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Tonight on AC360: War on Kwanzaa?
January 2nd, 2013
05:45 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: War on Kwanzaa?

Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman is not backing down on his characterization of Kwanzaa. In a press release titled “Why Must We Still Hear About Kwanzaa?,” he accused “hard-core left wingers” of using the holiday, celebrated by African-Americans in late December, as a way to divide the country.

Grothman claimed “almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa,” and he directly went after the creator of the holiday, Maulana Karenga, and teachers who talk about it as “real” with their students.

Tonight we’ll ask him to respond to critics who call his statement offensive, and we’ll hear from Roland Martin who will be on after Grothman because the Senator said he did not want to appear with someone who would defend Kwanzaa. Tune in at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.

UPDATE Watch the interviews:


Filed under: Kwanzaa • Roland Martin
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Cynthia Wones

    I think everyone (all three) in the conversation had worthwhile things to say. The sense that something was wrong probably came from a hurry brought on by the fact it all had to be fit in before a commercial. However, I have noticed that people are more hurried in general about conversation (compared to earlier years - which I can refer to because I will be fifty in a few days); then the hurry seems to bring in some level of apparent anger or frustration (granted, often, it can be that there is anger first and thus no patience for interaction). We can, I hope, work on that in our everyday lives. But I'm not sure how productive addressing religious holidays on a news show is (truly, I'm not sure - maybe something meaningful got across to some).

    January 11, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  2. Fred Griswold

    The reason holidays like Christmas and New Year's are so important to us is because they mark when the sun starts coming north again. In the early planting cultures they would count forward from the solstice (right on or around Dec. 21st) to know when to plant their crops. In the equatorial climes where American blacks came from, this is not a problem. Such holidays have no importance there, so there's no historical basis for Kwanzaa. In fact, if you go far south enough in Africa, maybe you could find a holiday corresponding to Christmas, but it would be at the beginning of summer, not winter. So if you take away all the exaggerations and misconceptions and Ashleigh Banfield surprises, Grothman was basically right.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  3. Imani

    Give-me-a-break all of you who think the Senator was "attacked"! He made assonine (sp?) statements about Kwanzaa and set himself up to be ridiculed. Research the principles of Kwanzaa before you judge. My family has celebrated it for over 25 years and we are NOT communist, separatists nor are we violent. However we are a tight knit family with a family business we started as a result of one of the Kwanzaa Principles. Kwanzaa is family centered and an excellent way to share ideas and gifts w/out the commercialism of other holidays.

    January 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Laura Mae

    I think the war on Kwanzaa started with Sandra Lee and her Kwanzaa cake.

    January 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  5. Bonita

    I really don't see the issue, Grothman made a comment based on his opinion and not fact. He was challenged to explain his vantage point, and it's viewed as bullying? The points that Roland made in regards to Easter are facts, Christmas as well as Easter are holidays that are derived from pagan rituals and were incorporated into mainstream Christianity because of political reasons. Ever heard of Saturnalia? If not go to the Library of Congress' website and research it.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  6. carolyn Hunter

    This wasn't journalism it was piling on bullying!!! Roland Martin is the most biased individual on any network...bar none!

    January 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  7. Deborah

    I am from the UK and had never heard of Kwanzaa untill I came to live in bermuda and is was taught in schools. I then researched it and disovered its false and recent origins. My problem is that while I am an Aetheist at least other religeous beliefs have organic origins while Kwanzaa is actually a false account of a history that doesn't exist. When we begin to accept the twisting of history we are on a slippery slope. Holocaust denial anyone?

    On a recent trip back to the UK I had a good laugh with many of my friends from Nigeria and Ivory coast about trying to find anyone who actually celebrated it!

    I have also watched this interview and share the dismay that the posiibly rather right wing senator was bullied. while he didn't defend his corner well he certainly has a point. Me I'm all for a secular situation like France Spain etc where religeon is kept out of schools.

    January 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  8. Terri

    Mr. Grothman's ignorance of Kwanzaa highlights the ignorance of most white Americans about African-American culture, not just about Kwanzaa. When did it become un-American to have a holiday that celebrates one's cultural heritage? Until we can respect the particularity of the various backgrounds of those who make up America, we will never be able to celebrate what is universal about being American, and indeed about being human. The 7 principles of Kwanzaa reinforce values of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. In Chicago, we have parades to celebrate the Irish, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, even a Celtic music festival. At my son's school, they taught the children to respect Christian holidays, Jewish holidays, Muslim holidays and Hindu holidays. To respect something does not mean that you must practice it yourself.

    While I agree that all interviewees should be treated with respect, I also think that we have to speak up and call people out when they are being absolutely ridiciulous, bigoted and disrespectful, as Mr. Grothman clearly is. The only thing worse that Mr. Grothman's comments would be if no one challenges his bigotry.

    January 3, 2013 at 2:08 am |
  9. KathS

    I don't care if the man's a Senator or a truck driver, no one should tolerate his professionally polished hate speech. The Senator's mean-spirited press release stating Kwanzaa should be "slapped down once and for all" was a hateful swipe against a harmless celebration that some people enjoy. He gives Christians a bad name. I thought Anderson's substitute did a great job tonight exposing the Senator's ignorant racism for what it was. She refused to let him backtrack or dance circles around the issue.

    January 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  10. Jack Winston

    This was the most ridiculous interview I have ever seen. Glen Grothman may be an idiot. But this reporting and interview was completely inane. Anderson should not be allowed to go on vacation anymore.

    January 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  11. Jesse

    What does he even care? What does it matter to him if other people celebrate Kwanzaa?

    January 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  12. janet johnson

    kwanzaa-why so we have to have our own holiday? I really don't get it
    What makes your ideas beter than others and why does it have to relate to race or color????????????
    Perhaps we should create holidays for Norwegians or Frenchmen or Germans or Englishmen as we are all parts of these heritages

    January 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  13. terry

    I believe Ashleu and Roland unfairly ganged up on the state Senator. They both were way off base in their comments and accusations. I believe the point the Senator was trying to make was it's fine to celebrate this holiday if one wants to, but it shouldn't be pushed on folks as an all important day.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  14. Deborah Wiersum

    Glenn Grothman has made many really outlandish statements in the state of Wisconsin. I proudly wear a red t-shirt that says "Union Thug". This is in response to Grothman's claim in February, 2010, that the thousands of mostly female, middle aged teachers protesting peacefully in Madison were nothing but Union Thugs. He has made remarks about many other groups of people, so this remark about Kwanzaa is surprising.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Gloria

      Wow, Ashleigh Banfield was very unprofessional in this interview. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I'm very liberal, but yikes, this was just inappropriate. I think it's this kind of thing that is polarizing this country. We need our journalists to be reasonable and show objectivity and simple courtesy in their interviews and in delivering the news. You are on the front lines of shaping discourse in this country. Please take the responsibility seriously.

      January 3, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Gregg D.

      The Senator had some great points about women's rights, cohesiveness and rejecting the divisiveness of Kwanzaa as it was intended to be. Ashleigh Banfield was locked and loaded in her leftist views automatically assuming this Senator was taking a racist point of view when in fact it was the opposite point of view. Roland Martin is racist as he has proven over and over and was brought on like a pit bull to attack the good Senator. Stop this Anderson, hand pick your help please. Banfield should go, now!

      January 3, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  15. Zach

    Waste of air time to talk about Kawnzaa, whatever it may be. Did Hitler ever have any holidays? Stalin? Aren't there different religions all around the world that celebrate the defeat of other religions or people/tribes? Pointless to talk about relgious holidays... Do you believe in the Greek gods? What about the Egyptian pharohs? Incans? Mayans? How many religions beheaded their own kind because it was the will of god. Why do you bother with religion in the first place? Look at the anger you cause just between you three arguing about some celebration. Lame.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • Phyllis Murphy

      Oh Zach! You are SO RIGHT! This is not news, even if an elected representative did say it, it's just bull.

      January 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Tina

      I believe what the Senator was "attemping" to convey (despite being ganged up on) is that it is fine for others to peacefully celebrate their religion, however, this holiday is being immersed into the school system and into workplaces supporting equality and he thought it important for the public to be aware of the religion's very recent origins...Depsite other acceptable religions that have an understanding to promote peace and faith..this holiday, in my recent research, was manufactured by what appeared to be a very violent and racist man.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  16. John Portelli

    Kwanza is irrelevant. I dont find the state senator's comments offensive. What I find offensive is Mr Martin claiming Easter is a pagan holiday. Easter to me is the most important holiday of Christianity, celebrating Jesus Christ rising from the dead. I don't care about eggs and bunny rabbits. That's not easter.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Bonita

      I think the point Mr. Martin was trying to make is that all holidays were created by man. You are right it is about the resurrection of Christ. My personal opinion is that Easter should not be about bunnies, eggs and candy that is a pagan holiday. Some of our young people don't even know what it is really about and I think that is the point Roland was trying to make. The Senator was talking about the man that came up with the idea for Kwanzaa, Roland was talking about the idea of Easter being a pagan holiday. As a Christian my self that day is about the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. My mother didn't buy any easter baskets, I grew up knowing what we were celebrating, I grew up during the 50's, things were different then. These retailers have made a mockery of the resurrection of Christ.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Larry

      Easter and Christmas are irrelevant. They are merely commercial promotions and do not exhibit the spirualism of Kwanzaa!

      January 3, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • Sant

      That's what he was talking about. The Easter bunny and egg hunts were apart of a Pagan holiday in Europe, he wasn't talking about Jesus dying on the cross and rising again came from a pagan holiday.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Anil C. Purohit

    So, I saw the debate with State Senator Glenn where the host brought in Roland Martin into the discussion. The senator was brought in to be slammed essentially. Whether or not, I agree with his views, CNN had no intention or interest in hearing his side. He was continuously interrupted, cajoled and ridiculed. CNN forgot that it is in the reporting business not "fixing politicians" business, not to mention a small state senator from Wisconsin. Let your guests express their thoughts clearly and crisply. If their views are so abhorrent to your beliefs, do not invite them. I wanted to hear more on why he thought as he thought and maybe even provide him with some thoughts to think about. But I got none of that. My time wasted in watching the bickering of pre-conceived notions about their own views. Disappointed in CNN.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  18. Antonio

    I agreewith the Senator. The more you read about this celebration the more you realize it was made to divide black america. Rolan sacastic remarks only made the Senator point stronger.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • steve

      Perhaps Christmas should be considered a 'racist' holiday because for almost 2000 years Christians have murdered Jews in the name of Jesus. In recorded history, more Jews have been killed by Christians in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Eastern European Pograms, and the Holocaust (yes, most Nazis were Christians) than by Muslims.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Bonita

      In my opinion these Seven Principles made me feel good about my self and my culture. 1.To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and 2.To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. 3.To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together. 4.To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. 5. To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. 6. To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. 7.To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
      What is wrong with this philosophy?

      January 3, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  19. Chris

    Watching this interview on TV right now – I'm a pretty liberal guy and I expected to detest Grothman's argument, but I must say he has a decent point. The founder of Kwanzaa's intentions indeed seemed to point to a separation from the majority's religion – Christianity – and the founder himself seemed to be a fairly bad seed. Its a sound argument to say that Kwanzaa has evolved into something pretty benign that can be celebrated alongside of Christmas, and on that ground it has value. But if Hitler himself invented a holiday that celebrated flowers or something, we'd probably best avoid that one.

    So the question is, is it worth celebrating a holiday if it was founded with a certain malice at heart, even with a happy veneer? And as African Americans, is it important to celebrate African culture? My ancestry was Irish myself, but as an American I feel no special need to drink myself retarded on St. Patrick's day and start fights at bars. Just sayin.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Chuck

      Yeah... I'm a pretty guy liberal but I don't know crap about Kwanza. Haven't rallied for or against it. Didn't know anything about how it was created or what people do on it. I don't know why the assumption is that white liberal guys are pushing it.

      This "discussion" in the video was sloppy work regardless.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:23 am |
  20. Steve Saunders

    Wow-just saw the Kwanzaa interview. Whether you like Kwanzaa or not,I suspect many will feel that this was the most uncomfortable (unfair?) piece of journalism that we've seen in a long time. I dont agree with the Senator and think his vies on Kwanzaa are ludicrous-but I disagreed EVEN more with the manner in which this piece was conducted. Is the host seriously suggesting that CNN doesn't use google to do research? (Googled directs you to credible reseacrh sources). And to say the person you invited on the air is ridiculous? Love you CNN -but not your finest hour!

    January 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
  21. richard battle

    how is it that the sentor can attact the beleif system of american black people when it is unheard of for anyone to say anything about his beleifs

    January 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
  22. DiQuattro

    My husband and I usually love this show but we were very disappointed by this segment. Regardless of whether or not I agree with Grothman, no one deserves to be treated the way he was treated during the interview. He said beforehand that he did not want to appear with Roland Martin, and what happened, he was put on the spot with Martin. That was not the worst of it though, the completely biased attitude of the news anchor was disgusting. I always thought the news was supposed to be unbiased and share different viewpoints, not attack people for their viewpoints. I thought it was extremely unprofessional of the news anchor and cannot believe that it was on this show and for the length of time it was on.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bonita

      I think the Senator didn't want to appear with Mr. Martin because he knew some of the remarks he was making wasn't true. I think the reporter did an excellent job, I notice some of the questions she asked, he didn't answer he tired to turn it all around, but she kept redirecting him. The Senator put his self in that position; the fiscal cliff put a lot of Politicians in the same position. I thought it was a good interview. I grew up Methodist, but I studied Kwanzaa, I feel their philosophy is inspirational and I am Multi-racial.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  23. Chris

    Just watched the Senator get totally destroyed. The man had arguments at all and towards the end you could tell he knew that and just went with anything he could to keep talking, even if it wasnt right (really? Anyone who thinks Columbus wasnt violent is just so stupid)

    January 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  24. Sergio

    I just heard Roland Martin making a lame case for Kwanzaa, equating it to Easter and comparing Ron Karenga to Columbus. The truth is kwanzaa was concocted artificially from a misguided need to offer a fake African cultural identity to modern day African-Americans. It is not born out of the natural evolution of an organic philosophy like christianity. Moreover, it is fed by bleeding heart liberals. If you are going to offer Grothman a chance, Rowland and whoever was filling in for Anderson on 1/2/13, at least give him a chance to talk without interrupting. At least, Rowland Martin, now I know why you were not given any more chances to anchor like you used to when you filled in for Campbell Brown. You are a fake.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bonita

      Guess what? Roland Martin has his own show on Sunday nights, on another channel; check it out. He is still on CNN payroll, they didn't mess with his salary. Go to google and pull up Kwanzaa and you will get a better understanding of what he was talking about.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • Sant

      Why is it fake, if people want to be connected to there roots, whats wrong with that. I understand why he was comparing it to the other holidays. All holidays are made, they weren't there until someone created it. Also if your going to judge a person who created a holiday because of who they were, why not do that with everyone. I don't celebrate Columbus Day because I know the history of Columbus, which they don't teach you in elementary school or high school. Even the people who started Thanksgiving weren't saints either, but we still celebrate because of what it stands for. People who celebrate Kwanza celebrate for what it stands for not who created it. There's a difference.

      January 3, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  25. CCT

    I think it was terrible how the newswomen and Rev. Martin attacked Senator Grothman. They both talked over him when he tried to explain his stance. They would ask a question and then not let him speak. Why was the newswomen attacking him? It's bad enough he was ambushed with the Rev. being there.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Bonita

      Roland Martin is not a reverend, his wife is. The reporter kept asking the Senator questions and he kept changing the subject instead of answering the question, she just kept redirecting him. But he never answered the questions, because if he did he knew that his answer would change the point he was trying to make for getting rid of Kwanzaa. People have been celebrating Kwanzaa since the 60's; hopefully this will encourage people to go to google and read about Kwanzaa.

      January 3, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  26. Karen

    I have never written in, and I am not even in support or defending your guest and his comments about Kwanza, but I am appalled at how he was set up after clearly there was agreement about how he would appear, and then he was given no courtesy for his views which he has a right to, but instead you attacked him personally on completely other issues. Not good journalism or reporting, just a slanderous attack on a guest.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  27. Kathleen Murphy

    My friend Kikuli from Tanzania informed me a few months ago about the origin of Kwanzaa as a "holiday' in the US. He was a college student in California at the time it became popularized. His comments coincide exactly with Senator Grothman's, regarding the character and intent Karenga. My friend said he never celebrated it in Tanzania, he didn't know anybody who did.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  28. Dariana

    Kwanzaa is not and it should not be a Holiday just like other Holidays we celebrate that really don't have a good foundation, people should know the origins on the Holidays they are celebrating. Some people do not care or don't know why they are even celebrating, example Christmas. People that don't believe in Jesus celebrate it just for the fun of it or just to become part of the society. Like Easter, Columbus Day, Valentines are holidays that people like to celebrate because is fun, but do they really know there origins? Should Christians even celebrate such holidays?

    January 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Bonita

      I agree with you all those holidays we celebrate, but the two that I have a problem with is Christmas and Easter. I always taught my sons that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. If I do not go to chruch on Christmas Day I just stay home, and I did not buy gifts this year. I do for my family and grandchildren all year and I am not going to minimize the celebration of the birth of Christ and I have never celebrated Easter and had easter egg hunts and easter baskets I taught my son this day is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. So if we celebrate these other holidays, people have the right to celebrate the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa; for a week they celebrate one principle a day.

      January 3, 2013 at 1:09 am |
  29. nicholas martin

    Anderson, i think your substitute tonight is doing a really poor job. when are you coming back? i watch CNN more than any station as its less biased than the others but her and Roland; its like i'm listening to Hannity and Colter with their debating style...

    January 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  30. dka

    Ask him about Jeffersonian sentiment . Jefferson not only defended but practiced and promoted human trafficking. The same thing our nation seems to finally denounce...do we forget our recent Aruba incident?

    January 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  31. Matt Martin

    Why are you wasting your time with this guy? Just ignore him.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  32. Jo

    I am impressed that the Senator has canvassed all blacks on their opinion of Kwanzaa. Claiming something about a population on his personal interactions is like me saving NASCAR is not popular in Virginia just because my friends and I don't care for it.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  33. James

    I agree. I expect much better from CNN.

    January 2, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  34. Bonita

    Senator Grothman's remarks about Kwanzaa were not true, and the lady that was filling in for Anderson mentioned that it was requested that the Senator meet with Roland Martin and he didn't respond when he was asked before. Of course tonight he was surprise to see Mr. Martin. As an African-American I felt insulted by the Senator's remarks. The Jewish culture celebrate Hanukkah, does every one agree with their idealogy, no! But that is their right. This is a free country and every one has a right to their own belief, just like the Senator has a right to his beliefs, but to suggest that we do not celebrate Kwanzaa is not acceptable. The college I go to has a Black Studies Dept. and they celebrate Kwanzaa.

    January 2, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  35. Bonita

    Cindy I didn't feel that Senator Grothman was being bullied, I thought they just wanted him to justify why Kwanzaa shouldn't be celebrated. This country is made up of multiple cultures and everyone has a right to their own beliefs.
    Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba. These are their 7 Principles:
    1.To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and 2.To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. 3.To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together. 4.To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. 5.To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. 6.To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it and 7.To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

    January 2, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  36. Bonita

    I am enraged by the Senators remarks about Kwanzaa. His behavior as a politician is unacceptable; he must be getting ready to retire because as a Senator he has to have an open-mind. His remarks were disgraceful. If you go to google and read what Kwanzaa is about, you will see he was wrong with his comments. Kwanzaa is about bonding together and working together, and African-Americans aren't the only members. A lot of other cultures have the same beliefs and celebrate Kwanzaa, too.

    January 3, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  37. Chuck

    No comment on the interview or whatever but I'm a little blown away at the "Columbus was not violent" comment. It's not a "I have my opinion you have yours" sort of thing.

    He was. And not just against natives... his own reporting has him getting increasingly paranoid that the monarchy was displacing him for his tyrannic behavior.

    He reported a tribute system that would have him sever the hands of slaves and serfs who did not provide adequate gold while governing Isabella Hispaniola. You're not entitled to your own version of history.

    January 3, 2013 at 2:13 am |
  38. JohnM

    Sorry to burst your bubble but Columbus was violent, and all the Christian Holy Days were co-opted from pagan festivals.

    January 3, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

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