Every day this week The Daily Caller invites you to relive two of our most compelling moments from 2012. These stories might have made you angry or gleeful, or maybe they led you to poke your spouse in the ribs and say, “See, I told you so!” (RELATED: Part 1: The ‘Obama administration off the rails’ edition)
But however you reacted, they met our number-one test for publication: They were interesting. (RELATED: Part 2: The ‘Animal Crackers’ edition)
Today we take a look at two stories that put racial politics front-and-center during President Barack Obama’s fourth year in office.
In a story that attracted more reader comments than any other The Daily Caller published in 2012, we looked at a speech Barack Obama gave in Hampton, Virginia during the 2008 campaign. What made it most newsworthy was the fact that despite the spotlight-glare of a presidential campaign, no media had ever taken note of the future president’s controversial, race-tinted remarks:
“Down in New Orleans, where they still have not rebuilt twenty months later,” he begins, “there’s a law, federal law — when you get reconstruction money from the federal government — called the Stafford Act. And basically it says, when you get federal money, you gotta give a ten percent match. The local government’s gotta come up with ten percent. Every ten dollars the federal government comes up with, local government’s gotta give a dollar.”
“Now here’s the thing,” Obama continues, “when 9-11 happened in New York City, they waived the Stafford Act — said, ‘This is too serious a problem. We can’t expect New York City to rebuild on its own. Forget that dollar you gotta put in. Well, here’s ten dollars.’ And that was the right thing to do. When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said, ‘Look at this devastation. We don’t expect you to come up with y’own money, here. Here’s the money to rebuild. We’re not gonna wait for you to scratch it together — because you’re part of the American family.’”
That’s not, Obama says, what is happening in majority-black New Orleans. “What’s happening down in New Orleans? Where’s your dollar? Where’s your Stafford Act money?” Obama shouts, angry now. “Makes no sense! Tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans they don’t care about as much!”
It’s a remarkable moment, and not just for its resemblance to Kayne West’s famous claim that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” but also because of its basic dishonesty. By January of 2007, six months before Obama’s Hampton speech, the federal government had sent at least $110 billion to areas damaged by Katrina. Compare this to the mere $20 billion that the Bush administration pledged to New York City after Sept. 11.
Obama’s accusation that the George W. Bush administration left New Orleans residents hanging after Hurrican Katrina — specifically because most of them were black — was a broadside worthy of Al Sharpton, and most readers were shocked.
Remarkably, network news anchors and MSNBC pundits complained after this story surfaced that it wasn’t really news. They had a tape of the speech in their video vaults since Obama delivered the speech, several said, missing the irony of having the story but sitting on it for four years.
Even more ironic was the fact that then-Senator Obama, who had access to all the federal government’s post-Katrina results, was spinning a tale that was demonstrably false:
[T]he federal government did at times waive the Stafford Act during its reconstruction efforts. On May 25, 2007, just weeks before the speech, the Bush administration sent an additional $6.9 billion to Katrina-affected areas with no strings attached.
As a sitting United States Senator, Obama must have been aware of this. And yet he spent 36 minutes at the pulpit telling a mostly black audience that the U.S. government doesn’t like them because they’re black.
One wonders what the reaction would be like if a white politician blamed Obama’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for dragging its feet after Super storn Sandy because not enough affected New Yorkers shared his skin color.
The killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was another story that wouldn’t have become national news without a strong racial component. George Zimmerman, a Latino man described as “half Hispanic” by some commentators who were eager to frame Martin’s death as white-on-black violence, maintained his innocence and claimed he was in fear for his life when he drew his handgun and fired.
Predictably, some civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and MSNBC host Al Sharpton went ballistic, organizing rallies and insisting that Martin’s death was a sign of violent racism in a country still convinced that young black men were a threat to every0ne.
But one civil rights leader called them out.
Former NAACP leader C.L. Bryant accused Jackson and Sharpton of “exploiting” Martin’s death to “racially divide this country”:
“His family should be outraged at the fact that they’re using this child as the bait to inflame racial passions,” Rev. C.L. Bryant said in a Monday interview with The Daily Caller.
The conservative black pastor who was once the chapter president of the Garland, Texas NAACP called Jackson and Sharpton “race hustlers” and said they are “acting as though they are buzzards circling the carcass of this young boy.”
Jackson, for example, recently said Martin’s death shows how “blacks are under attack” and “targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business.” …
“The epidemic is truly black on black crime,” Bryant said. “The greatest danger to the lives of young black men are young black men.”
Bryant said he wishes civil rights leaders were protesting those problems.
“Why not be angry about the wholesale murder that goes on in the streets of Newark and Chicago?” he asked. “Why isn’t somebody angry about that six-year-old girl who was killed on her steps last weekend in a cross fire when two gang members in Chicago start shooting at each other? Why is there no outrage about that?”
Months later, police evidence photographs emerged clearly showing Zimmerman’s broken nose and bloodied face shortly after the shooting. Sharpton and Jackson have yet to weigh in.