Comedian and political commentator John Oliver mocked Bodi White, who is running for Baton Rouge mayor-president, in a recent episode of his late-night talk show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" on HBO.
A segment on Oliver's October 30 show was dedicated to school segregation and the nationwide struggles to integrate schools. Oliver argued too many school districts fail to recognize the importance of integrated schools because they see segregation as a historical event instead of a current problem.
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(NOTE: White appears at the 10:00 mark on the video.)
Oliver featured a clip of White that was used in a 2014 PBS "Frontline" documentary called "Separate and Unequal," which covered the movement to create the city of St. George, as well as a separate school system in the southeastern part of the parish, which critics argued would hurt public schools and leave behind mostly poor and black children.
"Do you think that you have to bus children all over, bus them a long distance, so you can say you sit in a seat next to someone diverse, different from yourself?" White said in the PBS documentary clip that Oliver used. "The Justice Department achieved their goal, who can say we're not desegregated? We have an African-American president, we have an African-American mayor here in Baton Rouge, with majority white in the parish. We have been through all that."
The much anticipated PBS “Frontline” special on the city of St. George incorporation effort …
Oliver took aim at that point of view.
"And there it is," Oliver says. "The idea that because President Obama was elected, systemic racism is pretty much solved. Which is absolutely absurd because racism is not one of those things that just disappears on its own in due time."
Asked to respond to the clip on the HBO show, White disagreed with the way it was used.
Mayor-President candidate Mack "Bodi" White sees himself as adept at defusing tensions, goin…
“John Oliver misconstrued my statement in that segment," he said in a statement. "We have taken steps in the right direction regarding the issue of race, but we still have a lot of work to do. We need to sit down and have these conversations, especially following the summer we have had in Baton Rouge.”
"My record speaks for itself when it comes to education," White went on to say. "I have fought for all students, white and minority, to have options when it comes to education. Whether the choices are charter schools, private schools or public schools, a child should never be trapped in a failing school. Every child deserves an equal opportunity at a quality education, regardless of their race or zip code.”
White continued to identify himself as the pro-education candidate running for East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-president, as he has advocated for school choice and charter schools. He has taken heat on education and St. George issues on the campaign trail.
One year after the controversial campaign failed to create the city of St. George, the city’…
Though White was visible during the campaign to create the city of St. George, he has recently said he only supported the creation of the separate school system because parents were unhappy with their failing schools. He also has said he would oppose the push to create St. George should it return, but that he is confident he can satisfy those who were pushing for the separate city once he is running Baton Rouge.
Other candidates Sharon Weston Broome, John Delgado and Darryl Gissel have all questioned White's track record on St. George. They have also tried to poke holes in White's emphasis on education during the campaign, saying mayor-presidents exercise limited jurisdiction over the school system.