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. pc

    I guess that makes you the liberal media.

    October 3, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. Tree

    Here we go again. This video been out there for years. Please STOP.......its not going to work. If it does, it will work on the people who hates our President. What a waste of time...............

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

    So the Obama admin is upset about this video, claiming Republicans are trying to distort things. No different then the democrats distorting the 47 % comment, If the Dem's can't take the heat then stay out of the kitchen, bunch of cry babies.

    October 3, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. pc

    Show me where you reported these paragraphs in 2007.

    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!"

    October 3, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. love344@tiscali.it

    Omg...a black president...talking like a black man...and shouting out his preacher... stop time....

    these conversatives are desparate...... I still haven't forgot Ryan's 30% comment or Romney's 47%

    October 3, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. EW3

    Actually I remember in 2008 that the President disavowed any influence of Rev Wright. He claimed to have slept through many years of Rev Wright's anti-American diatribes at church.

    Turns out Rev Wright was in fact a close personal influence.

    Am not very fond of liars, regardless of party affiliation or skin color.

    October 3, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  7. Jerome

    "Conservative media coordinates on release of old Obama video"

    and Liberal media coordinates to downplay it.

    October 3, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  8. what a ridiculous title CNN gives this story...coordinates?

    this video is the first time you will see this video, UNEDITED...with obama going off script with many ad libs....it was never shown in 2007 when he was running for office.....why? because the liberal media establishment want to control what you see.

    period.

    use your brain...dont listen to what these people spoon feed you.

    October 3, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  9. olepi

    Their "exclusive" is a public speech from 5 years ago, that was covered at the time.

    BWAHAHA!

    October 3, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  10. fernace

    The GOTP are scraping the barrel, trying to come up w/something, anything that will take the focus off the fact that they have nothing new to come with! It's all about the 1% & big biz mooching off the middleclass & the poor are on their own! I suppose they want to call these comments divisive & incendiary, which is obviously "transference" since they have run their whole campaign on divisiveness! Illegals should selfdeport, women should defer to men regarding their own bodies & gay rights should be blocked/banned/cut!They seem to promote marginalization of every1 except rich fatcats! The party of the 1% could teach seminars on divisiveness, obstruction & transference! Obama Nov 6!!

    October 3, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  11. MattL

    Fake controversy. Conservative media feeding to their sheeple...what else is new?

    October 3, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  12. Yellott

    Remember when the 47percent video came out and CNN calles it a "Liberal Exclusive". I don't!!

    October 3, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. FactCheck

    Oh how desperate and weak these wing-nuts have become. Yeah, this was a major issue of the campaign... the 2008 campaign.

    October 3, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. Dennis

    Rightwing media coordinates with each other on "old" (from Obama's most recent campaign prior to this one) video that for once isn't sanitized by Obama's camp is bad. Leftwing media coordinating with the Obama campaign about much older (and thoroughly debunked) allegations about Romney's service as CEO of Bain Capital is good. Got it.

    When exactly did CNN decide to become to journalism what the WWE is to sports?

    October 3, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  15. e320dq

    Just another example of dividing this country – nothing to see here...

    October 3, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  16. Alex in NJ

    First off, one big problem is that Obama was either woefully ignorant, or completely dishonest about the Stafford Act as it related to 9/11 and Katrina. The Federal government gave $180 billion to the Gulf post-Katrina, compared to $20 billion to NYC post-9/11. In addition, the Stafford Act was waived for the Gulf.
    Second off, the media DID cut the more surprising and angry moments of the speech when it was covered back in 2007. And once again, like clockwork, you guys are here to bury the video, to downplay it, to decide on behalf of the American people what to think of it.
    I truly, truly hope some billionaire backer of Romney buys airtime on every network and just plays this thing in it's entirety, because that's the only way it'll get out. If there's even a price high enough to get the networks to betray their messiah.

    October 3, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. Lindsey

    And conservatives somehow think that Bush's handling of the Katrina disaster was applause-worthy? "Yer doin a heck of a job, Brownie!" Um...no. Katrina was a disaster and Bush's handling of it was the second disaster. Didn't look like Bush gave half a crap as he flew over New Orleans from the safety and comfort of Air Force One, then went home. it took a public outcry and scandal to get his sorry butt to New Orleans proper, where he made mouthings of concern.

    October 3, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  18. joshua

    This video is all Obama, As much as the liberal media wants to clean up the messes dropped by Obama and Biden, this is still obama in his own words. The liberal media has gone to great lengths to explain to everyone what Obama and Biden meant to say and not to pay attention to what they actually said. Gaffes and truths are stubborn things and it makes the liberal medias job of defending obama more difficult. CNN and NBC has done a wonderful job of being the water bearer for the democrat party if you just looked at the poll numbers as they are currently.

    October 3, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  19. what a ridiculous title CNN gives this story...coordinates?

    listen to HOW obama talks in this video....does it sound like the obama of today, much less the obama in 2008? no, it sounds like he becomes a black preacher when it suits him...and a white academic when he needs to pull the wool over someones eyes...this video clearly shows how angry he is...suggesting also that suburbs get more money than some urban neighbourhoods...I.E. whites get more money than blacks. this is a) untrue and b) very racially charged...

    and this is the guy that was supposed to unite all people? are you kidding me?

    October 3, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  20. Ty

    Should I be enraged or something?

    October 3, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  21. nom pluribus

    it is true what the pres said about new orleans and lack of immediate help. i went to new orleans 1 year after katrina and the place looks the same as if the flood just receded, especially the 9th ward. i bet if new orleans was a wealthy suburbs, help would have been there a lot quicker.

    October 3, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  22. Something Wrong Here

    Show the video CNN!!!!

    October 3, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  23. Steve

    Obama attended wright's church for years, he has called wright his mentor previously, then he finally distanced himself from wright only when he felt wright would damage his election. You are who you associate with. Wright is race issues wright has stated his hatred of America. I did not think Obama was the man for the job in 2008 and I do not think he is right this time either. I have seen how he has divided America and it is wrong

    October 3, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  24. personalfact

    I watched the video and I did not like it. It was racist in some comments. I also like that he dissed the Media and more specifically ANDERSON COOPER lol. How ya like him now. No wonder your ratings are the lowest. We the people dont want just the right's side or the left's side. When the information about the video ran in 07. Why did you report just what the campaign told you to. And not what was actually said. I listened to the whole video before I commented. I didnt just take the rights side or vice versa. When will you get that the people want the TRUTH and all of it. No matter if its about Republicans or Democrats.

    October 3, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  25. Common Sense

    I love the title "conservative media" as a way to try to get people to ignore this. The "conservative media" shouldn't have to be the only ones who release this video. Every media outlet should have.

    October 3, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
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