Sean Hannity, The Daily Caller, and Drudge Report spent hours hyping a racially explosive secret video of President Obama. But the bombshell clip turned out to be a public speech from June 2007 that was covered by the major networks, including FOX News, at the time.
Excerpts of the open press speech to historically black Hampton University were already easily available (and quickly discovered by reporters after Drudge teased the clip on his website hours before the “new” Daily Caller/Hannity clip even aired). But Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson claimed the video was relevant because it contained additional ad-libbed portions that went off the prepared remarks.
Among the sinister revelations Drudge, Hannity, and Carlson cited: Obama’s use of what they considered an overly African-American cadence to his voice in front of the majority black audience. “This accent is absurd. This is not the way Obama talks,” Carlson said on FOX. Drudge Report teased “THE ACCENT” and “THE ANGER” as scoops.
Hannity, who was a leading figure on the right in promoting Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright as a story in 2008, also pointed to Obama acknowledging Wright as “friend and great leader” at the event. As was widely reported at the time, the two were close until Obama disowned him later that year over his continued inflammatory comments.
The Obama campaign dismissed the video as the work of “Romney’s allies” to distract from his 47 percent comments, although the Romney campaign denied having anything to do with the story and appeared reluctant to discuss it in any capacity.
Despite protestations by Carlson that the media ignored Obama’s speech, CNN’s Peter Hamby pointed out that FOX News aired video of the speech at the time:
BRIT HUME: In the meantime, Senator Obama today said the Bush administration has done nothing to defuse what he calls a quiet riot among black Americans, a riot he suggests is ready to erupt. Obama said African American resentments and frustrations are building, especially, he said, because so many blacks from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are still displaced 21 months after Hurricane Katrina. Obama warned against conditions similar to those in Los Angeles 15 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Not only do we still have the scars of the riots and the quiet riots that happen every day, but how in too many places all across the country, we haven’t even bothered to take the bullet out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Obama was speaking at a conference of black clergy at Virginia’s Hampton University.
Hannity and Carlson accused Obama of injecting race into the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina. While Obama never mentioned race while discussing the disaster in his speech, he complained that the federal government was slow to waive a Stafford Act requirement governing disaster relief that required the affected area to pay some of the costs of aid that they waived after 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew. According to Obama, this reluctance “tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans they don’t care about as much!”
Obama was hardly the only one complaining about ongoing fights with Congress and the Bush administration over the Stafford Act requirement at the time, however. Then-Congressman Bobby Jindal (R-LA) led a push the same year to revise the law to lessen its funding requirement in circumstances like New Orleans’. On the Senate side, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pushed hard for more waivers. Sean Reilly, a member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, echoed Obama’s complaints almost word for word for a PBS Frontline segment on the Stafford Act.
“Now, one thing that really aggravated us is the federal government waived the match after 9/11, after Hurricane Andrew, after Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii,” he said. “It was hard for us to understand why they were reluctant to waive the match in our case, when we suffered the first and third worst disasters in the American history. Thankfully Congress remedied that, [but] it took too long. Haggling over the match slowed down projects.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.