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Diann burns over alleged racism

By Michael M. Bates
web posted May 8, 2006

Diann Burns, Chicago's highest paid television news reader, and her husband recently built a $3 million mansion in the swank Lincoln Park area. Monday's Chicago Sun-Times reported the couple is now suing the contractor for inferior work.

Disputes between contractors and homeowners are common. In this instance, though, Ms. Burns saw something more insidious than shoddy work. So she whipped out that trusty racism card faster than you can say teleprompter.

In the lawsuit, the couple claims the contractor did a lousy job because of a belief that black owners wouldn't notice. Court documents reviewed by the Sun-Times charge the contractor thought Diann and her very successful talent agent husband were "gullible and inexperienced in construction matters" and that the contractor could "deceive and take advantage of and defraud" them.

Diann Burns

How Ms. Burns and her husband know for a fact their disagreement is the result of racism isn't given. Apparently, just the charge is sufficient. Evidence supporting the very serious accusation isn't essential.

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that a contractor is racist. Would it make much sense to try to deceive and take advantage of a woman who's smart enough to earn at least $2 million a year for reading news stories written by other people? Or a man who, in addition to running his own prosperous business, is smart enough to marry a woman who's smart enough to earn at least $2 million a year for reading news stories written by other people?

Even racists aren't that dumb.

And even racists know that Diann Burns plays a mean game of PR. In 2003, her previous station was unable to negotiate a new contract with her. So they took her off the air months before the existing agreement expired.

If that had been me, I'd have happily stayed home and collected the almost $40,000 a week the station still had to pay me. But Ms. Burns is made of sterner stuff. She started appearing on black radio outlets complaining of the shabby treatment she'd been accorded.

The geniuses on Chicago's City Council picked up on the outrage and held a pep rally for the aggrieved personality. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Daley assured Diann that things would work out for her. One alderman feverishly proclaimed:
"When God needed a woman to come 18 years ago to change Channel 7 to bring forth the ratings and to do a job that we're all proud of, he brought forth Diann Burns, and we thank God for that!"

There were threats of investigating the suspected shortage of minorities in television news and a hint of boycotting the TV personality's previous employer.

When asked if an investigation was warranted, Ms. Burns was coy, saying:

"There's enough room for Asians, blacks, Hispanics and white people to work in the media. Everyone pulls for that. How can I say no? We've talked about that for years and years and years.

"That's the only way people are sensitive to the needs of everyone's community - to have the TV stations reflect the people that live in the community."

Now we know what community she was speaking of: The one with $3 million mansions. Power to the people.

The Family Burns' assertion that their house isn't exactly what they wanted because of racism is most likely ridiculous. If the couple were worried about being deceived and taken advantage of by white guys, they should have hired a qualified minority firm. It would have served as an economic boost to people they're supposedly so terribly concerned about.

That there's still racism in our country is indisputable. Ploys such as this one divert attention from genuine instances of it. They lend support to the view that charges of discrimination are bogus and that blacks routinely overplay the race card.

Spectacularly rich news readers who God brought forth to bring forth the ratings should know that.

Mike Bates can be contacted at mikembates@gmail.com. He is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths.

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