Glen Ford, who over a 50-year career was a leading voice among progressive Black journalists and a constant scourge of the liberal establishment, especially Black politicians like Barack Obama, died July 28 in Manhattan. He was 71.
His daughter, Tonya Rutherford, said the cause was cancer.
Originally as a radio news reporter in Augusta, Georgia, and later as a television and online correspondent, Ford offered his audience a progressive perspective across a wide array of issues, including welfare rights, foreign policy and police misconduct.
He took particular aim at the nexus of the mainstream news media and what he called the Black “misleadership” class. He argued that right-wing corporate interests bestowed money on certain centrist Black politicians, like Obama, whom he called “not the lesser of evils, but the more effective evil”; those leaders, he argued, then drew the attention of corporate-run news organizations, in the process marginalizing the interests of working-class Black people.
“He was a great path blazer in terms of being an independent Black institution in the media focused on truth telling,” philosopher Cornel West, a close friend of Ford’s, said. “He had the courage to acknowledge the neglect, indeed the betrayal, of the Black political leadership that did not highlight the plight of the Black poor.”
Ford criticized Obama for taking money from corporate interests and pursuing a policy of fiscal austerity during the 2009 financial crisis, even as he spent billions rescuing banks.
“It was Obama, two weeks before he even took the oath of office, who said that entitlements would all be on the table,” he said in a 2012 debate with sociologist Michael Eric Dyson. “This was at a period in which the Republicans were in disarray, couldn’t mount a challenge to anything.”
During the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey, Ford sided with the incumbent, Sharp James, against his challenger, Cory Booker — less because of any love for James, who faced repeated charges of corruption, than out of an intense dislike for Booker, now a senator, who he believed had sold out to corporate interests.
“He’s totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,” Ford said of Booker in an interview with The New York Times. “They’re backing him so they can claim a Black elected official from a Black city.”
The outlets where Ford worked, many of which he ran and helped found, were independent and run on a shoestring. But thanks to his energy and leadership, they had an outsize impact in progressive circles.