President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign website has removed several videos that pitched alarmist messages to African-American voters, following reporting by The Daily Caller and the Fox News Channel.
In one video that the campaign yanked from the “African-Americans for Obama” section of its website Tuesday, actress Tatyana Ali seemed to predict that a second Obama term would bring a host of benefits to African-Americans once the president no longer had to concern himself with campaigning.
“What really excites me … is that a U.S. president has only two terms,” a laughing Ali said in the footage that the Obama campaign scrubbed from its website Tuesday. “In the second term, ‘it’s on,’ because we don’t have to worry about re-election.”
The video series, titled “Leading Women Defined,” focuses on African-American women, including Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s longtime aide and a former Chicago government official. It was produced by Black Entertainment Television and is still available on that that network’s website.
“We’re encouraging people to come out and vote to, as we say, vote like your life depended on it,” BET CEO Debra Lee said in one of the videos.
BET’s top managers are sympathetic to the Democratic Party and to Obama. Lee, for example, has donated almost $100,000 to Democratic politicians and allies’ causes since 2008.
Obama and his campaign officials have repeatedly noted that enthusiasm for Obama has declined since 2008. That’s true even in the African-American community, which voted almost in lockstep for Obama in 2008.
However, unemployment among African-Americans is higher than among whites or Latinos. Less than 50 percent of black males younger than 30 are in full-time jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To win in November, “we have to tell the story of the work that has been done,” said Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, an African-American who is the national youth director for the Obama campaign, in one of the BET videos removed from the Obama For America website.
“We have to press reset, start over, wipe the slate clear and tell the story to young people,” Butterfield-Jones added.
Obama’s deputies are running an under-the-radar campaign intended to scare African-Americans to the polls, said Jeffrey Bell, a veteran GOP strategist.
His campaign advisers are confident that “he’s going to get 95 percent [of the African-American bloc], but they’re worried about turnout,” he added.
The result is that the campaign will broadcast the message — often outside the view of the established media — that “any opposition to Obama is based on race, and it is open season [on African-Americans] if he loses,” Bell said.
The BET videos include a raft of black-targeted messaging, including a reminder that Obama has delivered $1 billion dollars to historically black colleges and universities and $3 billion in contracts and loans to African-Americans entrepreneurs.
Stephanie Brown, Obama’s national director for the African-American vote, made that pitch, saying the president has “shown our communities … he can deliver the change that he talked about in 2008, so we need to continue to have his back.”
That implication of a threat to Obama’s job security was amplified in another of the now-removed videos. “He needs eight years to finish the mission and we need to have his back,” Ahmir Thompson, an African-American musician, said.
“The person of him is so jarring to certain people that it has caused people to step into the way back machine and want to be in the ’50s,” Joy-Ann Reid, an African-American journalist and talk radio personality, said in another. “I think there is a sense of panic that’s developing in part of the majority culture.”
One of the BET videos that the Obama For America website previously hosted touched on the contentious issues surrounding the Feb. 26 Trayvon Martin shooting.
“Trayvon Martin’s death sparks outrage,” Kim Keenan, the NAACP’s counsel, said in a video carried on Obama’s campaign website until Tuesday afternoon.
“These kinds of things are happening in communities all over America, but it takes something like this to finally get a camera on it, and that’s what we need to change.”
Where Keenan’s videotaped comments about the Trayvon Martin case once appeared is now a link for Obama partisans to watch the interview on BET’s website instead.