Media figures are dismissing video from a 2007 Obama speech despite Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson hyping the video as damning evidence of racially-charged rhetoric. Even some conservatives agree that the video has little significance in the presidential race.
It's rather amazing that Barack Obama has been on the national political stage for more than eight years and the far-right media, committed to hating the president with a peculiar passion, still haven't figured out the race angle. Or specifically, they haven't figured out which race-baiting angle they prefer to play against him.
The jarring dichotomy played out yesterday. That morning, conservative George Will argued in his Washington Post column that Obama's race would shield him from a re-election defeat because Americans will vote for him because he's black.
Then in the late afternoon and evening a media kerfuffle broke out after the habitually untrustworthy Drudge Report hyped a five-year-old video of Obama speaking at Hampton University. The unmistakable message from the overly excited members of GOP Noise machine on Tuesday was that the video "could dramatically impact" the election because it would showcase Obama as an angry man beset by racial grievances (it doesn't). The clear inference being that Americans won't vote for him because he's revealing his true black nature.
Here's how MSNBC's Rachel Maddow decoded the right-wing attack last night: "People didn't actually know [Obama] was this black, and if they had known he was this black they never would've elected him."
So which is it? Will voters excuse Obama's faults and give him a second term based on his race? Or will voters penalize Obama on Election Day based on his race?
The utter confusion and contradictory allegations shouldn't be surprising given that Obama's harshest opponents have been grappling for years, unsuccessfully, with the issue of race and how best to try to deploy it for political gain. They've alternately declared Obama a "racist" and have wallowed in the worst kind of ugly race baiting, while pre-emptively condemning any critics who dare call them out.
The us-versus-them cauldron of bigotry was purposefully reignited last night with the non-news of an Obama speech given in 2007 to an audience of African-American clergy. It was a speech that was open to the press at the time and was widely reported on, including on Fox News.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade is not the person one would expect to knock down a disingenuous attack on President Obama. Indeed, Kilmeade is as enthusiastic a GOP shill as anyone else on his network and isn't exactly known for his piercing insight. And yet this morning he provided a concise and effective rebuttal to the Daily Caller's Drudge-hyped video of President Obama using "racially charged rhetoric" in a 2007 speech: whatever Obama said, noted Kilmeade, he hasn't "governed in a racist way."
From the October 3 edition of CNN's Early Start:
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From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News host Sean Hannity aired video of then-Sen. Barack Obama speaking to African-American clergy members at Hampton University in 2007. But despite being described by Hannity as "some of the most divisive class warfare and racially-charged rhetoric ever used by Barack Obama," the video shows Obama accurately comparing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina to with the response to Hurricane Andrew and the September 11 attacks.
Promoted as an "exclusive," the Daily Caller posted previously unaired portions of the speech that was extensively covered at the time, including by Fox News. According to the Caller's post, in the unedited speech Obama described America as "a racist, zero-sum society in which the white majority profits by exploiting black America." Appearing on Hannity's Fox News show to promote the video, Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson called the speech a racial "dog-siren" and an appeal to "racial solidarity." In reality, however, the video shows no such things.
Hannity began his October 2 show by airing a clip of Obama acknowledging Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was in attendance. Obama's praise of Wright is nothing new -- in fact, Politico posted the very same clip in 2008, calling it "tailor-made for an attack ad." According to ABC News, the clip was also aired on a March 2008 edition of ABC's World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson.
In the most-discussed clip of the show, Hannity and Carlson aired a clip of Obama discussing the Katrina relief effort, describing it as "a dose of heavily racially charged rhetoric." But in the clip, Obama simply criticizes the federal government for its poor response to Katrina and compares the reconstruction effort to that following Hurricane Andrew and the 9/11 attacks:
The Daily Caller has again strayed into ethically murky waters concerning its relationship with the National Rifle Association. A September 5 post in the online publication's "Guns and Gears" section urges its readers to help the NRA identify businesses that may be violating a Texas law forcing most private employers to allow guns on company property.
In fact the post, titled "Texas: Please Help The NRA-ILA Identify Non-Compliance Among Employers on One-Year Anniversary of Texas Parking Lot/Employee Protection Law," is copied verbatim from a NRA Institute for Legislative Action press release.
The Caller is asking its readers to submit evidence of noncompliance, including copies of employee handbooks, directly to the NRA:
In order to comply with this law's provisions, most employers in the state have amended their policies to allow the transportation and storage of firearms in locked, employee-owned motor vehicles parked on company-controlled parking lots. However, the NRA needs your help to ensure that no hard-working, law-abiding Texans remain disenfranchised by employers who refuse to abide by this law. Please notify the NRA-ILA by email of any examples of company policies that continue to violate the spirit and intent of the statute (if possible, please provide a scanned copy of the actual policy from your employee handbook) and any instances of employees being disciplined or terminated under such policies.
Please contact NRA-ILA at SLocal@nrahq.org about alleged violations of this law. We have already received information about companies that are misinterpreting the law or ignoring it altogether. The NRA-ILA will monitor and investigate those situations to ensure that your rights under the Parking Lot/ Employee Protection law are protected. [emphasis in original]
The Daily Caller's dubious report suggesting a connection between a David Axelrod tweet about Gallup's polling methodology and a Justice Department lawsuit filed against that company found its way to Fox News, which embellished the already problematic story by fabricating the existence of direct communications between Axelrod and Gallup's employees.
On his Fox Business program this morning, Stuart Varney claimed that Axelrod, "reportedly furious" over a May Gallup poll unfavorable for President Obama, "personally contacted some Gallup employees who now say they felt threatened."
Here is the sum total of Axelrod comments cited, directly or indirectly, by the Daily Caller article Varney was pushing. Note how "furious" Axelrod appeared to be.
The Caller article did not show that Axelrod directly contacted anyone at Gallup at any time. While it alleged that internal Gallup emails show him "attempting to subtly intimidate" the firm, it provided no direct or indirect evidence that he actually spoke to anyone there. The piece referenced the tweet, and an email in which a Gallup employee mentioned that "the White House 'has asked' a senior Gallup staffer 'to come over and explain our methodology too," with another Gallup employee making a Godfather joke about Axelrod.
Given that the story is clearly being pushed by someone at Gallup who wants to attack the Obama administration, if such direct communications existed they would surely have been given to and then reported by the Caller article's author.
Even conservative bloggers have pointed out that the timeline the Caller article lays out regarding the DOJ's lawsuit against Gallup debunks the article's suggestion of a connection between that lawsuit and Axelrod's single tweet from four months earlier.
The Daily Caller has an article today that either 1) suggests that the Justice Department joining a lawsuit against The Gallup Organization is connected to a David Axelrod tweet from April criticizing Gallup's polling methodology, or 2) has no news value whatsoever. The Caller presents no material evidence linking the two events, and even the circumstantial evidence the piece provides largely debunks the conspiracy theory.
This article epitomizes one of the more pernicious aspects of The Daily Caller's particular brand of journalism: the outlet's tendency to publish articles that have news value only if you assume the reporter is implying the existence of a malicious Obama administration conspiracy.
Here's the lede of today's story, "Justice Dept. Gallup lawsuit came after Axelrod criticized pollsters," authored by Matthew Boyle:
Internal emails between senior officials at The Gallup Organization, obtained by The Daily Caller, show senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod attempting to subtly intimidate the respected polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to the president.
After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, Obama's Department of Justice hit it with an unrelated lawsuit that appears damning on its face.
Is the author suggesting that there is a connection between Axelrod's supposed attempt to "subtly intimidate" Gallup and the DOJ's lawsuit against the company? If not, what is the point of linking the two together in the story's opening paragraphs? They could just as easily have pointed out that the lawsuit "came after" the Miami Heat won the NBA championship.
It would take an exceptional amount of Obama Derangement Syndrome to posit that the Obama administration sued Gallup because they don't like their polling. Conservative bloggers like Ed Morrissey and Gabriel Malor have already weighed in expressing skepticism with the Caller's implication, with Morrissey writing, "Could this be retaliation? It's possible, I suppose, but it's not terribly rational, with no upside and lots of downside over a nearly-meaningless issue."
The Associated Press and CNN recently debunked an op-ed featured at The Daily Caller that suggested a recent ammunition purchase by the Social Security Administration evidenced an Obama plot to kill American citizens en masse. The bizarre theory is hardly the first conspiratorial idea to be promoted on the opinion page of The Daily Caller.
The Associated Press has published an article debunking the conspiracy theory that a recent ammunition purchase by the Social Security Administration (SSA) signaled an attempt by the Obama administration to impose tyranny upon the American people. AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher identified conspiracy website InfoWars.com and the right-wing online publication The Daily Caller as prominent pushers of the theory.
It didn't take long for the Internet to start buzzing with conspiracy theories after the Social Security Administration posted a notice that it was purchasing 174,000 hollow-point bullets.
Why is the agency that provides benefits to retirees, disabled workers, widows and children stockpiling ammunition? Whom are they going to use it on?
"It's not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest," the website Infowars.com said.
Another website, The Daily Caller, said the bullets must be for use against American citizens, "since the SSA has never been used overseas to help foreign countries maintain control of their citizens."
The clamor became such a distraction for the agency that it dedicated a website to explaining the purchase. The explanation, it turns out, isn't as tantalizing as an arms buildup to defend against unruly senior citizens.
The bullets are for Social Security's office of inspector general, which has about 295 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes, said Jonathan L. Lasher, the agency's assistant IG for external relations.
The agents carry guns and make arrests - 589 last year, Lasher said. They execute search warrants and respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees and customers.
Agents carry .357 caliber pistols, Lasher said. The bullets, which add up to about 590 per agent, are for the upcoming fiscal year. Most will be expended on the firing range.
On August 28, Media Matters called attention to a Daily Caller opinion piece by retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry, who theorized that that each piece of ammunition purchased by the SSA "represents a dead American."
Curry speculated that the SSA ammunition could be used in a plot to kill members of the military and replace them with individuals loyal to the president. He then focused on other ammunition purchases by the federal government, suggesting that a larger ammunition purchase by the Department of Homeland Security constituted "enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen."
On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, The Daily Caller has published a four-part, 6,000+ word series alleging that President Obama was "listed as the lead attorney" in a class action discrimination lawsuit decades ago and thus participated in a process the publication claims triggered the economic collapse of 2008. The Caller appears to have conferred the status of "lead attorney" on Obama on the basis of the fact that his name comes first on an alphabetically ordered list of attorneys; moreover, experts have said that such class-action lawsuits did not trigger the mortgage crisis.
In the 1995 class action lawsuit in question, Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank, the plaintiffs alleged that Citibank had racially discriminated against them when they sought home loans. They pointed to bank data indicating that "the percentage of loan applications approved by Citibank was far lower in areas where the racial composition of the neighborhood was predominantly African-American than it was in areas where the composition of the neighborhood was predominantly White," even when the applicants were in the same income bracket.
According to the Caller, Obama's participation in the lawsuit makes him "a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble" and part of a movement that "contributed greatly to a housing bubble that burst in 2007, crashed the nation's economy in 2008." But both their discussion of his role in the case and their analysis of its result are deeply flawed.
Despite its flaws, the Caller piece has already been promoted by Fox News. Caller editor in chief Tucker Carlson appeared on Fox & Friends yesterday to discuss the piece and claimed that Obama "was the lead plaintiff on some of these cases," adding that the lawsuit is "significant" because it is "at the heart of the 2007-2008 economic meltdown."
Throughout its 5,000 word lead story and multiple side pieces, the Caller repeatedly inflates Obama's role in the lawsuit. In the lead piece, Neil Munro reports that Obama "helmed" the lawsuit as "the lead plaintiff's attorney." While he writes that Obama's "role was limited," he also claims that it was "his lawsuit" and that Obama "sought public credit for the lawsuit: His employer submitted a docket to the court that listed him as the lead attorney for two of the three named plaintiffs in the case." Three other Caller stories refer to Obama as the "lead attorney" or "lead counsel" for the plaintiffs.
The sole basis the Caller articles cite for this claim is the case docket. That document lists Fay Clayton as "LEAD ATTORNEY" and lists her first among the attorneys representing plaintiff Selma S Buycks-Roberson. It then provides a list of attorneys for Buycks-Roberson listed alphabetically by first name; "Barack H. Obama" is listed first. That list of attorneys includes Judson Hirsch Miner, who was a name partner at Obama's firm; at the time, Obama was an associate.
With regard to plaintiffs Calvin R Roberson and Renee Brooks, whom the Caller claimed Obama served as "lead attorney," no separate lead attorney is indicated as Clayton was for Buycks-Roberson. While Obama is the first lawyer listed representing each plaintiff, followed by Clayton and the other attorneys, these lists again are ordered alphabetically by first name. But even for Roberson and Brooks, the docket does not ask the court clerk to provide notices regarding the case to Obama; instead such notices are directed to Miner and other attorneys involved in the case.
Moreover, Obama is not listed as one of the attorneys who worked on the complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs. Obama also did not speak or even register an appearance during a court hearing in which the judge considered whether to dismiss the case without holding a trial. Nor did Obama sign the agreement that settled the case.
Indeed, a 2007 Chicago Sun-Times article indicates that Obama did not have an extensive role in the lawsuit, with the lead attorney for the plaintiff stating that Obama was "the very junior lawyer in that case" and "not visible" to him during court proceedings.
A recent opinion piece appearing in the Daily Caller which suggests that the federal government is purchasing large amounts of ammunition with the purpose of killing American citizens is so deranged that even the conspiracy-peddling National Rifle Association has debunked the claim.
In the piece, which appears in Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section, retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry wrote that "[p]otentially each hollow nose bullet" purchased by the Social Security Administration for its law enforcement arm "represents a dead American."
He then asked, "If so, why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest? Or is the purpose to kill 174,000 of the nation's military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special security forces, forces loyal to the [Obama] Administration, not to the Constitution?"
Turning to other ammunition purchases by the federal government, Curry wrote (with emphasis added):
In March DHS ordered 750 million rounds of hollow point ammunition. It then turned around and ordered an additional 750 million rounds of miscellaneous bullets including some that are capable of penetrating walls. This is enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen. Is this something we and the Congress should be concerned about? What's the plan that requires so many dead Americans, even during times of civil unrest? Has Congress and the Administration vetted the plan in public.
Obama is a deadly serious, persistent man. Once he focuses on an object, he pursues it to the end. What is his focus here? All of these rounds of ammunition can only be used to kill American citizens, though there is enough ammunition being ordered to kill, in addition to every American citizen, also every Iranian, Syrian or Mexican. There is simply too much of it. And this much ammunition can't be just for training, there aren't that many weapons and "shooters" in the U.S. to fire it. Perhaps it is to be used to arm illegal immigrants?
According to the NRA, which recently responded to Internet rumors about the intended purpose of the ammunition purchases, there is nothing unusual about the amount or type of ammunition being procured by the federal government.
Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney debunked the theory that rounding up and deporting immigrants is a solution to economic problems -- a notion that is widespread throughout the conservative media.
During an appearance on Fox & Friends to discuss Greece's efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Varney if deporting immigrants would help Greece's economy and whether America should "follow suit."
Varney said that rounding up and deporting immigrants wouldn't help Greece with its economic problems and denied that they were taking jobs from Greek citizens. He also said that we shouldn't round up immigrants in the United States either:
VARNEY: Should America follow suit, a round up of illegals here? I would say absolutely not. We're not in financial crisis, and we're a very different country. We have a very strong tradition of acceptance of people from all over the world, legal or illegal, we don't round them up and throw them out. We don't do that, thank heavens.
Economists agree that immigration is beneficial to the American economy and that immigrants don't have a negative impact on the jobs of American-born workers. And studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform could lead to a boost to the economy.
But the myth that undocumented immigrants harm the economy is very common in the right-wing media.
Fox & Friends, the Daily Caller, and the Drudge Report are falsely charging that a businessman that has supported President Obama and Vice President Biden is receiving a taxpayer-financed loan to expand his business overseas. In fact, the loan comes from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which does not use taxpayer funds, and exists for the purpose of helping "U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets" overseas.
The Daily Caller charged:
In late July, John Hynansky -- a longtime friend of Vice President Joe Biden, and a major donor to Biden's campaigns as well as President Barack Obama's -- was awarded a $20 million taxpayer loan to build a foreign-car dealership in Ukraine.
Drudge highlighted this false claim with the headline, "Biden's 'good friend' receives $20M federal loan to open luxury car dealership -- in Ukraine." And Fox News also hyped this claim with co-host Gretchen Carlson saying: "Talk about friends in high places. A major donor to President Obama's campaign getting $20 million in taxpayer money to build a luxury car dealership in the Ukraine."
However, the claim that this loan uses taxpayer money is false. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation states that it is "the U.S. Government's development finance institution" and "helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets." While it receives administrative funding from Congress, OPIC "operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to American taxpayers" and has actually reduced the federal budget deficit for 34 consecutive years:
Are OPIC services U.S. taxpayer-funded?
OPIC operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to American taxpayers. In fact, it generated net income of $269 million in Fiscal Year 2011, helping to reduce the federal budget deficit for the 34th consecutive year.
Indeed, during the early 1980s, OPIC returned the taxpayer money used to start up the agency to President Reagan. At the time, Reagan praised OPIC for helping advance the cause of economic freedom in the world.
The Daily Caller, Fox, and Drudge also highlight Hynansky's political contributions and relationship to Biden, but at no point do they present evidence that these donations or his friendship with Biden had any effect on his loan application.