By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As Blacks lauded President Obama for speaking so frankly about what it’s like to be Black in America, conservatives used the president’s comments, delivered in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin, to deny racism exists and to portray Obama as a race-baiter.
Appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the National Review’s Heath McDonald deplored the “myth” that racism is “the thing holding Blacks back.”
Breitbart’s John Nolte tweeted, “I like living in a country where a black president elected twice complains about racism.”
Conservative columnist Jeffrey Kuhner, who in the past has accused the president of having “Black nationalist sympathies” and unleashing “class hatred and racial hostility,” couldn’t pass up another opportunity to depict the biracial president as a racist.
Writing in the Washington Times, he said: “Mr. Obama claimed that he ‘”could have been’ Trayvon 35 years ago. Moreover, at a hastily convened news conference, the president wallowed in self-pity, decrying that he had been ‘profiled’ as a young black man in department stores and elevators. In short, Mr. Obama portrayed himself as a long-standing victim of white bigotry. The spectacle was not only politically perverse, but morally revolting.”
What’s morally revolting in the view of many of the president’s supporters is that White conservatives deny that racism exists. And any attempt to address that reality is met with contempt.
In his recent press conference, President Obama said, “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
The president continued: “And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”
On his conservative talk radio show, right-wing political commentator Sean Hannity said: “Now the president is saying ‘Trayvon could have been me 35 years ago,’ Oh, that’s – this is a particularly helpful comment, is that the president is admitting that…I guess because, what? He was part of the ‘choom gang,’ and he smoked pot, and he did a little blow? I’m not sure how to interpret that, because we know Trayvon had been smoking pot that night. I’m not sure what that means.”
Like other conservatives and talk radio host that work on the far-right, Hannity focused on racial stereotypes rather than bridging the divide between millions of his listeners and the hard conversations that President Obama encouraged Americans to have among themselves.
Emily Miller, senior opinion editor for the Washington Times, tweeted: “Obama is the most irresponsible president in history. Now we’re having national debates about hypotheticals? #standyourground.”
Mark Levin conservative talk radio host said, “This president doesn’t stand for anything that I stand for. Nothing. He talks about an America that doesn’t exist.”
Levin added: ““I’m ashamed of this president. I think he’s a disgrace. I’m ashamed of this Attorney General. I think he’s a disgrace. They have no respect for you. I don’t care what your color is. They have no respect for this country.”
There were some reasonable voices in the media, though not from right-wing outlets.
Jill Lawrence, national correspondent at National Journal, said that “Obama had to say something about Trayvon Martin” and that “It would have been a missed opportunity—a huge missed opportunity—if America had not heard firsthand from its first black president at a moment like this.”
Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and conservative talk show host on left-leaning MSNBC called Hannity out, echoing accusations that others have made that Hannity was inflaming race relations to increase viewership.
“Sean Hannity has been ginning this up so badly that Michael Savage, Michael Savage has been saying that he has been irresponsible and the he’s been using race to gin up his ratings in way that’s bad for America,” said Scarborough, comparing Hannity to Savage, a staunch conservative, who once called President Obama the most dangerous, most divisive, most evil president in the history of America.
Later, Hannity dismissed Scarborough’s criticism knocking the MSNBC’s talk show host for his middling ratings and so-called liberal views.
As right-wing political pundits attacked Obama and each other Lawrence implored “Americans to listen to Obama on race.” Lawrence explained: “Yes, he has roiled the waters and reopened a raw conversation. But if not now, when? And if not him, who?”
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