Fox News host Tucker Carlson is in the hot seat again, this time for mispronouncing Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ first name on his show Tuesday.
Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton adviser Richard Goodstein, Carlson’s guest at the time, immediately pounced, declaring Carlson’s mispronunciation disrespectful.
“Her name is pronounced ‘comma’ – like the punctuation mark – ‘la.’ Seriously, I’ve heard every sort of bastardization of that. That’s how it is. ‘Comma-la,’ ” Goodstein said.
Carlson’s response was simple: “I unintentionally mispronounced her name. … So what?”
Goodstein explained further that, for a minority woman on a national election ticket, correctly pronouncing her name is a “bare minimum” sign of respect.
“So I’m disrespecting her by mispronouncing her name unintentionally? So it begins,” Carlson said, grinning.
The host got a little heated in the exchange, as he is wont to do, but he makes an important point.
Journalists and commentators should, of course, endeavor to pronounce people’s names correctly. However, mistakes do happen. And when they do, it can be useful to correct the pronunciation for future use, but it’s also important to move past the mistake to the substance of the conversation.
In the interview with Carlson, Goodstein appears unwilling to move on.
Carlson and Goodstein’s exchange likely is a preview of the next three months. Now that Harris officially is Joe Biden’s running mate, the left will use her intersectional credentials as a shield against any criticism of her policies.
The left ran this kind of cover for President Barack Obama for eight years. Criticism of his policies was conflated with criticism of the man, and any criticism of the man must be based on his race.
By that logic, the only reason one might criticize President Obama’s policies is because he or she is racist.
That’s absurd, obviously. People can, and did, take issue with many of Obama’s policies regardless of his race, not because of it.
Now, the left undoubtedly will apply the same logic to any attempted criticism of Harris’ policies. Never mind that she’s extremely radical. If you disagree with her, you must be racist or sexist.
More broadly, for years now the far left has claimed that things like mispronouncing a person’s name are microaggressions, akin to committing violence against the person. They encourage people to feel like victims over every perceived slight, instead of assuming that most people generally are doing the best they can.
Mispronunciations are common across all races and regions. No one knows how to pronounce every word or name. A few years ago, Dictionary.com even ran a Twitter thread on words that bookworms mispronounce because they were learned through reading.
Names can be particularly difficult. That’s why J.K. Rowling, in the fourth Harry Potter book, had Hermione Granger sound out her name for Viktor Krum: It gave Rowling an opportunity to hordes of confused readers.
Kamala Harris knows her name is uncommon. In 2016, while campaigning for the Senate, she released a video of children explaining how to correctly say ‘Kamala.’
Of course, it’s important to pronounce the names of public officials correctly. But when someone unintentionally makes a mistake, it’s better to show a little grace than to assume malicious intent.
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