MSNBC’s 'Morning Joe': White Working Class Voters Racist?

MSNBC continued its defense of President Obama against “racist” critics Tuesday morning. The network’s show “Morning Joe” featured a panel of journalists discussing just how some opponents of President Obama’s agenda refuse to support him–because the President is either a Democrat or African-American.

After host Joe Scarborough and Time's Mark Halperin ripped the Drudge Report for its headline painting President Obama as “going street,” Dee Dee Myers and Norah O’Donnell jumped in to offer their two cents about racially-motivated oppositions to President Obama’s agenda.

First, Halperin mentioned poll numbers showing voters as distrustful of Obama’s ability to improve the economy from President Bush’s term.

“A lot of that is white working class voters who don’t have confidence in [Obama] because he’s a Democrat, but for some of them clearly also because he’s African-American,” Halperin said.

Scarborough then asked Myers, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, if race was an indeed an issue in the backlash against Obama in the BP Oil Crisis. “Yes,” Myers affirmed.

“It’s an issue for President Obama more broadly,” she added. “It’s why the “birther” movement won’t go away. It’s why the Muslim stuff won’t go away.”

Some of the backlash is simply due to President Obama’s being a Democrat, Myers quipped. “Look, there’s also going to be rage against any Democratic politician, it’s just the way it is.”

Norah O’Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for MSNBC, thought that President Obama is being  confronted with the “Goldilocks” syndrome in his dispassionate reaction to the oil spill. “He’s never hot enough, or never cold enough,” O’Donnell remarked. “You know, he’s always sort of just right. And that inflames people who want him to be really angry out there.”

“I was sort of stunned when you just walked in and I said, ‘So, do you think Obama, what do you think, is he angry enough?’” O’Donnell told Myers on-air.

“And your response was ‘He can’t be angry, because he’s black,’” O’Donnell finished.

The transcript of the show’s segment is as follows:

MSNBC
“Morning Joe”
June 8, 2010
7:42 - 7:45a.m. EDT

MARK HALPERIN: If you look at the poll numbers–if you look at the poll numbers we were talking about before, where Barack Obama is not seen as having made the economy better than George Bush, that people don’t trust him. A lot of that is white working-class voters who don’t have confidence in him because he’s a Democrat, but for some of them clearly also because he’s African-American.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So race is still, Dee Dee, an issue?

DEE DEE MYERS: I think it’s a, why–

JOE SCARBOROUGH: In this crisis.

DEE DEE MYERS: Yes, and it’s an issue for President Obama more broadly. It’s why the birther movement won’t go away. It’s why the Muslim stuff won’t go away. It’s–I think those are proxies, in some way, because you can’t talk openly about the fact that you might be uncomfortable with his race, but you could say that he’s a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in America.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Help me out here, because you worked for Bill Clinton. I was always stunned in ‘94 by the level of anger against Clinton–“The Clinton Chronicles,” for instance, where they were suggesting that Bill Clinton murdered six or seven people in Arkansas. I mean, there was nasty, ugly stuff out there about Bill Clinton. What’s the difference between that and Barack Obama? It seems to me that actually the level of vitriol against Bill Clinton in ‘94 reached levels that I didn’t see in 2008.

DEE DEE MYERS: Uh, well I do think in the 2008 campaign it was a little bit more muted in some quarters, but not really. I–look, there’s also going to be rage against any Democratic politician, it’s just the way it is. And partly, that’s a proxy for an open–for wanting to change certain facets of American society that a lot of people aren’t ready to change. But I think it’s always been percolating along at some level against Obama. Part of it is racially driven–not all of it. I’m certainly not suggesting that everybody who doesn’t like his policies or people that are uncomfortable with him, it’s all race-driven. But I think it’s out there–

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You think there’s something out there?

DEE DEE MYERS: There’s no question. We haven’t resolved–

(Crosstalk)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: The thing is, Nora, the importance of this story is that it affects how the White House can respond to a crisis, and maybe limits this White House in ways that Bill Clinton or George W. Bush wasn’t limited.

NORAH O’DONNELL: Look, this president is–has the Goldilocks problem. He’s never hot enough, or never cold enough. You know, he’s always sort of just right. And that inflames people who want him to be really angry out there. They want him–you know, that he should show more passion on an issue. But I think there’s real questions. I mean, I think this President is challenged by so many problems. I mean we talked about this. I mean, there are White House staffers who have told me that they wake up with nightmares about this gushing oil spill, and just sort of taking over their entire agenda. It’s a huge worry. I was sort of stunned when you just walked in and I said “So, do you think Obama, what do you think, is he angry enough?” And your response was “he can’t be angry,” because he’s black.

DEE DEE MYERS: Right. I think that’s hard for him.

NORAH O’DONNELL: Which stunned me.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014