October 3rd, 2012
07:46 AM ET
6 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. LWJR

    CNN identifies itself as LIBERAL MEDIA by identifying the CONSERVATIVE MEDIA. Americans need to wake up and realize, it's about the Propaganda these days. BIAS in the media is real and most of it is LIBERAL coming from the Columbia University School of Journalism in NY.

    October 3, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. Rosslaw

    This is the right-wing's big gun? The Bush administration's response to Katrina was a model of how to disasterously respond to a natural disaster. Well, what else are the republicans going to do? Point to their accomplishments!

    October 3, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  3. reddog50

    The Southern Strategy is alive and well in today's Republican party.

    October 3, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. DrJStrangepork

    A politician pandering to the audience in front of him! This is important news.

    October 3, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. Dan5404

    The GOP archivists are searching for a non-existent needle in a haystack to try to counter the "47%" video that shows the true arrogant and condescending Romney personality. The oldObama video the right wingers dug up was carried by broadcast stations at the time and made no impact at all. It will remain that way despite Hannity's obvious fake attempt to make something out of nothing. He and the word news should never be saif together. He is nothing but a right-wing propaganda mouthpiece.

    October 3, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. David

    How pathetic that CNN STILL can't get this story straight and to say conservative media coordinated???? ummm, yeah, SOMEBODY has to get the facts out to the American people since the Leftist media will only release what they feel favors Obama. Are you people really so drunk off your own Kool-Aid that you don't see how BIASED you are or is it that you simply don't care anymore??? And then the executives over there sit in a room wringing their hands, "Gee, Bob what can we do about these lousy ratings? I don't know, Frank, how about reporting the truth? HAHAHAHAHAHA, don't be silly Bob, we can't do that!!!"

    October 3, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Red Dog

    This is why I won't watch CNN. The story is not conserative media's coverage of the tape. It is what he said. The other story is the main stream media's refusal to cover the story

    October 3, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  8. Bob

    I remember reading and seeing these comments on CNN at the time.

    It was nothing then, and its nothing now.

    The only thing interesting about this is how the conservative mainstream media coludes on taking down the president.

    October 3, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  9. Harrry Baxter

    The Smell of Desperation. If this is their best reaction to the tape of Romney blowing off half the country, they don't have much to offer.

    October 3, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  10. Lyla M

    Good god, GOP, get over it! These whiners have not quit since the day Obama got elected. Never seen such a bunch of whiney babies. I'm a white southern female and I think what Rev. Wright said about New Orleans was spot on. This just shows the desperation of the Republican party. Quite pathetic. The piece only serves to prove why I'm voting Dem all the way as is my family and most of my friends. The only ones who aren't are those who can't stray from Fox "News." Facts are meaningless to them and one is my own brother.

    October 3, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. Gene

    Are you kidding me? The republicans are sooo desperate! This kind of thing can actually strengthen Obama as the public sees it as a hail Mary for Romney and other republicans to gain any kind of traction. That is actually quite funny.

    October 3, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  12. JohnReedjr

    Racism exists in America and inadvertently drives our policy. Denying that is keeping our heads in the sands.

    October 3, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  13. Mike

    Videos are obviously fair game. Even when the candidate doesn't know he is being filmed. Based on the fact that Obama knew he was on camera and spoke in this manner, I would say with confidence that our President is a racist for sure. As for Romney. He can't relate to poor folks...white or black. The real question here is who is better for the country at this point in time. Just my opinion. I think we need a change. This President has really let me down as well as my children. I could make the argument that he really doesn't care about "my people". The struggling lower middle class. The ones that are barely hanging on. Offering me sucurity in the way of a gov't program is not what I want. I want a good job and I want my children to have the same. I'm voting for Romney.

    October 3, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  14. vc

    Now they're desparately grasping straws. This speech was brought up back in 2008, but I'm glad it was brought up again because it shows his determination to change government to be more for the people-ALL AMERICANS.

    I'm also pleased that he made the nation have a meaningful and peaceful discussion about racial equality and has backed it up with caring for everyone regardless of race, and this video brings up fond memories of his path to the white house and how special it was.

    I Love it! Well done conservative media!

    October 3, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  15. Frank

    So, let me get this straight: Even though it's 100% true that the victims of Hurricane Katrina *were* treated differently than victims of the 9/11 attacks (both of which were national tragedies, both of which qualified for the same Stafford Act stipulations), the Republicans feel this is an issue to "shock and awe" people with – because the President was addressing a "mostly black" audience?

    I understand the racial inference, sure, but that doesn't negate the fact that what he said was true and accurate – the victims of Katrina DID receive worse treatment and less aid initially, despite the fact that the Katrina tragedy was covering miles and miles of cities, and not just a few blocks of lower Manhattan.

    This is the best "distraction" they can come up with? Pathetic.

    October 3, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  16. FubarObama

    I love how Obama panders. He is like a Jeckyll and Hyde..you really have no idea on where he stands, it depends who he is talking too to tell you the truth. I am pretty tired of his fake dialect when he speaks to African Americans vs. others. The POTUS should address all Americans with sincerity and respect.He works for us, not the other way around.
    He dumbs it down and uses slang for the AA crowd. His comments regarding Jerimiah Wright shows he holds this man in very high regard and aligns himself as being discriminated by the white man all his life. when in fact he has been lifted up onto a pedestal by the government his entire life and then he turns around and slaps the USA right in the face with his rhetoric. He is a flat out two face politician.

    October 3, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  17. TC

    "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."
    This is why 90% of America now dislikes the media almost as much as they do the people in Washington. Media in America is broken just as the Halls of Congress are... Cnn... Foxnews... pick one it really does not matter... Pandering to one side or the other... You have sold your soul for "ratings". You all disgust me.... "to offend the good taste, moral sense, etc., of; cause extreme dislike or revulsion in" ... Yep that sums up media in America today.

    October 3, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  18. Andrew Kress

    Just have to point out, that if a hurricane struck beverly hills, you can bet THOSE people would'nt be waiting five days for water while the guy in charge of getting water to them was picking out appetizers in a four star restaurant.

    October 3, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  19. Bob

    What a surprise. The liberal media such as CNN refuses to report on Obama's failings, and instead criticizes other media outlets for doing so. I will bet anyone here $1000 that we do not see a single story that casts Obama in a negative light featured on the home page of CNN before the election.

    October 3, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Michael Stahlschmidt


    Your not seeing a problem with the divisiveness, the "our" and "their" areas (imagine if Romney had said such things) and the coronation of Reverend Wright AFTER Obama had publicly denounced the Reverend might explain why CNN is so far behind in ratings.

    You don't think it's quite odd that the president had disavowed Reverend Wright before this video publicly, but is seen promoting his relationship and importance to the Obama's within this video as news worthy? You don't see the president's inaccuracy and false statements per the Stafford Act as egregious? You don't see the racial divisiveness in his "our" and "their' statements?

    If Romney had disavowed a mormon clergy leader public in a press conference, but later was presenting him as a leader, friend and high valued colleague in a speech, would you find this integrity full?

    If Romney had used the words "our" and "their" in reference to geographical areas, would you feel the same?

    You simply come off as a biased apologist for Obama. This video shows the divisiveness of the president, as well as his being loose with the facts and essentially a different person in private, pandering to whatever crowd he is with at the moment.

    Your story is frankly embarrassing to you, CNN and journalism as we know it.


    October 3, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. James PDX

    What a tired and played out game. Sadly, America loves a rerun and will keep electing from these same 2 horrible parties. Personally, I've had more than enough of their corruption, lies and ineptness.

    October 3, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Michele

    Who's shocked at Obama lying and the media covering it up. The media tries to spoon feed the stupid and they are ticked that America is waking up and are not taking our medicine any more. No one, I repeat NO ONE is shocked that Obama claims America is racist and divisive. He has said this before when he goes off script. This video just emphasizes the cover up the media continues to do to get their agenda. This article is a prime example of media bias. This article is written to make you think this is not a story. Nothing to see here folks, look away, don't look behind the curtain. Take your medicine, drink the Koo-laid. WAKE UP AMERICA!

    October 3, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. Kathy123

    The REAL issue here, the ELEPHANT in the room...is the COVER-UP of the COVER-UP!!! Benghazi was a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11/01 on 9/11/12...the WH 'tried' unsuccessfully to 'blame' it on the 13 minute trailer to an unknown, non-existent movie of a parody of Mohammed...instead, security concerns had been brought to their attention, intelligence showed a threat...THAT's the news! The MURDER of 4 Americans at the US Consulate in Benghazi and the ongoing cover-up IS THE STORY...where's the media?? WTF is the media???????

    October 3, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  24. Babyboomer

    News flash... Hurricane Katrina victims were treated as "Less Than" and anyone with eyes could see that. It was really frustrating to see just how long it took the local, state and federal government officials to get their acts together and actually help the people in the Gulf Coast. I don't blame then Senator Obama for speaking out.

    What's important to note is how much better the Dept. of Homeland Security and FEMA perform under the leadership of now PRESIDENT OBAMA. Back in 2009 when the state of Georgia had 18 counties declared federal disaster areas due to flooding, Vice President Biden was here within 24 hours along with FEMA going from door to door to make sure American citizen's needs were attended to. I know because I was one of those flood victims. We were taken care of a damn sight better then anyone was during Hurricane Katrina.

    Bush and Brownie can even wipe the current administration's shoes when it comes to a timely response to a natural disaster... So who cares if Senator Obama express frustration. There was discrimination and everyone knows it, Even if they refused to acknowledge it. What matters is President Obama took action...

    October 3, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. Skeeve

    but... they WERE treated differently. I am sorry but this is the fact, whether you like it or not. What was the reason for this – you tell me. Personally, I think that Katrina was much wider spread and this tends to strain resources and manpower. Logistics of post-September 11 was much simpler then any hurricane-class disaster. Problem though is that there is policy, that could be as race neutral as you want, and there are people implementing these policies locally. Those, unfortunately could be very racist or simply negligent and incompetent. It is, unfortunately, also a fact that disaster relief an reconstruction in New Orleans came to the more affluent areas first.

    October 3, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
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