September 18th, 2009
06:43 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: Race not 'overriding issue' in criticism

President Obama’s full interview will air on State of the Union this Sunday, starting at 9 am ET.
President Obama’s full interview will air on State of the Union this Sunday, starting at 9 am ET.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Harsh rhetoric flung in his direction is no different than that hurled at other presidents who tried to make major changes during their administrations, President Barack Obama said Friday.

In an interview with CNN's John King airing on "State of the Union with John King" this Sunday, Obama acknowledged that racism plays a role in some of the criticism against him, but added that race is "not the overriding issue."

"Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are. That's not the overriding issue here," he said. "I think there are people who are anti-government. I think there's been a long-standing debate in this country that is usually that much more fierce during times of transition, or when presidents are trying to bring about big changes.

"I mean, things that were said about FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) were pretty similar to things that were said about me. 'He's a communist, he's a socialist.' Things that were said about Ronald Reagan when he was trying to reverse some of the New Deal programs, you know, were pretty vicious as well."

Watch President Obama's full interview with John King this Sunday on State of the Union, starting at 9 am ET.

soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Christi from Houston

    And definitely no Ronald Reagan.

    September 18, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. independant turing away from repubs

    Our President is, by far, the best thing to happen to America in many years. He's very intelligent, fair minded, courteous, and gracious. This just makes him even more of a target for the bottom-feeder racists, whom don't contribute anything to our country. The vast majority of Americans are not racists. Shame on the media for allowing the psychotic fringe minority to hijack this debate with their hatred.

    September 18, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  3. Confused??

    How can it be racist when the President is half white/half black?? I guess all those white folks are racist against there own race.

    It is about time that someone besides the old fogies who want to keep throwing race in everyone's faces finally admits it.

    It is amazing that the only ones who keep trying to play the race card are those from the civil rights movement. The younger generations have it let it go and so should they.

    Can we please move on?

    September 18, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. cramit

    His wife costing 100's of thousands of dollars to go shoping 3 blocks from the house to promote outrageous prices of organic foods with a huge carbon footprint .....but who cares ,,,shes a lib,,,,commie

    September 18, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  5. Race is not the issue

    Obama – it is your own party that is making race an issue. If you notice it is the democrats constantly creating a racial undertone and it is fueled by the media.

    September 18, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  6. Biff Henderson McCain

    I began reading this article thinking Obama was gonna act like race has nothing to do with people disliking his policies, or him etc... Im pleased to know that he is not THAT naive or gonna pretend to be that naive in front of the camera. Thats encouraging.

    Barack Obama is the best President the United States of America has elected in some time! perfect for the present day and time we live in... And this is coming from a middle aged, republican, Caucasian american citizen.

    September 18, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  7. centerleft

    Bravo! Mr. President you done more in 8 months then the sore losers Republicans did in 8 years.

    September 18, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  8. Jim

    A cool head. How rare these days.

    September 18, 2009 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    President Obama isn't helping this issue at all.

    He is not being truthful about the racism issue.

    Maybe he is too protected by his political team to know that there are racists and bigots right around him wherever he goes.

    He is basically discrediting those of us who are in contact with racists and bigots on a daily basis and have to personally deal with them.

    September 18, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  10. Keith in Austin

    Funny how Obama allows his DNC political machine to play "the Race Card" for an entire week before making the statement that Racism is not a primary factor re: those in disagreement with his agenda. This President is a very shrewd politician and his ulterior motives which are rapidly coming to light are a threat to America!

    September 18, 2009 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  11. jon

    i realized i typed that to fast and made some mistakes "I am not. I love our country to much...."

    September 18, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  12. jc

    The president has made an accurate comparison when he refers to presidents FDR and Ronald Reagan. By his response to John King, however, Obama chose to wisely steer way from further fueling this sort of discourse. Otherwise, he would be accused of being insecure or defensive. Despite his prudent response, the fact is there will be a much, much thinner margin of error afforded him by "mainstream" culture, and primarily because of the race factor. It is a hard subliminal reality in our society regardless of our best intentions.

    September 18, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  13. Walter

    The thing is though, Obama is a socialist though.

    September 18, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  14. mark in atlanta

    Cool head. Balanced response. Great President.

    September 18, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  15. Don Balfour

    Race, transition, anti-government, etc., how many more excuses for the public outcry against your government run health care system can you invent President Obama??? give us real American citizens the same health care package that you and congress voted for yourselves and i'm sure that you'll get all the support from the American public that you'll need.!

    September 18, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  16. Red by choice

    Someone ask Obama why he is calling the governer of Mass. to encourage him to change the law so he can appoint a democrat immediately to fill Kennedy's spot.

    While Romney was governer the Mass congress change the law from appointment to special election.

    Now they want to change it back so the Dem. governer can appoint another Dem into the Senate for the healthcare vote.

    Obama said that the whitehouse was not involved. Mass governer says Obama and his staff have called several times. Obama lied...again.

    September 18, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  17. mark in atlanta

    The thing that makes this so tricky is that while most racists are probably Fox-watching tea baggers, not all Fox-watching tea baggers are racists. Most of the angry white people whupping it up in support of Glen Beck's pyschotic fantasies are just angry, fearful, and ignorant. But not racists..

    September 18, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  18. Kevin

    I didn't vote for Obama in the Primary or the general election because I didn't trust him. I'm afraid that I still don't trust him much more than I did then. Both facts pain me as a lifelong Democratic voter. However, I have to give him credit for being a thoughtful, intelligent man who can correctly distinguish facts of debates from sensationalism foist upon the U.S. people by the media. He may not turn out to be a great president, but he is a man of astonishing character.

    September 18, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  19. Charles

    I think that President Obama is trying to soften a very serious issue. There are a significant number of people who do not like him because of race and that this is an overriding issue. Presidents of past administrations have not been racially mocked or have seen the level of slander used against them. Rush and Beck are leading a mindless exodus of right-wing extremist that are promoting a movement for white privilege. I'm sure that many foreign countries are anxious to see how this plays out. America will forever be the most racist country on this planet.

    September 18, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  20. Dave

    Dear Mr. President,

    Please acknowlegde that there is a genuine opposition to your health care reform policy, as framed by a very left leaning house. I hope that the final bill will be moderate and bipartisan, especially when you are making changes to what amounts to 16 % of GDP.

    A registered independent voter.

    September 18, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  21. joe

    our president is first class all the way. i can't think of a better role model for our children. the american people are pulling for you mr. president. the majority of this country can recognize goodness when we see it.

    September 18, 2009 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  22. Harry's Watching

    The President takes the high road and it's the right decision. Why we're even discussing whether Nazi/Hitler posters, witch doctor pictures of Obama, total disregard for respect for the President during an address and several other comments during the election, (the Tiger Woods comment, etc.), are racist is ridiculous. Of course they are. Not everyone has those attitudes but what others want to see is those types of actions condemned by others in that party/group/march. If you march with those signs and do nothing about it, you're guilty too.

    September 18, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  23. Mike TX

    At least the President can see other folks just disagree with his policies. Too bad many of his followers can't see the same thing.

    September 18, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  24. Kofi Preko

    Who thinks President Obama is a magician? He has been in office less than a year and already people are calling him a failure.How do we expect him to fix in six months that which took years to destroy?I am so glad he has a thick skin and nothing rattles him.There is more to these tea party demonstrations and protests than the suppose disagreements with government spending and healthcare reforms.Everyone agrees the system is broken and needs fixing,why then raise hell if someone proposes an idea to fix it.If you dont think he has the right ideas then put yours out there for all to see.Afterall you had eight years and you did nothing.Please keep quiet so the President can work his ideas.You have the power to vote him out if he does not deliver.Yes he can so give him his day in court.

    September 18, 2009 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  25. jmz

    Wow good job. Understand. I do not agree with the changes you are making. I do not want big govt. But at least thank you for not making this about race. America was made great by big people not big govt. We need to be able to fend for ourselves as that is what this country is about. Everyone is not supposed to be a winner because this is NOT the special olympics.The problem with giving everyone everything, is it creates an enviroment where there is NO incentive to succeed, and every reason to be lazy. We have seen since the inception of welfare programs that America as a whole has become lazier, fatter, and far more self entitled than before. Ans it gets worse with every generation. We know what the govt WILL do do control costs. We KNOW what the gvt WILL do once it gets more and more control over public lives. Its not racism, its not paranoia. it is the same thing that has happened every time a govt has gotten control of its population.
    Even if you mean well.."the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and dictators first give the people everything they want, then take ALL they have

    September 18, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
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