Congressman Calls for Breakup of Comcast

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The following is a letter from U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush supporting the breakup of Comcast:

Mr. Brian Roberts
Chief Executive Officer
Comcast Corporation
1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard Philadelphia, PA 19103-2838

Dear Mr. Roberts:

I am dismayed that Comcast is attempting to undo the United States’ oldest civil rights statute the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (hereafter, the Act) and, specifically, Section 1 (as updated at 42 U.S.C. *1981) — which has been the bedrock civil rights law for more than 150 years, by asserting that a person who was denied the right to a contract must prove that race was “but for” the cause of such denial, an impossible standard to meet. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 guarantees all persons, regardless of race, an equal right “to make and enforce contracts.” In pursuing this case to the Supreme Court of the United States (hereafter, Supreme Court), Comcast is putting corporate profits ahead of public interest, and is employing a scorched earth policy to defend a corporate business decision.

It is well established in cannons of law that the intent of the authors of the Act was to protect freed slaves from the actions of those determined to harm them. Sadly, some 150 years later there remain strong elements of oppression committed to excluding African-Americans from the bounty of the U.S. economy. By almost every measure, the need to fight against active discrimination is obvious and ongoing.

As I write this letter, I am moved by the fact that Senator Lyman Trumbull, from my home state of Illinois, was the lead sponsor of this Act. At a time when it was desperately needed, he stepped forward and provided aid to the oppressed. As he eloquently and succinctly stated, “Congress is bound to see that freedom is in fact secured to every person throughout the land; he must be fully protected in all his rights of person and property.” Senator Trumbull understood the vicious hatred and racism expressed towards newly freed black men and women, as evidenced by the black codes and lynchings of that era, he and the members of the 39th Congress knew legal protections were absolutely vital. Therefore, they enacted this landmark legislation in spite of a veto by President Andrew Johnson, who shamelessly and cowardly called them traitors. Carrying on in this strong tradition, I have reinvigorated the fight against lynching by introducing legislation and am lending my voice to defend the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Comcast has enjoyed the largesse as has the cable industry, in general of the African American and other minority communities and has reached such prominence that it now disregard these communities with a cold, callous corporate insensitivity that is stultifying, arrogant, harmful, and intensely painful. This is further made clear by the fact that it would seek to weaken the protections of the Act to merely prevail in a lawsuit. Furthermore, it is not lost on me that Comcast is joined in this effort by the Trump Justice Department who, for the last three years, has systematically and consistently worked against the rights of minority communities and has now joined in making the argument to undermine the Act before the Supreme Court.

Comcast’s actions today call into question why it signed Memoranda of Understanding (hereafter, memoranda) on diversity with the Asian American Justice Center, East West Players, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, Japanese American Citizens League, Media Action Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Action Network, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Urban League, and Organization of Chinese Americans. Further, we must note that these memoranda were instrumental in securing the support of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus for its acquisition of NBC Universal. The contradictory nature of its legal argument leads me to believe that these memoranda were signed merely for political expediency.

It is evident to me that with this demonstration of corporate greed, Comcast has forfeited and repudiated its claim to be an inclusive company that is a friend of the black community and, with this betrayal, has shown itself to be an enemy of minority communities. Furthermore, Comcast’s decision to ignore the memoranda illustrates a careless disregard of minority communities and their interests. Simply put, it is my belief that the Comcast Corporation needs to be broken up.

Bobby L. Rush
Bobby Rush
Member of Congress