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. hemuda

    Its well known that the response to hurricane Katrina proved that the Bush administration did not care about poor and black specially. I don't think the president said anything wrong. Cheap racist conservatives want to deny what was obvious in response to the hurricane.

    October 3, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Jasoner

    To no surprise, CNN has downgraded the importance of the full video. Ignore what you just read in the article above and DECIDE FOR YOURSELF. Forget all the garbage that has poured from his mouth over the years and watch the video on the Daily Caller website. The American people need to understand the extreme beliefs that Barry Soetero pushes to divide this great nation. A President should unite the people. – And the accent!…….hilarious.

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

    What a lie. Fox News is the Romney campaign. 'Rupe the Duper' bought his influence in the UK through political endorsements and it's no different here. There is little honesty in either of them.

    October 3, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. ray

    Maybe the fact that ROBME bought profitable companys ,drove them into the ground, sold off the bones for his benefit and left the employees in the mud should be talked about.

    October 3, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Jeff Moss Bloomington, IL

    Too bad FoxNews doesn't allow comments on their pages. Fox is clearly calling the kettle black on their "Media Bias" campaign they have recently launched, and they don't seem to see the fact that they are, in fact, racist fanatics who want to burn all non-Jesus-loving people with more than a quarter of a brain at the stake.

    October 3, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  6. Critical Thinking

    "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." and Sen. Obama sure know how to create that spark doesn't he?

    October 3, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  7. Ames IA

    So what are conservatives really saying here? When a child loses his parents, home and school due to natural disaster – tough luck? Time after time they find some snippet as much as 14 years old and try to weave that into their narrative. Obama has been in office for almost a full term now and his policies and actions in office are what is significant (whether you agree or disagree with them). To dredge up old news, cut and paste it into some fantasy narrative that isn't consisent with what Obama has actually done for 3.5 years as President – it just doesn't ring as anything more than the usual pundit hyperbole. Save the indignation for any of the serious and real problems we face as a nation.

    October 3, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  8. Dave

    WOW! A cheeseball diversion from the "Get Old People" Party that is only 5 years out of date. Couldn't the fumbling rightwing find a video of a 6 year old Obama saying he hates Milk and Apple Pie?

    October 3, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  9. TNFREETHINKER

    Can you smell the desperation?

    October 3, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  10. russ

    Obama spoke the truth. Because most of the faces on the TV in the aftermath of the levee failure in New Orleans were black, the conservatives chose to ignore at best and ridicule at worst those pleading for help. This is ot hyperbole. This is a statement of fact.

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  11. Phil

    I'm sorry, Obama hasn't done anything bridge the race divide – in fact, all his rhetoric has actually hurt race relations in my opinion.

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. NEVER to VOTE REPUBLICAN again

    O.k., then let's talk about the looney cult religion of Mitt's. The Mormons with their secret names, handshakes and underwear. And how satan is the brother of Jesus and that Jesus had 3 wives. Yes, let's bring up religion. That really will be a eye opener.

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  13. Cyp

    By conservative media you are talking about the not too relevant Fox News and the fools, Bill O'reilly, Glen Beck, Shepperd Smith and all the others ? Seriously who cares about what they think ? If these ecven had a brain as tiny as a mustard seed , they will be more useful to society. They don't and they are useless.

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. Keith

    Not sure how this is news. The video and what Obama stated is true. Why should New Orleans have been any different than the rest of the country. They deserved the same funding support and disaster assistance then any other devestated area received. President Obama stated the truth, which is a hell of alot more than Romney does. For anyone that does not believe the Republican Party and Romney Campaign do not have a hand in this as a last ditch effort to salvage the damage Romney has done...Do not fool yourself!

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  15. simp

    CNN you really are piece of sorry work. Where in the hell is the blog about ryan and the speech he made in November of last year where he's talking about 30% of americans want to be a food stamp state? Why is that not featured here this morning? it was all over MSNBC last night, your bias is so prevelant and you have the nerve to say your network is bipartisan, what a bunch of crap. Over the last 4 years you peole have shown where you stand so stop trying to claim you are bipartisian, YOU ARE NOT!!! I use to be able to tolerate Anderson but his choice of guest is questionable sometimes. wolf, john, erin, need I say more? I watched your guest after the Democratic convention just to see what they were saying and as usual they found so much fault where there was not any but during the republician convention you all were raving about that hate fest. I will expect the same tonight after the debate. i know this wont get posted but i hope someone reads it.

    October 3, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Liberatus

    Pulling out all of the stops from their dirty bag of tricks....can't win on policy, so try to win on smears.

    October 3, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  17. Bob

    Thanks for the scoop D.C.N.N.

    October 3, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. bobby

    why do these conservatives want to position themselves as racist?? They point out every opportunity to say "hey, Obamas just helping blacks or Obamas just hating whites"

    October 3, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. HOLY TIGHTY WHITIES WILLARD

    Oh, the infamous George W. Bush picture on AF1 looking out the window while thousands were dying. "Good job Browny." Have these ConservaFascists forgotten that 9/11 and Katrina and a finacial crisis happened under Bush's watch?

    October 3, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  20. toughtimes

    another shocker from this administration – not. Can it be any more clear what was voted into office 4 years ago. 2012 – The End of an Error.

    October 3, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  21. Todd

    It is obvious to me that the writer of this article is on Obama's side. It amazes me how you can make this video look good for Obama. In this video, Obama shows that he has the same racist beliefs and the same beliefs about America as his pastor Jeremiah Wright. I encourage you to watch the video yourself and not take the word of this article. Make your own opinion on the video. Obama is dangerous for America. Watch the video at http://www.dailycaller.com

    October 3, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  22. frespech

    To Erick Erickson, Fanning the flames indeed-a five year old speech and you want me to believe it is incindiary.
    The fact is Katrina was bungled and most people stand by the President in his judgement on the matter.
    Normally I do find Erick to be one of the more balanced on the Republican side of issues but I think he is feigning outrage this time.

    October 3, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  23. Kirk

    I don't like the tone of this article. It sounds like a pushback response of the obama side rather than a journalistic report.

    October 3, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  24. Sheon1

    The Bush administration did treat New Orleans different than New York.
    This is not new news. We all watched it happen. All those poor people, my heart still goes out to them.

    October 3, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  25. FoolKiller

    One of the more disingenuous things about Obama is how he uses his “black’ voice when it fits the audience.

    October 3, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
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