Conservative media smear Obama for purported overseas "apology tour"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

During and following President Obama's recent trip to Europe and the Middle East, which included a meeting of the G-20 and the NATO summit, conservative media figures and outlets have accused Obama of turning the trip into an "apology tour."

During and following President Obama's recent trip to Europe and the Middle East, which included a meeting of the Group of 20 and the NATO summit, conservative media figures and outlets have accused Obama of turning the trip into an "apology tour" and smeared the president as the "Apologizer in Chief." Conservative media figures have also accused Obama of "raising American flaws in virtually every speech he's been giving" and "running down his own country," and claimed that his remarks overseas are indicative of how "liberals ... enjoy apologizing for America." As CNN anchor Tony Harris put it during the April 7 edition of CNN Newsroom: "Day after day, country after country, the president tried to repair America's strained relationships with key allies, but critics say his gestures of reconciliation amounted to apology after apology after apology."

Some of these attacks have been based on distortions of Obama's remarks. For instance, one statement that conservatives have targeted is the following remark Obama made during an April 3 speech in Strasbourg, France: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." As Media Matters for America documented, conservative media figures such as Sean Hannity and Nicolle Wallace claimed the remark was an example of Obama, in Hannity's words, "blam[ing] America first," when, in fact, Obama criticized both American and European attitudes toward each other in those remarks, and also referred to "the good that America so often does in the world."

Hannity also falsely claimed that Obama "seemingly apologiz[ed] for our engagement in the war on terror" when Obama stated during an April 6 speech before the Turkish parliament that "[t]he United States is not ... at war with Islam." However, in those same remarks, Obama also stated that "Iraq, Turkey, and the United States face a common threat from terrorism" and that "we are committed to a more focused effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda." Similarly, several Fox News media figures criticized Obama's comment that "we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation," which he made during an April 6 press availability with the president of Turkey. But as Media Matters noted, Obama was making a broader point about the ecumenical nature of our country.

In the past week, whether discussing specific remarks by Obama or speaking more broadly, the following media figures have attacked Obama for apologizing for or making statements critical of America:

  • In his April 10 Washington Post column headlined, "It's Your Country Too, Mr. President," Charles Krauthammer claimed that Obama "came bearing a basketful of mea culpas" and "indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world."
  • In her April 10 Philadelphia Daily News column titled "The United States of Apology," Christine M. Flowers wrote of Obama: "You're now officially Apologizer in Chief, making sure the rest of the world has yet a few more reasons to feel smugly superior to the country you've been elected to lead."
  • During the April 9 edition of his Fox News program, Glenn Beck claimed that "Obama is apologizing to the Frenchy French for our arrogance."
  • During the April 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Hannity asserted that Obama is "coming off a tour where he's constantly apologizing for America, referring to us as an arrogant country, dictating to the world our views, and that we're not a Christian nation." Also during the show, Hannity claimed that "the president's been making waves with his apology tour overseas" and that Obama is "apologizing for America." Hannity continued: "What he ought to be doing, as the president, telling America's great story that we are the champions of liberty and freedom." Additionally, Hannity asked of Fox News contributor and former Bush adviser Karl Rove: "[F]irst of all, most -- Harry Truman, Wilson, our framers, they all acknowledged America is a Christian nation. But more importantly, when a president goes abroad and apologizes for America and doesn't tell the great story of America, what makes us great, why so many people want to come here, were you as offended as I was and Newt Gingrich obviously?"

During the April 6 edition of Hannity, Hannity asserted of Obama: "When he used the statement earlier that the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam, I was like, OK, there was no president that ever said we were going to have a war against Islam. And it seemed to me like when he was apologizing earlier, last week, you know, to Europe, for America's arrogance, that this was an attempt to apologize for the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the war on terror." Later in the show, Hannity said: "Why did the president use every chance he could on this trip to make excuses for America? He apologized for our so-called arrogance. He apologized to the Turks for our treatment of Native Americans. And when asked about American exceptionalism, the president marginalized his own country by saying our sense of exceptionalism is no different than that of the British and the Greeks."

  • During the April 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Dennis Miller stated: "Listen, I like [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates. I like the way we're handling Iraq, which is staying in like Bush would. I like him going to the mat in Afghanistan. But we've got to quit apologizing to every B-lister in a leopard-skin fez and a doorman's outfit from the Plaza Hotel. America is a great country, and we need not constantly chide ourselves. They're the ones who whip themselves on the back, not us."
  • During the April 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, radio talk show host Dom Giordano declared of Obama: "I think he did better in Iraq. I kind of like what he did there better than at other stops, where he was on an apology tour."
  • During the April 7 edition of CNN Newsroom, Republican strategist and The Hill newspaper columnist Cheri Jacobus claimed that Obama has "been apologetic" and that "he was apologizing for perceived arrogance, of U.S. arrogance in Europe."
  • During the April 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN contributor Stephen Hayes asserted: "Well, I think by going and apologizing, by raising American flaws in virtually every speech he's been giving over the past five days, certainly makes it look -- I think, projects weakness in such a way that is not going to be helpful going forward."
  • During the April 6 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly asked Townhall.com managing editor Mary Katharine Ham: "Look, these speeches are written. He goes over them line by line. He -- Barack Obama's an academic. He knows what he's saying. Why, Mary Katharine, would he even go there?" Ham responded, "Because he thinks that being liked is the point. And I'm not sure he's working strategically towards -- " O'Reilly then interjected, "[S]o to put America in a bad light other, people like you for doing that?" Ham replied: "Well, the Europeans do, certainly. That's part of it. And I hate to generalize here, and liberals, God bless them -- they enjoy apologizing for America, because we're powerful, because we're a leader in the world." O'Reilly responded: "There's something to that."
  • During the April 5 edition of CNN Newsroom, radio host Ben Ferguson asserted: "[T]he reality is, is, yes, it's very bad on the international stage. When you start going around the world and you start apologizing all the time -- it's like [Obama] went over there and he wanted to say, we don't want -- longer want to be a leader of these 20 nations or for the world. We just want to be one of 20 nations at the G-20. And we just want to be average. We don't want to be great."
  • During the April 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Krauthammer asserted, "We're a country who went to war six times on behalf of Muslims in the last 20 years, and we're apologizing?" Host Bret Baier later asked: "Is it working -- this whole mea culpa for America thing?"

From Krauthammer's April 10 Washington Post column:

I'm not against gift-giving in international relations. But it would be nice to see some reciprocity. Obama was in a giving mood throughout Europe. While Gordon Brown was trying to make his American DVDs work and the queen was rocking to her new iPod, the rest of Europe was enjoying a more fulsome Obama gift.

Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.

And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.

From Flowers' April 10 Philadelphia Daily News column:

PRESIDENT Obama, can you please stop apologizing for me?

The mea culpas -- actually "nostra" culpas -- are getting a bit stale. I know that some revel in this national self-abasement, but many of us are getting tired of being dragged into this vast diplomatic therapy session.

You're now officially Apologizer in Chief, making sure the rest of the world has yet a few more reasons to feel smugly superior to the country you've been elected to lead.

From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Now, the worst is that we are buried under one-and-a-quarter quadrillion dollars in debt. Overseas, Obama is apologizing to the Frenchy French for our arrogance.

From the April 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Now the president's been making waves with his apology tour overseas, and when he returns home, he's going to be ramping up his effort to launch his universal health-care plan. And here to discuss these issues is actress, women's health advocate, and public diplomacy envoy for our State Department, Fran Drescher.

[...]

TAGG ROMNEY (managing partner, Solamere Capital): And the problem, Sean, is not -- we should have friendly relations with countries around the world. And that's wonderful. The problem is when we start kowtowing to them and apologizing for being Americans. And that's -- we should be proud to be Americans.

HANNITY: Exactly. We should --

REGINA CALCATERRA (attorney): We're not Americans. We're showing deference. I mean, as everyone knows -- he -- the world --

HANNITY: He's apologizing for America. What he ought to be doing, as the president, telling America's great story that we are the champions of liberty and freedom.

CALCATERRA: Sean, he's not apologizing for America. He's trying to say --

HANNITY: Excuse me. We've been arrogant?

CALCATERRA: We've been arrogant over the past eight years.

HANNITY: You think we're an arrogant country?

CALCATERRA: Not -- no.

HANNITY: Your president does.

[...]

HANNITY: All right. You know, one of the things that every past president has done -- first of all, most -- Harry Truman, Wilson, our framers -- they all acknowledged that America is a Christian nation. But more importantly, when a president goes abroad and apologizes for America and doesn't tell the great story of America -- what makes us great, why so many people want to come here -- were you as offended as I was and Newt Gingrich obviously?

ROVE: Yeah, look, America is a nation built on faith. I mean, we can be Christian, we can be Jew, we can be Mormon, we can be, you know, any variety of things. We're a country that prizes faith and believes that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights; among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And to somehow go to Turkey, and in order to sort of identify yourself with this Turkish secular movement that began in the early part of the previous century, and try and somehow make Turkey and America equivalent is to deny each nation's reality. And Turkey is a country that adopted a certain attitude towards the role of religion in the public arena, and America has a different attitude. And we have historically had, you know, a robust presence of faith in our public square, and to deny that that's a reality is, you know, very strange, I think.

HANNITY: Well, I think it was a disgrace, as he goes on his apologizing for America tour and bowing before the king. But I think more importantly we learned a lot about the president this week, and that is that, you know, for all his rhetoric and all his supposed good relations he was going to have with Europe, we got nothing for it, and, secondly, I think Barack Obama has shown himself to be a great appeaser.

[...]

HANNITY: Well -- so they fired this missile, and you've made some comments that you would have taken it off the launch pad, and I want to get into that. But -- so then it talks about how we will begin universal disarmament, as you just pointed out, but then he come -- he's coming off a tour where he's constantly apologizing for America, referring to us as an arrogant country, dictating to the world our views, and that we're not a Christian nation.

From the April 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

MILLER: As far as that gesture goes, I don't know what you want to call it. But you might go back to the previous Democratic administration with Bill Clinton, because I'm pretty sure he had an accurate phrase for that gesture that just happened there.

The thing about the Saudis is they are the grown-up equivalent of our childhood imaginary friends. And if you start kissing butts on them, they present it to you five times a day. So you're setting a bad precedent.

Listen, I like Gates. I like the way we're handling Iraq, which is staying in like Bush would. I like him going to the mat in Afghanistan. But we've got to quit apologizing to every B-lister in a leopard-skin fez and a doorman's outfit from the Plaza Hotel. America is a great country, and we need not constantly chide ourselves. They're the ones who whip themselves on the back, not us.

From the April 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

GIORDANO: I think he did fine, Lou. I think he struck a pretty good tone. I didn't see anything untoward.

I think he did better in Iraq. I kind of like what he did there better than at other stops, where he was on an apology tour.

From the April 7 edition of CNN Newsroom:

HARRIS: Day after day, country after country, the president tried to repair America's strained relationships with key allies, but critics say his gestures of reconciliation amounted to apology after apology after apology.

Peter Fenn is a Democratic political consultant and adviser to the Gore campaign in 2000. Peter, good to see you. It's been some time.

And Cheri Jacobus is a Republican strategist and writes a column for The Hill newspaper -- and Cheri, good to see you again.

JACOBUS: Thank you. Good to be here.

HARRIS: It's been a long time since we've done this. Cheri, do you -- you obviously believe the president went too far in sending this sort of conciliatory tone in his remarks --

JACOBUS: I do.

HARRIS: -- in Europe. Make your argument. And then, Peter, respond.

JACOBUS: Well, it doesn't even have to be me making the argument. There was a German newspaper who used the word "meek" in describing his attitude on this trip. And they actually thought that was a positive thing.

Now, you know, Europe is obviously not as strong as the United States, or at least the United States has been. We are a superpower. And this president did not go on this trip acting as though we were a superpower.

He's been apologetic. I think his comments really, quite specifically, addressing President Bush -- President George W. Bush, his immediate predecessor -- were pretty negative and unnecessary and gave a wrong message --

HARRIS: OK, what was that comment. Yeah, you know, I was going to ask you next to cite a couple of examples of this. You were mentioning a comment that really bothers you. What was that?

JACOBUS: Yeah. Well, he was apologizing for perceived arrogance -- of U.S. arrogance in Europe. And the thing is, we are a superpower. We come to the aid of the rest of the world. We have for over a century. And if sometimes that's perceived as arrogance, so be it. That is not the most important point.

We are a superpower -- or at least we have been. And that's not to -- are we saying that Europe has never been arrogant or the individual countries within Europe have been arrogant? It was a rather ridiculous statement.

Plus, the fact that we have, you know, North Korea now, you know, testing these missiles --

HARRIS: Yeah.

JACOBUS: -- while the president is on this European trip. That's a huge deal.

HARRIS: Gotcha. Well --

JACOBUS: And that should be addressed with more than just rhetoric.

HARRIS: Well, Cheri, let me have you --

JACOBUS: So I think he's, quite frankly, failing.

HARRIS: -- let me have you hold up for just a second.

And Peter, before you -- before you jump in here, I'm hoping this is the comment you are referring to. We pulled a couple that might fit into the category that you're discussing here, Cheri. So here is the president from Strasbourg, holding the town hall meeting. And let's roll this. And then -- I think this is what you're referring to.

OBAMA [video clip]: There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.

HARRIS: And Cheri, is that what you're referring to? Is that part of the comment you're referring to?

JACOBUS: Part of it. And I think that's rubbed a lot of Americans the wrong way.

That's not the attitude that the leader of the free world is supposed to take on his first big international trip.

HARRIS: Yeah.

JACOBUS: He should not be apologetic. He should not be running down his own country. He should not be running down --

HARRIS: Wow.

JACOBUS: -- his predecessor. There are too many big issues at stake, and he needs to show strength and credibility that is representative of this great nation.

HARRIS: Gotcha.

[...]

HARRIS: President Obama's message to Muslims -- some say he is being too apologetic during his first overseas visit as president.

From the April 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: All right. So Obama tells, you know, the audience in Turkey that, you know, we aren't selfish and crass, but we are an arrogant country. America has been arrogant.

And I'm thinking, Juan Williams, you know, that was before the Europeans. I'm thinking, Europe wouldn't exist in its current form but for the United States of America.

No country is perfect. No people are perfect. But this apology tour that he's on is getting obnoxious. Do you -- at any point do you think that Barack Obama ought to be selling the virtues and the goodness and the greatness and the sacrifice for the cause of freedom that America has paid?

[...]

HANNITY: All right. But here's -- not only economically is he driving America into socialism, which we know fails, but he goes on this, you know, America is arrogant, Dixie Chicks tour of his. And I'm sitting here saying why didn't you explain to the world that America blood, sweat, tears saved Europe from Europe how many times?

Why didn't you explain that we have assisted and liberated the entire world, including many Muslim nations in their time and need? He was apologizing for that. He was saying we were arrogant.

From the April 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

HAYES: Well, I think by going and apologizing, by raising American flaws in virtually every speech he's been giving over the past five days, certainly makes it look -- I think, projects weakness in such a way that is not going to be helpful going forward.

From the April 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: When he used the statement earlier that the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam, I was like OK, there was no president that ever said we were going to have a war against Islam. And it seemed to me like when he was apologizing earlier, last week, you know, to Europe, for America's arrogance, that this was an attempt to apologize for the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the war on terror.

[...]

HANNITY: So why did the president use every chance he could on this trip to make excuses for America? He apologized for our so-called arrogance. He apologized to the Turks for our treatment of Native Americans. And when asked about American exceptionalism, the president marginalized his own country by saying our sense of exceptionalism is no different than that of the British and the Greeks.

So can anyone name something exceptional about Greece these days?

[...]

HANNITY: All right. So it starts out with the president of the United States of America telling the rest of the world that America is an arrogant country and then seemingly apologizing for our engagement in the war on terror -- the war on terror that the 9-11 Commission Report said was being waged on us, that we weren't paying attention to.

Now, I can't -- I view this as almost a Dixie Chick-type moment for him. Your thoughts?

MORRIS: Yeah, I think you're right. This is a president who basically thinks like a European in his economic program, in his view of the -- of abhorring nationalism, abhorring American exceptionalism, and he certainly gave evidence of that.

From the April 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Look, these speeches are written. He goes over them line by line. He -- Barack Obama's an academic. He knows what he's saying. Why, Mary Katharine, would he even go there?

HAM: Because he thinks that being liked is the point.

O'REILLY: So -- so --

HAM: And I'm not sure he's working strategically towards --

O'REILLY: -- so to put America in a bad light other, people like you for doing that?

WILLIAMS: No.

HAM: Well, the Europeans do, certainly. That's part of it. And I hate to generalize here, and liberals, God bless them -- they enjoy apologizing for America, because we're powerful --

O'REILLY: Well, there's something to that.

HAM: -- because we're a leader in the world.

From the April 5 edition of CNN Newsroom:

FERGUSON: Yeah, but, no, no -- gave him some pens as well. I mean, the reality is, is, yes, it's very bad on the international stage. When you start going around the world and you start apologizing all the time -- it's like he went over there and he wanted to say, we don't want -- longer want to be a leader of these 20 nations or for the world. We just want to be one of 20 nations at the G-20. And we just want to be average. We don't want to be great.

From the April 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

KRAUTHAMMER: The Bush administration spent six months at the U.N. trying to get an international consensus. It didn't walk in unilaterally. It got one resolution after another.

At the end it had to make a choice: go into Iraq with a few allies or not at all. And it decided it would go.

That is not showing disrespect or arrogance. It showed enormous respect. But in the end it had to make a decision.

Look, if you want to attack the United States, and you're the president, you do it at home. Traditionally, that's how you do it. If you go abroad and you do it -- and, look, it wasn't only on Europe. He said America has to change its behavior and show more respect for the Muslim world.

We're a country who went to war six times on behalf of Muslims in the last 20 years, and we're apologizing?

BAIER: Byron [York, Washington Examiner political correspondent], what does this say about this trip? What's being accomplished? Is it working -- this whole mea culpa for America thing?

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