Are Obama’s Critics Racist? Why Don’t We Listen to Them?

Former President Jimmy Carter’s statement (NBC, 9/15/09) that “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” has generated widespread discussion in the corporate media. But few of the many analyses of Carter’s remarks give you much of a sense of why one might think that many of Obama’s foes are motivated by racism.

No one can look into another person’s heart, of course. But many of Obama’s most prominent critics have talked enough about the president and race to provide plenty of evidence about where they’re coming from. And no one has been more revealing of their inner demons than Rush Limbaugh; who can forget this classic too-much-information rant?

We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.

Strikingly, the same day Carter made his supposedly controversial comments about racism and Obama critics, Limbaugh (9/15/09) was engaged in all-out race-baiting over a schoolbus fight that was initially reported as a racial incident:

It’s Obama’s America, is it not? Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. 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,” and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he’s white.

If that’s not an expression of a racial animus, what would qualify? Why is it more controversial to criticize people who issue hateful rants like this than it is to make them in the first place?

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.