'Explosive' Or 'Yawn': Obama Video Touted By Fox Sparks Race Debate

NPR | Oct. 3, 2012 9:42 a.m.

Contributed By:

Eyder Peralta

Last night, Drudge Report trotted out its siren. Fox News, it reported, would be airing “Obama’s other race speech.”

Sean Hannity, who aired the video on his show, said it was a “bombshell… that could dramatically impact the race for the White House.”

At one point in the video, Obama says he’s going off script. He goes on to imply that the government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina was partly due to the fact that many in the city were black.

“What’s happening down in New Orleans? Where’s your dollar?” Obama says. “Tells me that somehow the people down in New Orleans — they don’t care about as much.”

Tucker Carlson told Hannity that Obama was “whipping up race, hatred and fear.” But the morning after, The Huffington Post reports, the video has drawn a big “yawn.”

Partly, that’s because the speech at Hampton University was covered at the time. The AP story, for example, noted all the parts highlighted by the network and an edited version of the video was available on Youtube.

The AP referred to this in its report of the speech and it also noted his strong endorsement of the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you remember, during the 2008 campaign Obama’s relationship with the reverend and views on race received much coverage and culminated in a wide-ranging speech about race titled “A More Perfect Union.”

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the video was a sign of desperation from Romney allies.

“The only thing shocking about this is that they apparently think it’s wrong to suggest that we should help returning veterans, children leaving foster care and other members of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent get training that will allow them to find the best available jobs,” LaBolt said in a statement. “If the Romney campaign believes that Americans will accept these desperate attacks tomorrow night in place of specific plans for the middle class, it’s they who are in for a surprise.”

The New York Times reports that the Romney campaign claimed they played no role in resurfacing the video, though the Times implies it might be an effort to counter the damage done by Romney’s “47 percent” comments.

We suspect whether you believe this video changes the presidential contest will depend on your party affiliation. But one thing is for sure: The video has sparked an intense conversation about race.

The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf, for example, argues that the left is often accused of trotting out the race card any chance they get.

“But in the age of President Obama, a strong case can be made that the right is as obsessed with racial subjects as the left, if not more so,” he writes.

He continues:

“What does it take to make five-year-old remarks the biggest story of the moment in conservative media? A racial angle. That’s all it ever takes. Since 2009 there’s been a conservative obsession with proving that the real Obama is a black radical who has it in for white people. That intention runs through the conspiracy theories that Michelle Obama was caught on tape talking about ‘whitey;’ the Breitbart.com story about Obama hugging a critical race theorist while in law school; Newt Gingrich’s demagoguery during the Trayvon Martin case; Rush Limbaugh’s insistence that in Obama’s America it’s permissible for blacks to beat up whites on school buses; Dinesh D’Souza’s insistence that Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist; and other stories too.”

Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog, frames the video in terms of coverage: The media, Noel Sheppard writes, are “out in force” to convince people the video is “old news and nothing that should concern anybody.”

For the record, we’ll let you make up your own mind on the issue. We’ve embedded the full video at the top of this post.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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