Does Fox News monitor every word that comes out of Oprah Winfrey’s mouth, just waiting for something they can use to call her a racist? If not, how else to explain at least four prime time segments last night to analyze her comments to a BBC host that she thinks President Obama is disrespected because of his race? And yet her comments about how far the country has evolved on race were largely ignored.
Bill O’Reilly thought Oprah’s remarks were so important, he made them the top story of The O'Reilly Factor and the focus of Talking Points commentary last night. He followed that up with an interview with African American Harvard professor (and Obama friend) Charles Ogletree. Both of those segments are below. But even that was not enough. Following Ogletree was yet another segment, this one with Juan Williams and Mary Katharine Ham. The Hannity show also hosted a discussion on the subject.
“Oprah Winfrey defending President Obama, using the race card,” O’Reilly announced gravely to introduce his Talking Points. It was a clever way of suggesting that Obama supporters use race dishonestly. Even though Oprah was not defending Obama per se, just discussing her view of race.
In the clip O'Reilly played, Winfrey was asked whether she thought “some of the treatment” Obama has received “is because he’s an African American.” She did not bring it up herself. Her answer, at least as played on Fox:
Has it ever crossed my mind? It’s crossed my mind probably as many times as it’s crossed your mind. Probably, it’s crossed my mind more times than it’s crossed your mind.
Just the level of disrespect. When the senator (sic) yelled out, “You’re a liar.” Remember that? Yeah, I think that there’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American.
Color me crazy but even if you’re horribly offended by her opinion, this does not strike me as the stuff of four prime time discussions.
Oprah Winfrey scolded for what she didn't say
“In my opinion, she is a good person,” O’Reilly said. But that didn’t mean she shouldn’t be scolded for the umpteenth time on Fox. “There’s no question that President Bush was attacked far more viciously than President Obama has been. But Ms. Winfrey has not acknowledged that as far as I know,” O'Reilly added accusingly.
Except Winfrey was not saying that Obama was attacked more viciously. She said there was a level of disrespect that occurs in SOME CASES because of Obama’s race. Like, maybe, accusations (via Glenn Beck, validated by Sean Hannity) Obama is a black racist or smearing his birthday party as a Hip Hop BBQ (as Fox Nation did), and non-stop phony suggestions he's not American, all of which happened on Fox News. That’s not just disrespectful, it’s disrespectful with racial overtones. And you know what, O'Reillyl? It says a lot that you can not or will not see it.
O’Reilly held up John F. Kennedy – who just happens to have been an Irish Catholic like O’Reilly – as an example of someone who suffered even worse prejudice. But again, Winfrey was not saying Obama was the only one or someone who suffered it most, she was merely saying that race influenced some of the attacks on him.
“So what Oprah Winfrey is doing is making an excuse for President Obama using race,” O’Reilly concluded. That’s not only wrong, it’s him using her as an excuse to delegitimize African Americans' racial concerns. It’s a familiar meme from O’Reilly. Just a few months ago, he was obsessed with lecturing African Americans about race. Apparently, Winfrey didn’t get the memo that she should have consulted (white) O'Reilly before offering her opinion on the subject.
“There will always be bigots,” O’Reilly acknowledged. But without citing a single study or statistic, he immediately announced that their numbers are “insignificant.” He concluded, “I submit that Oprah Winfrey and others who play the race card can’t back up their statements with any facts. …It is irresponsible of Oprah Winfrey, a woman of influence in this country, to say what she said to the BBC.”
This, from the guy who marveled on his own radio show that African American customers at a restaurant in Harlem were well-behaved.
Fox's blatant race baiting of Obama gets a pass from the guest
Then came Ogletree. He did a good job of defending President Obama. “A good man, he doesn’t let race bother him,” Ogletree was well-spoken, polite and intelligent. But, sadly, he failed to hold O’Reilly’s feet to the fire over his disingenuous agenda. First, Ogletree mentioned only in passing that Oprah had also talked about how far we’ve come with regard to race in this country. I believe he should have questioned why O’Reilly took one little sliver of her comments and ignored the rest.
Ogletree did mention birthers and even Donald Trump but O’Reilly insisted, “Those people have been marginalized.” That was the moment for Ogletree to ask whether that means that Fox News is marginal. Not only has it aired countless segments questioning President Obama’s birth certificate, not only has it not apologized for doing so but it continues to treat King Birther, Donald Trump, as a credible and important pundit.
And if Ogletree missed that opportunity, he got an even better one when O’Reilly asked, “Is there one legitimate news organization in this country – anywhere! – Professor, that has used race to attack Barack Obama? One?
Sadly, Ogletree sounded Palinesque as he answered, “A lot of them.”
That only gave O’Reilly a chance to feel he had bested his guest. O’Reilly said, “You can’t! You can’t give me any! You’re pointing to kooks …individual kooks!”
Too bad Ogletree didn’t cite Megyn Kelly. She spent weeks painting President Obama as a promoter of black racism and enabling thuggish black men to intimidate white voters. Only to have her story fall apart. And how did Fox News hold this “individual kook” accountable? By kicking Sean Hannity out of his prime time hour and giving it to her.
I just banned Marv Goble. He had no business talking to you like that. Anyone who would, is obviously not hear for a constructive discussion, either.
So I hope you’re not holding your breath waiting for him to answer you.
What is not expected: a sitting congressperson interrupt a State of the Union to yell “YOU LIE!”
Supreme Court justices snubbing the State of the Union address
Governors on the red carpet in front of Airport One wiggling a finger in the face of the President
American blacks often speak of being disrespected and insulted for no other reason than race.
You may say these incidents are not race related but a matter of personal choice. The incidents above involve public elected officials and the current President of the USA.
I was unable to find a time when a congressman called a president a liar during a State of the Union or a Justice refusing to attend the event. It’s just not done, or at least wasn’t done until now.
As hard as Bush got hit, it was always- ALWAYS- based on a real concern we had about him. Not only is Obama getting being shown the worst disrespect I’ve ever seen towards an elected official, but it’s absolutely lined with death threats, and not even trying to hide that most of these people would be defending him if he was a white christian with a “mukin” name.
As far as insults thrown at Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, I haven’t heard them being threatened with bodily harm in the manner that right wingers have gone after President Obama. I would agree that there have been multiple cases of outrageous insults against them. But not threats of violence.
The right wing does not get to rewrite history just because right wingers are embarrassed by their current behavior.
‘If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier… as long as I’m the dictator.’ -George W. Bush.
Oh, wait… Fox News defended that one. So I guess a Republican president ‘joking’ about instating martial law to make his job easier is A-OK, but a Democrat’s campaign gaffe is the smoking gun in some great conspiracy.
I wouldn’t know about President Obama having more killings than any other President. That honor likely goes to Harry Truman for dropping the bombs on Japan. Or we could discuss the thousands who died in Central America due to the interventions approved by Ronald Reagan. Or we could discuss all the deaths due to the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush. But President Obama? Really. On the other hand, I would agree that right wingers do seem to hate the heck out of him.
Oprah Winfrey’s comments are essentially correct. We are seeing a disrespect being leveled at the current President at a level we have not encountered before. She’s not wrong to note the racial tinge to it. Attacking her, as various right wingers have angrily done, does not change that fact.
Granted, we’ve seen disrespect to Presidents mounting over the past 20 years. The right wing made plenty of nasty comments about Bill Clinton during his two terms, calling him “Slick Willie” and the like. Rush Limbaugh practically made a cottage industry out of nasty comments about Clinton, and still indulges in that to this day. And to be fair, the left made its share of comments about George W. Bush’s intelligence during his presidency. Michael Moore made a point of including a shot of the presidential motorcade being egged during one of his documentaries on Bush in the 2000s.
But things have certainly been amped up in the attacks on the current President. George W. Bush never had his basic citizenship or his religious beliefs not only questioned but vilified during his presidency. George W. Bush was never demanded by anyone to produce his college transcripts and his writings for analysis. George W. Bush may have been challenged for wearing a wire during the 2004 debates, but he was never called lazy and stupid by John Sununu on multiple networks at the time. George W. Bush may have been denigrated overseas when he had shoes thrown at him at an event in Iraq, but he never had a sitting congressperson interrupt a State of the Union to yell “YOU LIE!”. Supreme Court justices never snubbed the State of the Union under George W. Bush. All of these things and more have been done to President Obama, and Fox News and the general right wing media have cheered them all along.
President Obama has regularly been challenged on racial grounds. The arrest of Professor Gates in Cambridge became an opportunity to attack the President when he was asked the obvious questions about it, and the right wing went to town about it. The New Black Panther incident at the voting booth in 2008 was blown up by Fox News as another way to take cheap racial shots – and Megyn Kelly happily jumped on the chance to demonstrate her outrage. The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case became another way to attack the President – and that took an increasingly nasty racist tone when right wingers like Rush Limbaugh began openly fomenting for race riots to happen after the trial. (Interesting to note this in light of Zimmerman’s continuing issues with violence and firearms…) Right wingers have repeatedly tried to tie President Obama to any black speaker they could, usually with the embarrassing problem that the general public wasn’t impressed.
Bill O’Reilly’s question is disingenuous on its face. He knows darn well that there have been PILES of racially offensive coverage of President Obama at Fox News. We could point to the work of Megyn Kelly. We could point to the work of Sean Hannity, who has not only indulged in it himself but has tried to give cover to people who have done so, including his attempts at rehabilitation interviews with Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump and John Sununu. We could note not only the coverage but also the multiple veiled and unveiled attacks made on President Obama on Fox News, including such gems as James Taranto calling the President “a pathetic little man”. We could note the comments regularly made by Greg Gutfeld – clearly intended to make him appear “edgy” but which frequently run on the far side of being offensive. So Bill O’Reilly hasn’t very far to look. But we could be snarky and note that he was asking for a “legitimate” news organization. Is Bill thus admitting that Fox News is not legitimate?
Now, regarding Denny’s feelings about President Obama, we can quickly dispense with his concerns.
The ACA is not “imploding”. It’s a government program having a troubled rollout. Nothing new there. We had a similar issue with Medicare part D. The right wing would like to foment as much anger as they can about it, since they’re committed to the notion of saying that it and President Obama have “failed”. Sadly for the right wing, wishing is not the same thing as reality. Rush Limbaugh can opine all he likes that “I hope HE FAILS!” but that doesn’t make it a fact. The right wing and Fox News have tried to play that game for nearly 6 years now, going all the way back to the moment that President Obama became a real possibility to win the Presidency in 2008. Hasn’t worked yet, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. As for other networks jumping on the bandwagon to talk about the glitches, that’s just normal car crash journalism. They know people are concerned about the issue, and they’re playing up the problems they see. Noting that there was discussion that the White House was aware of potential problems with the website is nothing major. That’s not the same thing as, for example, noting that George W. Bush had ample warning about the 911 attacks before they happened. In the latter case, you’re talking about massive incompetence resulting in thousands of deaths. In the former case, you’re talking about fixing a website. If you’re trying to equate the two, you may need to really think about the definition of moral equivalency.
As for Benghazi, that’s been a phony scandal from day one for the right wing. They can’t have it both ways. When it happened, on September 11, 2012, the right wing media was up in arms about all the rioting happening across the Middle East over the “Innocence of Muslims” trailer that was deliberately posted and spread at the time. As angry mobs were gathering in multiple countries in the area, the right wing was trying to portray the situation as showing that President Obama was terrible in terms of his foreign policy, and that “the whole Middle East is on fire”, as Sean Hannity put it after our embassy in Cairo was overrun. And then the next day, we have the attack on the Benghazi consulate, at which point the right wing switch the narrative to say that it’s not a matter of the riots going on everywhere, it’s a coverup by President Obama. For anyone paying attention at the time, this was a transparent attempt to give Mitt Romney a lifeline when he was desperately flailing in the polls and his advisors were panicking. (That’s referring to the advisors who knew what the real numbers were, and not the ones who were snowed by the right wing media insistence by Dick Morris and others that Romney was somehow going to win in a landslide.) Now, the right wing has had 14 months to find this massive conspiracy in Benghazi, and all they’ve been able to do is rattle their cups several times. They’ve had multiple witnesses, all of whom have pretty much confirmed what was in the report the investigators issued at the time – that things could have and should have been handled differently, but that there was no conspiracy to somehow leave this consulate exposed. And having a few lower level guys who don’t like the current President come forward with sour grapes does not suddenly create evidence of a cover-up that didn’t happen. As President Obama appropriately schooled Romney in the second debate, it’s frankly offensive for the right wing to be trying to make hay out of this situation, given that four people lost their lives and shouldn’t be used as campaign props by pundits who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Regarding Fast and Furious, that was completely debunked over the last three years, most spectacularly in a Fortune Magazine article by Kathryn Eban in summer 2012. The reality of Fast & Furious was that it was a Bush-era ATF program that didn’t work as well as hoped. Several agents who actively participated in it without complaint decided to make some hay out of it when they got into an interpersonal office conflict at their branch. So something that should have been handled internally by HR people instead got fanned into nonsense by the right wing, hoping they’d find a big scandal. What they found instead was the usual bureaucratic mistakes and missteps, including the right wing exploiting a Border Patrol raid gone bad where a couple of F&F guns were found along with many other non F&F guns. Since a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed during this raid, the right wing decided to use him as a campaign prop to try to attack Eric Holder, the Attorney General. Except that Terry wasn’t killed by F&F guns. In fact, the killer escaped into Mexico and hasn’t been seen again since. But the right wing doesn’t want to tell you that. They’d rather keep fanning the flames on something that was proven to not be a story of much substance at all. And for all the right wing’s attempts to smear him, Eric Holder continues to serve with distinction as our Attorney General.
As for the IRS, that’s yet another non-scandal blown up into silliness. If you actually take the time to read over the facts, you find that this was a case of bureaucrats working out a filing system that could be wildly misinterpreted in a political landscape. Nobody was trying to keep right wing people from getting tax exempt status. They were trying to deal with a massive pile of incoming applications and they were separating the stacks. And as a result of this, there’s not a single instance that’s been shown of a right wing group that was denied its ability to speak, and not a single instance of a right winger who was not allowed to declare a tax deduction. All that happened was that the applications got backlogged a bit, which should be no surprise to anyone who’s ever dealt with applying for tax exempt status. The right wing frantically tried to call this a huge scandal, and that doesn’t seem to have worked out so well for them.
If anything, the constant refrain of this stuff by Fox News and the right wing media, and by posters like Denny, only shows up the desperation of the right to find something, anything, with which they can smear President Obama and his presidency. Had it been just one problem here or there that really blew up, that would be one idea. But the right wing keeps hunting for that magic bullet EVERY WEEK. They’ve literally spent the last six years in attack mode, and it’s been fairly obvious to the rest of the country. I don’t know that it’s convinced anyone that President Obama is somehow a bad person, but I do think that it’s impressed everyone that the right wing could remain so angry, so hateful and so committed to those emotions for such a long period of time.