It's official: Readers pick Cokie Roberts' "foreign, exotic" Hawaii comments as Most Inane


In the end, it wasn't close. By an overwhelming margin, criticism by Cokie Roberts, NPR contributing senior news analyst and ABC political commentator, of then-Sen. Barack Obama for choosing Hawaii, the state of his birth, to take his August family vacation was the most popular entry in Media Matters for America's poll for Most Inane Punditry of the 2008 presidential campaign. Readers chose Roberts' comments -- which included her characterizing Hawaii, where Obama vacations regularly, as "foreign, exotic" -- in greater numbers than her two closest competitors combined. Roberts stated: "I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place," adding, "He should be in Myrtle Beach, and, you know, if he's going to take a vacation at this time."

Roberts repeated her criticism of Obama's vacation destination during the August 11 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, asserting that Obama's choice of Hawaii for his vacation "makes him seem a little bit more exotic." She also characterized Hawaii as "a somewhat odd place to be doing it," despite acknowledging, "I know that he is from Hawaii, he grew up there, his grandmother lives there."

Media Matters readers were not alone in objecting to Roberts' remarks. Responding to Roberts' comments, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) reportedly said: "She's a bit of a fool that's the only thing you can say. ... Don't forget Cokie Roberts and the whole Washington crowd live in a kind of an incestuous relationship to one another, they talk to one another, they see one another, they know nothing about ordinary people." On August 11, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) released a statement in response to Roberts' comments, stating in part: "Saying our 50th state is somehow 'foreign,' does a great disservice to the hard working, patriotic Americans who call Hawaii home. ... For months people have been asking me, 'When is Senator Obama going to come home?' I'm so glad he found time to visit his sister and his grandmother, show his daughters more of his home state, and relax a little."

Vote totals in percentages*:

Cokie Roberts on Obama's Hawaii vacation: "I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state," but it looks "foreign, exotic"


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