Conservatives express outrage about charges that their attacks on Obama are racist

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

Conservatives in the media have recently criticized congressional Democrats, Jimmy Carter, Maureen Dowd, and others for suggesting that attacks on President Obama are racially motivated, saying, for example, that it's a "disgusting smear," "a sign of desperation," and " despicable tactics." However, conservative media figures -- including some who are now decrying the accusations -- have themselves used charges of racism when discussing Obama and his policies.

Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity criticize Democrats for saying attacks are race-based -- but they've also leveled charges of racism

Glenn Beck: "[F]alse cries of racism" are "dangerous," like when someone "cries 'fire.' " On his radio show, Glenn Beck said there are "false cries of racism on Joe Wilson when there's absolutely nothing to back it" and demanded "evidence." From the September 16 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: If I was a betting man, I would say that the false cries of racism on Joe Wilson when there's absolutely nothing to back it -- just back it up. Just back it up. You want to say, "Hey, I think this guy is a racist"? Well, then, let's listen to the explanation. Let's ask: What is your evidence that he's a racist? What is your evidence? And let's do it with peace and love in our hearts. What is your evidence?

I haven't heard their evidence. Has anybody even asked their evidence? I'd like to ask for the evidence. What evidence do you have that Joe -- because maybe he is. I don't know. I've looked. We've had our researchers look. I haven't found any evidence. So, let's hear it. Maybe he is.

But that should be asked. Why would you say that? Because racism is real. And if you have evidence, well, then, we should listen to it. And maybe we can convince them that they're either right or they're wrong. Maybe we can say, "Oh my gosh. Oh, I hear your evidence now. Oh, I see. OK. You're right." Or, "Mmm, no, you're wrong, and here's why." You see? That's maybe what we should do.

It's kind of like -- it's really interesting to me. When somebody cries "fire," why do they cry "fire"? Because it's dangerous. Kind of like racism. It's dangerous. OK? So, if somebody cries "fire," how come we've just now entered a world where if somebody cries "fire," nobody says, "Wait, wait, where? Where? You see smoke? Help me out. Where's the fire?"

How come we either just say, "You liar! There is no fire! You should be thrown out of a window!" Or, "Yeah, there's a fire in here, and you started it!" Why do we do that? Why do we do that? Why don't we reasonably and rationally say, "Oh, hang on just a second. Where's the fire? I don't see any evidence of fire. Where's the fire?" "No, don't you smell that? You smell the smoke?" "No, I don't -- oh, hang on just a sec. Yes, I do. Let's call the fire department and look and find out where the smoke is coming from." Why don't we do that anymore?

Because it's really not about fire. It's really now -- the cries of racism -- most times, not all times -- some people have evidence and would like to have that conversation. When there are cries of racism, sometimes it's not because there's real racism. Sometimes it's because there's somebody mealing around in the office, you know, that might figure out what's going on in the office and then might report it.

And so what do they do? "Fire! Fire!" -- to get everybody out of the office so they can continue to cover up what they need covered. And so you're all standing out on the sidewalk going, "Gee, fire." But you know what? After that person cries "fire" over and over and over again and there is no fire, maybe we should look at that and say, "Why do they keep crying 'fire'?" [The Glenn Beck Program, 9/16/09]

Previously: Beck calls Obama a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people." Beck said on Fox News' Fox & Friends that Obama is a "racist" and has "exposed himself as a guy" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people." [Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]

Sean Hannity: "[T]hese are despicable tactics. It's all designed to silence critics. It's all designed to intimidate. It's all designed to shut down opposition." On his radio show, Sean Hannity asserted that former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) was treated unfairly after he called a Democratic videographer "macaca" and that "[n]ow Democrats and their media friends are trying to do this to Joe Wilson, too." Then, discussing Maureen Dowd's New York Times column in which she suggested Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting "you lie" at Obama during his health care speech was racially motivated, Hannity said the tactics are "despicable" and "designed to silence critics." From his show:

You know, maybe we need to introduce -- I was saying this earlier today. You have Maureen Dowd in The New York Times today. Maybe we need to -- a new verb into the political lexicon. You know, maybe to "macaca" somebody. You know, that's when Democrats cry racism in the absence of any evidence whatsoever with the clear intent to being -- to silence any critic.

You know, quote, "The Democratic media" -- in that sense -- quote, "macacaed George Allen in 2006, knocking him out of the Senate based on the use of the word 'macaca' to describe a Democratic tracker." Nobody had ever heard of the word before. The Washington Post wrote hundreds of articles. They're trying to now, you know, do the same thing to Bob McDonnell, who's running for governor. Heard him anyway -- "Well, 25 years ago, he wrote this."

Now Democrats and their media friends are trying to do this to Joe Wilson, too. You got Maureen Dowd -- "Surrounded by middle aged white guys," you know, "snapshot of the days when such politicos ran Washington like their own men's club -- Joe Wilson lied -- yelled 'You lie!' at a president who didn't. But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air," quote, "You lie, boy!"

Fair or not? You know, Dowd isn't even sure it's -- just label him a racist. Folks, these are despicable tactics. It's all designed to silence critics. It's all designed to intimidate. It's all designed to shut down opposition. And by the way, and the very tactics were used against you, the American people, all summer long. [ABC Radio Networks' and Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, 9/14/09]

Previously: Hannity asks, "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?" Hannity asserted on the former Fox News show Hannity & Colmes: "As more is learned about Barack Obama's positions, his past, and his affiliations, it seems that the 'change' candidate has all the same problems with race as those before him," and later added, "It's only fair to ask: Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?" [Hannity & Colmes, 3/02/08]

Rush Limbaugh: "[S]erious concerns" about media's "new standard," which is that any criticism of Obama is "racist." On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:

I have serious concerns about today's media and their new standard, which is this: Any criticism of an African-American's policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that's it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president? Or will the fact that we have an African-American president so paralyze politically correct people in the media that the natural scrutiny and process through which all of our presidents are put through and vetted do not occur because of the fear in the state-controlled media of themselves being called racist and the desire to be able to call everyone else racist.

In other words, we have a blank slate. We have a president here who is not scrutinized, who is not examined. There is no attempt to be suspicious of power anymore. So, is it possible? Can we really have an African-American president? Or does having an African-American president paralyze the process by which people with that kind of power in our representative republic are kept quote, unquote "honest." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/16/09]

Previously: Limbaugh said "[I]n Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering." Referring to an incident in Illinois in which a white student was allegedly assaulted by black students on a school bus, Limbaugh said: "[I]n Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering." From his show:

LIMBAUGH: Why, it's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America -- white kids are getting beat up on school buses now. I mean, you put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety. But in Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay. Right on, right on, right on, right on."

[...]

LIMBAUGH: We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: I mean, I wonder if Obama's going to come to the defense of the assailants the way he did his friend Skip Gates up there at Harvard. I mean, the assailants are presumed innocent due to the white racism we all know runs rampant in America. I mean, the drive-by media is ginning up all this criticism of Obama again today. It's all based in racism, the criticism of Obama's health care plan or whatever. It's all based in racism. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/15/09]

Previously: Limbaugh said the way to "get promoted in the Barack Obama administration" is "by hating white people." On his radio show, Limbaugh said, "I care about whether she's [Sonia Sotomayor's] qualified, and I think she's disqualified herself. Not only does she lack the often-discussed appropriate judicial temperament, it's worse than that. She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court. I don't care -- we're not supposed to say it, we're supposed to pretend it didn't happen, we're supposed to look at other things, but it's the elephant in the room. The real question here that needs to be asked -- and nobody on our side, from a columnist to a TV commentator to anybody in our party has the guts to ask: How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive." Limbaugh also stated that the way to "get promoted in the Barack Obama administration" is "by hating white people." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/29/09]

Other conservatives complain about Democrats' accusations

Stephen Hayes: "[D]isgusting smear to suggest" that Wilson shouted "you lie" because of Obama's race. On Fox News' Special Report, Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes said:

There is absolutely zero evidence that saying "you lie" to the president of the United States has anything to do with race whatsoever. And it is a disgusting smear for anybody to suggest that.

It's sort of a sad day when we get to the point where a columnist in The New York Times can just imagine that somebody is saying something, literally putting words in her mouth. And she prefaced the statements by saying, "Fair or not, I heard him say, 'You lie, boy.' "

Well, you know what? That's not fair. You can't -- as a journalist, you can't just imagine people saying things. You have to criticize them based on what they actually say. And he didn't say this. [Special Report, 9/15/09]

Charles Krauthammer: Racism charge a "sign of desperation" by Democrats. Also on Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said, "You know, the accusation of racism is a sign of desperation by people who know they are losing the national debate, and they want to hurl the ultimate charge in American politics. This is dealing from the bottom of the deck, and I agree that it is a disgusting tactic. It's done as a way to end debate. The minute you call somebody a racist, the debate is over. You don't continue. I mean, accusations of racism are the last -- the refuge of the liberal scoundrel." [Special Report, 9/15/09]

Brit Hume: Accusing Wilson of racism "cheapens the charge." Discussing Dowd's assertion that Wilson shouting "you lie" at President Obama during his health care speech, Hume said on Special Report: "I think over time, it cheapens the charge. And I think that in this instance, with all that we've heard and the instances cited in James Rosen's report, this is going to infuriate the people of goodwill who are resisting President Obama not in any way because of his race but because of his policies. And my guess is that it has real backfire potential, which diminishes the consensus, to some extent, on race in America." [Special Report, 9/15/09]

Joe Scarborough: "Playing the race card is the last refuge of the truly desperate?" Discussing Dowd's comments on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough said, "I guess patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel -- is -- could we add to that that playing the race card is the last refuge of the truly desperate? I'm serious. Saying that everybody's racist and looking into Joe Wilson's mind and saying, 'Oh, he can only say that because he's from the South, and if you get angry at the president, you're a bigot.' " Later, when referring to Carter's comments that Wilson's words are "based on racism," Scarborough said:

You know, Jimmy Carter's been inside a bubble since the winter of 1976. I've got to say, as somebody who's said throughout his entire public career that racism does exist, I don't know what America Jimmy Carter lives in, because he doesn't live in the America where I live. And again, this is an America where, whether I was -- you know, I went to the University of Alabama. I saw it some there, but for the most part, I didn't, despite the fact that I got involved in race issues at the University of Alabama in a very aggressive, high-profile way. The same thing with Congress.

Yes. Are there racists? Are there bigots? Yes. But for a former president to suggest that Barack Obama's approval ratings dropped to 50 percent and people are angry with him because he's a black man, that's just not the truth. Again, it -- there's desperation out there on the hard left, and they just can't figure out why people in the middle of America are upset at this guy. [Morning Joe, 9/16/09]

Transcripts

From the September 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

HAYES: There is absolutely zero evidence that saying "you lie" to the president of the United States has anything to do with race whatsoever. And it is a disgusting smear for anybody to suggest that.

It's sort of a sad day when we get to the point where a columnist in The New York Times can just imagine that somebody is saying something, literally putting words in her mouth. And she prefaced the statements by saying, "Fair or not, I heard him say, 'You lie, boy.' "

Well, you know what? That's not fair. You can't -- as a journalist, you can't just imagine people saying things. You have to criticize them based on what they actually say. And he didn't say this.

I agree with Charles that he was out of line. You shouldn't -- he shouldn't have yelled at the president from the floor. It was inappropriate. He apologized.

There was a time right after it happened that both the White House and Nancy Pelosi wanted to just move on. That time apparently has passed, because I think they believe there is political advantage to making this a bigger deal.

I'm not sure it works. I think this could very well backfire, because I think the vast majority of people who disagree with the president disagree with him because they disagree strongly with his policies, but they do so with goodwill.

KRAUTHAMMER: You know, the accusation of racism is a sign of desperation by people who know they are losing the national debate, and they want to hurl the ultimate charge in American politics.

This is dealing from the bottom of the deck, and I agree that it is a disgusting tactic. It's done as a way to end debate. The minute you call somebody a racist, the debate is over. You don't continue. I mean, accusations of racism are the last -- the refuge of the liberal scoundrel.

As for Maureen Dowd, imagining a word that wasn't said -- well, in my previous profession, I saw a lot of people who also heard words that weren't said. They were called patients. Many of them were actually helped with medication.

The reason that she won't be and others who are hurling the accusation is because it's a deliberate attempt to change the subject and discredit the opposition with an unprovable and unproven ad hominem.

From the September 15 edition of Special Report:

BAIER: Well, racism and the accusations of it are the subject of tonight's commentary by senior political analyst Brit Hume. Good evening, Brit.

HUME: Hi, Bret. One of the great achievements of the American civil rights movement is a broad and deep consensus that racism, which has a long history in this country, is unacceptable; indeed, even intolerable. Civil rights activists led by Dr. King appealed to the conscience and goodwill of this nation on the issue and won the nation over.

Today in America, one of the worst things that can be said of anyone is that he or she is racist. The charge is so potent that some -- Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton come to mind -- have hurled it about with abandon, knowing how far people will go to avoid the label. But the accusation should be wielded with the most extreme care, supported by abundant evidence, which brings us to the case of Joe Wilson, the backbench Republican congressman, who, as we all know, called Barack Obama a liar to his face in the House chamber last week. He apologized, as we know, and he should have. And it wouldn't have hurt him to do it again.

But now he stands accused of, you guessed it, racism. We heard from Democratic Congressman Johnson, with his talk of people donning white hoods, encouraged by Wilson. That's one example. The noted New York Times columnist that we spoke -- or heard about earlier said over the weekend that Wilson could not accept that a black man is president. She said she heard Wilson use the word "boy" in his outburst. So, she admits he did not actually say that. That, it seems, is her evidence.

Some people have wondered if President Obama would play the race card to answer his critics. He has not. But it is being done for him. Bret.

BAIER: So, does this work? What does this do to debate when it's thrown out there?

HUME: Well, I think over time, it cheapens the charge. And I think that in this instance, with all that we've heard and the instances cited in James Rosen's report, this is going to infuriate the people of goodwill who are resisting President Obama not in any way because of his race but because of his policies. And my guess is that it has real backfire potential, which diminishes the consensus, to some extent, on race in America.

From the September 16 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: The country that elected Barack Obama and the country that gave him a 70 percent-plus approval rating on January the 20th is now a country that's filled with bigots and racists now that his approval rating's 50 percent.

BRZEZINSKI: Well --

SCARBOROUGH: It has nothing to do with the fact that some of us believe he has darted way too left, has been way too unfocused. Now, if you don't love President Obama, more and more people on the left are racist. Jimmy Carter said it.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: Maureen Dowd said it this past weekend. It is -- what do they say? Let me bring in Mike Barnicle. Mike, it's -- I guess patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel -- is -- could we add to that that playing the race card is the last refuge of the truly desperate? I'm serious. Saying that everybody's racist and looking into Joe Wilson's mind and saying, "Oh, he can only say that because he's from the South, and if you get angry at the president, you're a bigot."

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Jimmy Carter's been inside a bubble since the winter of 1976. I've got to say, as somebody who's said throughout his entire public career that racism does exist, I don't know what America Jimmy Carter lives in, because he doesn't live in the America where I live. And again, this is an America where, whether I was -- you know, I went to the University of Alabama. I saw it some there, but for the most part, I didn't, despite the fact that I got involved in race issues at the University of Alabama in a very aggressive, high-profile way. The same thing with Congress.

Yes. Are there racists? Are there bigots? Yes. But for a former president to suggest that Barack Obama's approval ratings dropped to 50 percent and people are angry with him because he's a black man, that's just not the truth. Again, it -- there's desperation out there on the hard left, and they just can't figure out why people in the middle of America are upset at this guy.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, we have to get to more top stories now, but later, we'll talk about this. I actually worry about the fact that he brought this up. I really do, on a number of levels.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, he's not alone.

BRZEZINSKI: I know he's not alone, but --

SCARBOROUGH: Again, Maureen Dowd brought it up. A lot of people on the hard left have brought this up because they can't get past the fact that --

BRZEZINSKI: I do that math. I get it.

SCARBOROUGH: -- Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton, couldn't get health care reform passed because 75 percent --

BRZEZINSKI: It just --

SCARBOROUGH: -- of America are not racists, 75 percent of Americans like their health care.

BRZEZINSKI: It may not just be wrong, Joe, it may be irresponsible.

SCARBORUGH: It is reckless.

BRZEZINSKI: We'll talk about it.

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