Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, who was escorted off the House floor for wearing a hooded sweatshirt Wednesday in protest of the Trayvon Martin case, defeated President Barack Obama in a 2000 Illinois congressional primary race.
Rush slammed Obama in an interview with The Chicago Reader published on March 17, 2000, saying, “He went to Harvard and became an educated fool,” adding, “We’re not impressed with these folks with these eastern elite degrees.”
The issue of police misconduct caused tension between Rush and Obama during a primary debate. Rush discussed his experience “leading marches to urge punishment for Gregory Becker, the off-duty cop who killed a homeless man in 1995,” reported The Chicago Reader.
Ironically, civil rights activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are protesting the Trayvon Martin case, claiming that the police failed to do their job by not arresting George Zimmerman, who shot Martin. Rush addressed the House floor on Wednesday in a hooded sweatshirt, which is what Martin wore the night he was killed.
“It’s not enough for us just to protest police misconduct without thinking systematically about how we’re going to change practice,” Obama said in “measured, mellow tones,” The Chicago Reader reported.
Rush reportedly “jumped” on Obama in the debate.
“We have never been able to progress as a people based on relying solely on the legislative process, and I think that we would be in real critical shape when we start in any way diminishing the role of protest,” Rush said. “Protest has got us where we are today.”
Rush reportedly said Obama’s over-education provided him with an “ivory tower” outlook and he specifically took issue with Obama suggesting that the black community’s days of protesting are over.
“Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it,” he said. “I helped make that history, by blood, sweat, and tears.”
Obama garnered only 29.45 percent of the vote to Rush’s 59.37 percent. Salon.com reports that Obama “lashed out” at critics who suggested he was “too white” and “too bright.”
“When Congressman Rush and his allies attack me for going to Harvard and teaching at the University of Chicago, they’re sending a signal to black kids that if you’re well-educated, somehow you’re not ‘keeping it real,’” Obama said.