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:
Down in New Orleans, where they still have not rebuilt 20 months later there's a law, federal law -- when you get reconstruction money from the federal government -- called the Stafford Act. And basically it says, when you get federal money, you've got to give a 10 percent match. The local government's got to come up with 10 percent. Every 10 dollars the federal government comes up with, local government's got to give a dollar.
"Now here's the thing, when 9/11 happened in New York City, they waived the Stafford Act -- said, 'This is too serious a problem. We can't expect New York City to rebuild on its own. Forget that dollar you got to put in. Well, here's 10 dollars.' And that was the right thing to do. When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said, 'Look at this devastation. We don't expect you to come up with y'own money, here. Here's the money to rebuild. We're not going to wait for you to scratch it together -- because you're part of the American family.' ... What's happening down in New Orleans? Where's your dollar? Where's your Stafford Act money? Makes no sense. Tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans they don't care about as much.
The Daily Caller added racial elements to the comments, describing New Orleans as “majority-black New Orleans” and making a baseless comparison to “Kanye West's famous claim that 'George Bush doesn't care about black people.'” In fact, in the prepared remarks, Obama said “People ask me whether I thought race was the reason the response was so slow. I said, 'No. This Administration was colorblind in its incompetence.' ” But if pointing out the government's failure to respond to Katrina is evidence of “heavily racially charged rhetoric,” then Obama is far from alone. In August 2007, USA Today reported essentially the same thing:
The delays have affected the poor the most -- those dependent on government assistance to rebuild their lives. While middle- and upper-class neighborhoods have rebuilt using private insurance and contacts, residents of low-income areas such as the Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross -- roughly 20,000 of them -- for the most part remain scattered throughout the region, their return uncertain.
The flooding that began after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, delivered an estimated $150 billion worth of damage to the Gulf Coast region, making it the worst disaster in U.S. history. Of the $116 billion appropriated by Congress to Gulf Coast recovery, $34 billion has been earmarked for long-term rebuilding. But less than half of that has made its way through federal checks and balances to reach municipal projects.
The remainder of Hannity and Carlson's attack on Obama were based on even less. Carlson claimed Obama used “different cadences, different accent, different gestures.” He went on to say about Obama's accent, “the falseness is overwhelming.” In response, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted “three videos of Obama using that 'accent' he apparently never uses.”
Carlson also found an “appeal to racial solidarity” in Obama's use of the phrase “our people” when discussing who should have received construction jobs to rebuild New Orleans following Katrina. Carlson called this a “very clear case, again, on the basis of racial solidarity with his audience, that they are getting shafted by a racist federal government.”