Knee-jerk word association watch: Conservative media link Obama's Gates comments to ... ACORN

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & DIANNA PARKER

Repeating a pattern of invoking ACORN to attack progressives, conservative media figures have brought up the organization in their discussions of President Obama's July 22 prime-time press conference, in which he took a question regarding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Several conservative media figures, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have invoked ACORN in their discussions of President Obama's July 22 prime-time press conference, in which he took a question regarding the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Media Matters for America has previously documented that in discussions of major news stories, conservatives in the media have repeatedly invoked ACORN to attack progressives or Democrats, rather than conducting substantive analysis, even when the group has little or nothing to do with the issue at hand.

  • Rush Limbaugh. During the July 24 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh stated that Obama's response was "the reaction of an ACORN leader":

LIMBAUGH: What we got from Obama at his presser on Wednesday night was not a presidential reaction; we got the reaction of a community agitator. We got the reaction of a community organizer. We got the reaction of an ACORN leader. And everybody was going, "Is the president going to apologize?" ACORN members don't apologize for what they do. ACORN doesn't apologize, and the president was ACORN answering this question. He was not presidential.

Limbaugh went on to claim that Obama's "instincts are those of a community organizer, not a president":

LIMBAUGH: Take Obama's reaction to the Gates incident, his instinctive reaction. One event -- three learning experiences.

Lesson one: Obama's instincts are those of a community organizer, not a president -- "Don't bother me with the facts; I have to play it to the crowd here." Lesson two: Obama can sound as if he knows what he's talking about even when, by his own admission, he doesn't know what he's talking about. It's not what he says; it's how he says it. Lesson three: When Obama is faced with a political setback, even one of his own makings, he plays the race card.

  • Glenn Beck. On the July 24 broadcast of his radio show, Beck said that his "personal theory" was that Obama "did know that that question" about Gates "was coming from that person, and he wanted just to be on the record because it's a good friend of his." Beck went on to say that "the only thing you really need to know about this guy is that he's a community organizer" and that Obama was attempting to "[o]verwhelm the system," which he claimed is "what ACORN is doing when they, you know, they come in with 100,000 voter registration cards and 60,000 of them are bogus." Beck also claimed that ACORN hires people "who are known convicts" to register voters because "the feds come in or the state attorney general comes in and says, 'We're going to arrest these people,' " and ACORN can then "go out and have a big fundraiser with their hardcore supporters and say, 'It is the man against the black man again.' " He added: "[W]hen we go on the air and I, you know, rip apart the guy from ACORN, especially if he's black. ... [I]t allows them to take that videotape and say, 'See? It's the white man against the black man.' It helps them." Beck then compared this to Obama's purported tactics, stating:

BECK: He's in a crisis because health care is bad. His poll numbers are slipping. Is it just possible that he's using this question to be able to rally support of his hardcore supporters? Even if he backs away from it, he's already said it. How many times have you heard his hardcore supporters saying, "Well, of course he's saying that now. He can't get away with it." So, he says it, and his hardcore supporters say, "Yeah, screw the pigs." And then when he backs up from it, his hardcore supporters say, "Yeah, but he's really with us, he's gotta say this because of --" You think there's a possibility of that at all? That's the question I want to ask you today.

  • Andy McCarthy. In a July 23 blog post on National Review Online, McCarthy wrote:

[I]t is just shameful for an American president to describe the police as "stupid" and feed into the racializing of the Gates case. At this early stage, no one has testified, the matter can't possibly have been thoroughly investigated yet, and the real facts simply aren't known. Obama, moreover, is not just the president; he's a lawyer. He's supposed to know better -- though last night he sounded like exactly the sort of lawyer he used to be back in the good ol' ACORN days.

  • Doug Powers. In a July 23 post on the conservative blog Hot Air, Powers wrote that Obama assumed "the arrest was racially motivated" and that "Obama's lack of appreciation for what these cops do and how they do it, along with his baseless accusations of racism, is hardly surprising." Powers continued: "Let's just put it this way: When you have a vested interest in seeing groups like ACORN metastasize, law enforcement officials doing their jobs by the book aren't exactly welcome additions to the family of Hope and Change -- and sometimes it shows." Conservative blogger and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin is the founder and CEO of the Hot Air blog.

From the July 24 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: Why did this question come up? Now here we are in a big health care debate.

STU BURGUIERE (Glenn Beck Program executive producer): And a press conference specifically about health care.

BECK: Health care. And the last question -- did anybody else hear this question and go, "What -- what is that even about?" Why is that? Now my theory is is that he wanted to get this out there on the record because this is a good friend of his, he wanted to be able to make sure. But did he know that this question was going to be asked?

I want you to hear a piece of audio, and then you ask that question again. Did he know that this question was going to be asked? In the framework of "never waste a good emergency." Never let a problem go by that you can't exploit. Here's the audio, this is from, what, press conference about a month ago?

PAT GRAY (radio host): Yeah. This -- yeah, they were talking about Iran and --

BECK: No, they weren't. No, he wasn't.

GRAY: No?

BECK: No he wasn't.

GRAY: This had nothing to do with Iran?

BECK: No, this was the first question in the press conference, go ahead

[...]

BECK: So the question that I have, in the week of health care when it's all just tubing, is it a -- was it just a, you know, by chance that everybody now today is talking about this whole Gates thing and not health care? Did he know that question was coming at the end? He just had to ask the right person to ask that question. Did he know? Now my personal theory is is that he did know that that question was coming from that person, and he wanted just to be on the record because it's a good friend of his.

However, let's think like a community organizer for a second. I've been telling you that the only thing you really need to know about this guy is that he's a community organizer. If you understand this, you'll understand absolutely everything. Overwhelm the system -- that's why the bills are coming out and he's got -- he's saying, go, go, go, go. Overwhelm the system. That's what ACORN is doing when they, you know, they come in with 100,000 voter registration cards and 60,000 of them are bogus.

I mean, have you ever wondered, "Why would they do that?" I mean, they -- because they say, "Oh, we know. We told them we thought these were bogus. We thought these were bogus, and we even separated them for them." Well, that's -- it doesn't matter. They're trying to look like, "Oh, no. We thought these were bogus and -- " Why would you even bring them in? You bring them in because they have to check each and every one. It overwhelms the system. At some point, if you keep doing this to it, the voter registrar's office says it can't do it anymore, and the system breaks.

So you look at everything he does, and if you look through the eyes of a community organizer, you understand it. Now, how does that bring us to Gates? What would be the president's motivation for talking about Gates? Besides if you want to go deeper than, "He's just a friend." What would he have to gain? Simple answer is, well, you take health care and here comes a big loss, and which, by the way, I don't think this is a loss.

Don't ever count these guys out. I don't think this thing's done when it's done. They'll put the framework in slowly but surely in other bills, so, vigilance. But here he has his first big defeat -- let me go back to community organizing group ACORN. Why does ACORN hire people who are known convicts and prisoners who served time for fraud and -- and -- what do you call it -- identity theft. Why would they do that? Why would you have those people go out and collect signatures? Because those are the people that are thrown under the bus. Those are the people that ACORN says, "Oh my gosh, well we didn't know. We just had a few bad eggs."

And the feds come in or the state attorney general comes in and says, "We're going to arrest these people." But what does ACORN do? Do they change their hiring habits? No. Why? Because it allows ACORN to then, in that same state or city, go out and have a big fundraiser with their hardcore supporters and say, "It is the Man against the black man again."

Now, I have this from insiders at ACORN. This is a bonus for them when we go on the air and I, you know, rip apart the guy from ACORN, especially if he's black, they allow -- it allows them to take that videotape and say, "See? It's the white man against the black man." It helps them. Is it possible, that in this emergency or in this crisis with his friend -- his friend is in crisis -- legitimate thing going on. He's in a crisis because health care is bad. His poll numbers are slipping. Is it just possible that he's using this question to be able to rally support of his hardcore supporters?

Even if he backs away from it, he's already said it. How many times have you heard his hardcore supporters saying, "Well, of course he's saying that now. He can't get away with it." So, he says it, and his hardcore supporters say, "Yeah, screw the pigs." And then when he backs up from it, his hardcore supporters say, "Yeah, but he's really with us, he's gotta say this because of --" You think there's a possibility of that at all? That's the question I want to ask you today.

From the July 24 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Now, this cop -- this cop being criticized by Obama is a police academy expert on racial profiling. Now Obama's pulled back from the racial profiling. What we got from Obama at his presser on Wednesday night was not a presidential reaction; we got the reaction of a community agitator. We got the reaction of a community organizer. We got the reaction of an ACORN leader. And everybody was going, "Is the president going to apologize?" ACORN members don't apologize for what they do. ACORN doesn't apologize, and the president was ACORN answering this question. He was not presidential.

Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley has taught a class on racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy. Academy Director Thomas Fleming says that Sergeant James Crowley is a good role model who was hand-picked for the job by former Police Commissioner Ronny Watson, who is black, to run the profiling training program. In the class, Crowley teaches officers not to single people out based on their ethnic backgrounds. Obama has said that Cambridge officers acted stupidly. He has backed that up even though Gibbs said he didn't say it. Obama is defending what he said in arresting Gates; he called them, "acted stupidly," after a woman reported a suspected break-in at his home.

A lot more has been learned about this, and one of the things to learn here is that which happens right before your eyes, rather than that which is spun by sharp political operatives and cooperating journalists. Take Obama's reaction to the Gates incident, his instinctive reaction. One event, three learning experiences.

Lesson one: Obama's instincts are those of a community organizer, not a president -- "Don't bother me with the facts; I have to play it to the crowd here." Lesson two: Obama can sound as if he knows what he's talking about even when, by his own admission, he doesn't know what he's talking about. It's not what he says; it's how he says it. Lesson three: When Obama is faced with a political setback, even one of his own makings, he plays the race card.

This is something I have figured out watching ever since the campaign began. Anybody who wonders what Obama accomplished with that statement had better realize it reduced the focus on his failed before-the-August-recess demand.

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