Obama shrugs off supporters’ sexual insults of GOP women, bemoans Rush’s rhetoric

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama today declined to criticize his supporters’ sexually themed insults of female GOP politicians, including recent comments from comedian Bill Maher and a band called The Roots.

The Daily Caller asked the president about those insults during an afternoon press conference, his first of 2012.

“Should Bill Maher apologize for what he said about Republicans?” TheDC asked. “Should The Roots apologize [for] what they said about Bachmann?”

The off-the-cuff question, which was noticeably absent from the official White House transcript, came just after Obama criticized radio talker Rush Limbaugh for insulting Democratic activist and law student Sandra Fluke.

During congressional testimony on Feb. 23, Fluke urged the federal government to force religious organizations to provide her and others with free contraceptives. Obama phoned her on Mar. 2 to express his support.

“The reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things that I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about — even ones that I may not agree with,” he said at the White House Tuesday.

“I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens,” Obama added. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Obama presidency)

Limbaugh, who called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” apologized Mar. 3 for the insult after some of his advertisers withdrew their support.

Obama, however, declined to condemn TV comedian Bill Maher for calling former Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a “c*nt” during a live show in Dallas.

Maher told his television audience that he could use that language because “I don’t have sponsors — I’m on HBO.”

Last week, Maher announced he was donating $1 million to a super PAC supporting Obama’s re-election campaign.

Obama also declined Tuesday to criticize The Roots for playing a song called “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” when Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann walked on the stage during a “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” taping in November.

The band did not sing the widely known lyrics, which include the words “You’re nothing but a little lyin’ ass bitch … slut trash can bitch.”

The Roots played at an Obama fundraiser last week.

In November, when the band made the choice to play the Fishbone song to introduce Bachmann to a national audience, she was a leading player in the GOP presidential primary race. Bachmann remains an elected member of Congress and a mother of five. She has also provided foster care to 23 youths who lacked families.

Before declining TheDC’s question about Maher and The Roots, Obama had declined to answer a related question about political double standards.

That question, from a USA Today reporter, cited Limbaugh’s insults and asked if there was a double standard when liberal commentators have made “provocative or distasteful statements and there hasn’t been such an outrage.”

Obama declined to answer, prompting TheDC to repeat the question, citing both the band and the HBO host.

The president again declined to answer — saying only “Thank you” — before inviting a question from another reporter about Democratic claims that Republicans are waging a “war on women.”

Obama later returned to the topic of insults, however, saying, “I’m going to try to lead by example in this situation, as opposed to commenting on every single comment that’s made by either politicians or pundits.”

“I would be very busy,” he added. “I would not have time to do my job. That’s your job, to comment on what’s said by politicians and pundits.”

On Mar. 1, the The Roots band got a shout-out from Obama when they played at his fundraisers in New York.

“Hello, New York!  Oh, it is good to be back in New York City. … I want to thank all the talent who participated — Ben Folds, Ingrid Michaelson.  The Roots are always in the house,” said Obama.

Obama then proceeded to tout his support for women to 900 supporters at the $1,000-per-person fundraiser.

“The first bill I signed into law … says women deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work … because I want my daughters to have the same opportunity as someone’s sons,” Obama claimed.

“The civil rights movement was hard. Winning the vote for women was hard,” said Obama.

The band’s leader Ahmir Thompson, sometimes called “Questlove,” is an Obama supporter. He is featured in a video on the African-Americans For Obama section of Obama’s campaign website.

“In 2008 he promised to bring real change and hope to our country and community as a whole,” Thompson says in the video. “This is not a quick fix. It’s not like you can take a wand, ‘BING,’ make magic overnight. He needs eight years to finish the mission and we need to have his back.”

However, support for Obama among African-Americans may have fallen since their near-unanimous support in 2008.

For example, less than half of young black men have jobs, and the income of African-Americans has stalled, even thought the economic recession formally ended in 2009.

The stalled economy has also made it difficult for African-Americans to recover from the mortgage bubble, which reduced the median wealth of African-American households by 53 percent from 2005 to 2009, according to a July 2011 Pew Research Center report.

After Thompson’s band insulted Bachmann, Fallon and NBC apologized to her.

And two days after the musical smear, the band’s leader, Ahmir Thomson, released what was described as an apology.

“The performance was a tongue-in-cheek and spur of the moment decision,” Thompson said. “The show was not aware of it and I feel bad if her feelings were hurt. That was not my intention,” he said, without actually apologizing for suggesting that Bachman is a “lyin’ ass bitch.”

Some liberals criticized Thompson for the insult.

“Using the song to essentially call her a bitch — a cheap insult that would never be used toward a male candidate — is not much better than Rush Limbaugh calling Michelle Obama “uppity,” a term he’d never think to use for someone of a different race,” wrote Jenee Desmond-Harris, in an article for the Washington Post’s site for African-Americans, “The Root.”

Follow Neil on Twitter