In 1994, Obama argued for affirmative action, against ‘return to good old-fashioned racism’

Font Size:

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could decide the future of racial preferences in college admissions, The Daily Caller obtained one of the oldest known audio recordings of President Barack Obama: an October 28, 1994 NPR broadcast in which Obama described opponents of affirmative action and certain welfare programs as favoring racism.

Obama’s remarks came as part of a broadcast review of American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray’s controversial 1994 book, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.”

Obama accused Murray of racism, and of not caring enough about early childhood education prevention programs like Head Start. (RELATED: Supreme Court takes up affirmative action in major case)

Murray, Obama said, was “interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell,” Obama said. “It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations.”

Americans’ overall opposition to affirmative action, Obama added, was not rooted in its constitutionality but in a declining economy.

“After watching their incomes stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, real or perceived, that minorities may enjoy,” Obama said.

Obama also spoke in terms of “investment,” a word that he still uses to describe government spending.

“Such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action.  But, in the long run, our investment should pay off handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s the result of a moral deficit.”

Obama’s NPR-broadcast criticism of Murray shifted into a litany of liberal policy justifications for affirmative action.

“Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children … a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people’s lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for,” Obama said

Reached for comment, Murray said he doubts Obama ever read his book.

“It must be the first documented case of Obama spouting off without doing his homework — he obviously hadn’t read The Bell Curve,” Murray told The Daily Caller. “We’ve seen a lot of that in the last four years.”

The existence of the audio has long been rumored, but this is the first time it has been accessible to the general public. NPR archivist Jo Ella Straley made the audio public at one point, only to have the link go dead. Repeated requests by TheDC to obtain a copy of the audio went unanswered. The audio was ultimately found via high-level computer sleuthing.

The White House did not return request for comment.

Obama’s remarks, however, stand in contrast to his other, more moderate, stated positions on affirmative action. He claimed to oppose racial preferences for his own daughters and claimed to eagerly look forward to a time when affirmative action was no longer necessary.

“I would like to think that if we make good decisions and we invest in early childhood education, improved K through 12, if we have done what needs to be done to ensure that kids who are qualified to go to college can afford it, that affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during a 2008 interview.

Obama’s Department of Justice filed a “friend of the court” brief with the Supreme Court on Aug. 13, arguing in favor of racial preferences in the University of Texas’ admissions process.

Speaking at Columbia University on Feb. 23, Attorney General Eric Holder said affirmative action may never become obsolete. “The question,” Holder said, “is not when does [affirmative action] end, but when does it begin. … When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”

The Supreme Court case is Fisher v. University of Texas. A decision on the case is not expected for several months.

Follow Charles on Twitter