MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell repeatedly hectored presidential candidate Herman Cain, who is black, in an interview Thursday night, asking Cain to explain why he didn’t play an active role in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Cain, who graduated high school at the height of civil rights protests in 1963, wrote in his newly released book that he was too young to join the demonstrations, and that his father had advised him to keep his head down and focus on school.
“Where do you think black people would be sitting on the bus today if Rosa Parks had followed your father’s advice?” O’Donnell asked.
“My father was not giving Rosa park advice,” Cain responded. “I was a high school student. “The college students were doing the sit ins. The college students were doing the freedom rides.”
“If you were a high school student…you didn’t need to get arrested and be in the middle of that,” he added.
O’Donnell pressed on, insisting that since Cain was in college from 1963 to 1967, he would have been old enough then to participate. That prompted a tense back-and-forth lasting several minutes, with O’Donnell continuing to press that claim, and Cain growing increasingly frustrated while rebuffing that point as an, “irrelevant comparison.”
“Did you expect every black student at every black college in America to be out there in the middle of every fight?” Cain asked.
“You didn’t know what I was doing with the rest of my life. You didn’t know what my family situation had been,” he continued.
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