October 3rd, 2012
07:46 AM ET
2 years ago

Conservative media coordinates on release of old Obama video

(CNN) - On the eve of the first presidential debate, conservative media outlets seized on footage of a five-year-old, widely covered speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who argued at the time that the federal government discriminated against Hurricane Katrina victims.

The June 2007 speech at Hampton University in Virginia was widely covered by CNN and other news outlets, as Obama was already well into his presidential campaign, running alongside then-Sen. Hillary Clinton at the front of the polls.

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However, the conservative news outlets that pushed the video Tuesday night argued the media skipped over portions of the speech.

Speaking to a largely black audience, Obama in the video made the case that race relations still had a long way to go in the United States, claiming the divide most severely has an impact on impoverished parts of the country.

The 2007 event was open to the press, and CNN affiliate WAVY recorded the full speech. The crux of his speech was reported by CNN at the time on air and online.

The speech was reported on or discussed multiple times on CNN over a three day period.

Segments aired on the "The Situation Room" and CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on June 5, 2007, which was also the day of a CNN Republican presidential debate.

The next day, CNN anchor Paula Zahn noted in her program, "Because of the Republican debate, you might have missed a new controversy involving Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama." Her program, "Paula Zahn Now," included a report on the comments and a panel discussion. A report by CNN Correspondent Mary Snow on the racial aspect of the comments also ran on CNN that day.

Clips of Obama's speech also aired on CNN "Newsroom" at least twice on June 7, 2007.

Five years later, CNN Senior Political Analyst and National Journal Editorial Director Ron Brownstein pointed out on CNN's "Newsroom" Wednesday morning that the speech was widely covered not only by CNN, but by others.

"This was hardly a secret tape," he said. "It's in the tape library of most of the networks, including CNN. It was a publicly covered event. It was discussed not only with [Fox News commentator and conservative] Tucker [Carlson] but on Fox. ABC talked about it."

In the re-circulated version of the video Tuesday conservatives especially jumped on a moment in the speech when the president appeared to stray away from his prepared remarks and blast the government for allegedly treating victims of the Sept. 11 attacks differently than those of Hurricane Katrina.

In the speech, delivered before a minister's conference, Obama first spelled out a provision in the Stafford Act that requires local and state governments to match a certain percentage of federal funds provided for emergency assistance. The law currently says those state and local governments must share 25% or less of the cost of "essential assistance."

"Some states, for example, have established a 15% local and a 10% state match combination," the law stipulates.

Obama, however, slammed the government for not waiving the matching funds in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

"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'," Obama said, growing emotional. "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 gonna wait for you to scratch it together – because you're part of the American family'."

He continued: "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!"

In the years since Katrina, the government has taken steps to expedite assistance and funds to the ravaged Gulf Coast. As of the disaster's seventh anniversary, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had spent $19.1 billion in Louisiana alone to help victims of Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

Critics also highlighted comments Obama made about his pastor at the time, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Standing on stage, Obama pointed to Wright in the audience and described him as "the guy who puts up with me, counsels me, listens to my wife complain about me."

"He's a friend and a great leader. Not just in Chicago, but all across the country," he added.

Less than a year later, the presidential candidate would be forced to distance himself from Wright after video emerged of the reverend making controversial comments about race in a sermon.

Some conservatives argued Obama's 2007 praise of Wright represented his true feelings about the pastor.

Throughout the 2007 remarks, Obama called for more investment and job training in poor communities and minority-owned businesses. His speech was targeted to his audience and tailored with themes of "hope" and "overcoming obstacles" that are traditionally heard in black churches.

The then-senator ended his remarks, saying: "America will survive. Just like black folks will survive. We won't forget where we came from. We won't forget what happened 19 months ago, or 15 years ago, or 300 years ago."

Conservative blogs and news websites lit up Tuesday afternoon when the right-leaning news aggregator, Drudge Report, first alerted that a television network would be releasing "curious tape" that would "ignite accusations of racism–in both directions."

Matt Drudge, who runs the site, later tweeted the network was facing an "internal debate" over whether to air the footage on the night before the cycle's first presidential debate.

Blogs began to publish a YouTube link of the suspected video–a nearly 10 minute clip of the same 2007 speech. Many reporters quickly noted the address was fairly well known and was broadly covered five years ago.

However, at 9 p.m. ET, Fox News' Sean Hannity, the conservative news website "The Daily Caller" and Drudge released what they described as an "exclusive" video of the nearly 40 minute speech, which included the comments about Sept. 11 and Katrina, which were not seen in the nine-minute YouTube video.

While some on Twitter stoked speculation that Mitt Romney's campaign may have been part of the timing of the video's publicity, the GOP nominee's team denied being tied to the media effort.

"We did not have any involvement," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement to CNN.

Brownstein, the political analyst, thought it unlikely that Romney would raise this at Wednesday's debate.

"I honestly don't think he's going to go there himself," he said. "This is the kind of thing that happens by outside groups or outside activists."

Democratic commentators fired back after portions of the speech aired Tuesday night, saying the remarks were old and blown out of proportion.

"I think that there is no material significance here, but the Republicans are very good at taking nothing and turning it into what appears to be something," Boyce Watkins, founder of yourblackworld.com, said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

He added: "We have to remember that we live in a country that has for 400 years been poisoned by the psychological disease of racism and it doesn't take much to spark that back up."

Countering, conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson said Obama's comments were telling of the president's personal views on race in the United States.

"He's addressing a largely black crowd and making the point that very clearly, that they in New Orleans got treated differently from people in New York and people in Florida because they somehow weren't part of the American community," Erickson said. "That's fanning the flames."

Brownstein noted that "this is an intensely racially polarized country," and that race plays a part in both the election and governing.

"There is a racial element that is in the backdrop here," Brownstein said. "Not necessarily racism, but very different views about the role of government and very different views about the parties."

Obama's re-election campaign also weighed in late Tuesday night, calling it an attempt to change the subject from "(Romney's) comments attacking half of the American people," referring to secretly-recorded video of Romney saying 47% of Americans do not pay federal income taxes and are "victims" dependent on the government.

"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. 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," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement to CNN.


Filed under: 2008 Election • President Obama
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Who Cares

    *Yawn*..... Enough with the videos already!! Bring on tonight's debates! I'm ready to get this election over with because transparent desperation is making me nauseous

    October 3, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    And? The Bush administration DID discriminate against them.

    October 3, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  3. logi_101

    Obama but most of the nation that was critical of that travesty. This argument will appeal to basic racism of the republican base and cannot help but focus on Romney, who has championed fending for oneself as a value, instead of pulling together as one nation.

    October 3, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. Lee in Iowa

    The very fact that the conservative media coordinated this together should warn us that they're under control and we should be thinking about...whose control.

    Also, President Obama was right. New Orleans WAS treated differently–and very badly–after Katrina. There was a concerted effort to keep black people and poor people from ever returning at all. Very ugly behavior by Bush's FEMA (all the while busily stuffing their pockets with our money).

    October 3, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. SafeJourney

    Drudge is just another Breitbart. Just shows you that when one Breitbart dies anyone emerges to take its place

    October 3, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. Anonymous

    This is an example of how desperate the "Right" is... There are so many points to make here that I am dumbstruck...

    The first one though is the hypocrisy of the "conservative" media coordination – I guess there is now also a 2 party media system?? The "Riht" media always blasts about unbiased reporting when they are just as guilty.... Simply amazing to me they could be so blatant.

    Second point – since Obama discusses his pastor, will the right now back off of calling him a muslim?? It has really bothered me that they have treid this subversive tactic of labeling Obama a muslim to try to get independents to vote for the GOP ticket – what is next, Obama is a Russion ( they are our numberone enemy according to Romnot) or something worse??

    It doesn't matter the color of your skin – the response to those hurricane victims was appalling – if the right wing nut jobs want to try and re-write hstory, go ahead – the reasonable Americans remember the video shots..

    In closing, it is stuff like this that the American people continue acceting whcih is also driving us off a cliff – just not a financial one, but a social one... Do w really want that??

    October 3, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  7. uncdig

    So the point of the article is that Obama was pandering to another group. He will say & do anything to get elected or reelected. We know that, America knows that. So what the video shows is that he is only in this for himself & no one else.

    October 3, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  8. Michael

    Yawn....Is that the best you Repubs can do?

    How about the same effort in findings Willard's hidden Tax Returns?

    October 3, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  9. Borderless

    Both sides have gotten ridiculous with these old videos. Fox is just doing to Obama what CNN does to Romney daily. Everyone needs to stop worrying about this garbage and focus on the relevant issues. Hear that CNN? No more 47% stupidity or Bain Capital nonsense or income tax silliness Grow up children.

    October 3, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  10. Tom

    I listened to both tapes of the speech and also researched what was written on it when it came out. A lot of what he said was not covered in any press. Think about it a 40 minute speech and only a little under 10 minutes were made available at the time. I also had a chance to look at the release at the time from the campaign and it appears to leave out a lot of what is said. So there are one or two reasons of the disconnect between the two.
    1. Reporters today report on what they are handed by the campaign and really do not want to take the time to listen to anything. This would make much more sense with the work ethic we have seen from the media journalist. Plagiarize, do a story on a subject and not actually be there. this is one reason the failure and disconnect of the difference in the two yet same speeches.
    2. The other reason is more simple. They do not want to report on this in it's entirety. This includes CNN and the way they headlined this article. Instead of headlining it "Conservative media coordinate on "30 minutes of unreleased" old video. That is the real news. Why was it not made available before? Why was the reporting not complete on what was said? Was the media there? Did they listen? Did they report in it's entirety? Or was it just that they did not do it since it would have hurt the candidate at the time. These are questions that the media really needs to answer.
    Are you being objective, subjective in reporting or is it you just don't care and are in it for a paycheck.

    October 3, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  11. GI Joe

    Ho Hum -- we've seen it thousands of times. Nice those billionaires have nothing better to do with their dirty money, like, um, being job creators.................

    October 3, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  12. Wilson

    Socialism is Slavery to the Government, Capitalism is Freedom and Prosperity. The Democrat party is still pro slavery and the Republican party is still trying to set the Slaves free. A slave is not truely free unless he is economically independent. A person adicted to the drug of Government dependence will never be Free. In the words of Moses "Let MY People Go."

    October 3, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  13. Informed Voter

    That's it? These guys are so desperate that mittens is losing that they're digging up anything that can be misconstrued as Obama anti-Americanism. Fail.

    October 3, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  14. Sarah J

    The CNN article from 2007 doesn't even scratch the surface of what was said in that speech. And they call themselves unbiased, hahahahaha.

    October 3, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  15. TAK

    Yawn and ... boring. Well, atleast Obama did not talk about harvesting companies and putting American out of work for a profit.

    October 3, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  16. Name Rod

    God has already the winner of the election it does'nt matter about he said she said people need to put God in their lives and live the word of God daily

    October 3, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  17. virginia girl

    The nation's lame media is the conservitive media. Wow, this is the best you idiots could come up with? Everything Obama said was true no matter how you try to spin it. President Obama will be re-elected so make room on your faux news for two more loser comentaters Romney and lyin Ryan. They'll fit right in.

    October 3, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. Namejkane sfl a vote for the gop will cut your moms medicare and soc sec .can you afford to pay for them???

    Conservative gop idiots like Carl rove and Dick armey ,the gop losers ads that you see on tv trashing our president all the time, just remember that these same people are the ones that crashed our economic while bush was in office and its their turn to get trash in the elections in,Nov , 30 more days and they will be gone for another four years with an Obama dem landslide !!!!!!!

    October 3, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Al-NY,NY

    blah blah blah. Nothing to see here people. More desperation by Flip Flomney.

    October 3, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  20. So What

    And the conservative point is? That's right a lot of nothing to do about nothing.

    October 3, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  21. Me IN HOUSTON

    Republicans must think that the release of the Romney video denigrating 47% of Americans, calling them freeloaders who think they are entitled to things like FOOD, MEDICAL CARE, SHELTER...YOU NAME IT, was coordinated by the mainstream media. It was not. It just caught on very quickly.
    This their futile attempt at revenge. They hope they can turn this 5 year old speech into a problem for Obama and make him look as bad or worse than Romney.
    As I stated before, this is a futile attempt. It won't work

    October 3, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  22. Dan J

    Democrats say that Obama's comments were old and blown out of proportion... yet they attack Romney's actions when he was 16. No, no double standard there.

    October 3, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  23. irish

    I disagree CNN. A video of our President praising Rev. Jeremiah Wright and race baiting is clearly relevant to me as an American citizen. You are the irrelevant news source for failing to report things that don't suit your agenda.

    October 3, 2012 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  24. ajw

    I listened to the speech. Such a non issue. I was disappointed to say the least. After all the hype I expected a whole lot more

    October 3, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. Marty, FL

    The operative word being old.

    The video has been out for five years alluding to another sign of right-wing desperation. Nothing new.

    October 3, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
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