He says he is running for president in 2012.

MARTIN: Well, that should be interesting. Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE NPR.

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