Obama’s team suggests racism behind proposed Wright ad campaign

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama’s supporters are raising a claim of racism to quash a proposed $10 million ad-campaign that highlights the president’s personal ties to his one-time spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright.

The pushback helps the campaign minimize Obama’s association with the controversial pastor, but it also keeps the public’s focus away from the stalled economy’s high unemployment, deficit and debt.

The information campaign must be rejected by an act of “moral leadership,” the campaign claimed in a 1:35 p.m. tweet from Obama’s official Twitter account.

Campaign manager Jim Messina also hinted that the proposed ad campaign — outlined today by the New York Times — was motivated by racism.

“The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself,” Messina said in a press release. “Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”

McCain lost the 2008 election, following a campaign during which he refused to highlight Obama’s close association with Wright. (AUDIO: Wright thought Obama became a liar)

Obama’s former chief of staff, and current Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel added more race-related pressure. “The Mayor was livid when he read … [about the proposed] $10 million campaign against President Obama — with the type of racially motivated ads that are insulting to the president and the presidential campaign,” an aide told The Washington Post.

Emanuel has the power to damage the fortunes of financial entrepreneur Joe Ricketts, who was named as the expected funder for the ad campaign by the New York Times article that revealed the pending campaign.

Ricketts and his extended family run several Chicago businesses, including the Chicago Cubs. The sports team is seeking the city’s financial support for a new stadium.

Wright is perhaps most famous for blaming the United States for the 9/11 attacks. Obama had attended Wright church for several years, and had donated heavily to the Chicago-based church, but only distanced himself from Wright during the 2008 election.

Amid the Democratic defensive push, Romney and the ad’s potential sponsor, Ricketts, have both distanced themselves from the campaign.

“I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they’ve described,” Romney told Townhall.com.

“I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity — particularly for those in the middle class of America,” he added.

Asked about the proposed ad campaign, he said “I repudiate what they’re thinking about.”

Romney’s effort to distance himself from the campaign is in keeping with his effort to win the swing voters who voted for Obama in 2008, but have since been disappointed by his tenure in the White House.

In his response, Romney tried to frame Obama’s pushback as part of its effort to distract voters from the Obama’s record and the stalled economy.

“What we’ve seen so far from the Obama campaign is a campaign of character assassination. … It is interesting that we’re talking about some Republican PAC that wants to go after the president [but] I hope people also are looking at what he’s doing, and saying ‘why is he running an attack campaign?’” he said.

“Why isn’t he talking about his record?'”

Rickets, the founder of TD Ameritrade, also distanced himself from the proposed campaign under the Democrats’ pressure. The plan “reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects,” said a statement Brian Baker, a spokesman for Ricketts.

Apparently unmoved, Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, tweeted that he would boycott Ricketts’ company.

“I don’t have money in TD Ameritrade but if I did I’d pull it out. Any co. founded by the Ricketts’ wouldn’t manage my money,” he said.

Follow Neil on Twitter