Nothing to See Here: CNN Dismisses Controversy In Obama Video, 'Old News'

CNN dismissed the controversy behind a 2007 Obama video that just resurfaced, by calling it "old news" and whitewashing the President's own words. CNN even touted its own 2007 coverage of the speech without admitting that it ignored the most controversial part.

Anchor Soledad O'Brien, who has stuck up for Obama more than once before, lamely spun that Obama "was talking about racial discontent and hopelessness because of poverty." CNN's Zoraida Sambolin said "it is old news" and added that CNN "covered it at the time."

"Sean Hannity said these are controversial things that the media never reported on. That's a quote. And, of course, we and other media covered that speech and Brit Hume at Fox did, too," O'Brien defended CNN, although the press completely missed what is now, five years later, a controversy.

CNN covered the speech but not the most controversial portion of it. And conservative contributor Erick Erickson called their bluff. "You didn't cover that. You didn't cover Barack Obama telling a large black audience that the Bush administration didn't think black people were part of the United States."

When Sambolin claimed "that's not what he said," Erickson smacked down her assertion. "Yes it was absolutely what he said. He told a large black audience that the Bush administration considered New Yorkers part of the American community and Floridians part of the American community, but he didn't consider them in New Orleans part of the American community."

And indeed, that was what Obama implied with his words. His actual words were that the federal government, by not extending the same aid to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that it did to New York after 9/11 and Florida after Hurricane Andrew, "they don't care about as much" about majority-black New Orleans. His remarks were made to an audience at a historically-black university.

"That's telling a black audience who clearly understood what he was saying, by the way, with the entire analogy of the bullet in the baby's arm, that somehow they weren't part of the American community," Erickson continued.

A transcript of the segments, which aired on CNN on October 3, is as follows:

CNN
EARLY START
10/03/12
5:36 p.m. EDT

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN: All right. I want to move on here. Conservative outlets pushing a tape of Obama from 2007. It contrasts Katrina's response with the 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew responses. Listen to this, gentlemen.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: What's happening down in New Orleans? Where's your dollar? Where's your Stafford Act money? It makes no sense. Tells me the bullet hasn't been taken out.

(Applause)

OBAMA: Tells me that, somehow, the people down in New Orleans, they don't care about as much.

(End Video Clip)

SAMBOLIN: So, CNN has the entire archive of this tape. This was not a closed event. We and another organizations also covered it, but Richard, is this damaging right before the debates do you think?

SOCARIDES: You know, I don't think so. I think that there are elements within the Republican Party who are desperate to change the narrative or try to change the narrative in any way they can. And, you know, a tape from the last campaign that has been, you know, played and heard before, I mean, I don't think there's anything new here. And I think it looks kind of desperate to me.

SAMBOLIN: Erick, I'm going to let you weigh in on this.

ERICKSON: You know, I think this is actually more damaging towards the media than Barack Obama. The reason I say that is because the tape has been out since 2007. President Obama told a black audience that the Bush administration considered New Yorkers and Floridians part of the American community but didn't consider Blacks in New Orleans part of the American community. Had a white politician, had a Republican politician said that, we'd be on day five now of hammering it in the media about race in America in a way that Barack Obama can say this and the media is now saying this is old news and never even focused on that in 2007.

SAMBOLIN: So, you're suggesting that it was just because he was a black man that was talking that he got away with it?

ERICKSON: No, I think the media is letting him get away with it in saying what they would never let another politician get away with, telling a minority community, with lies as well, the statements he made about what was going on in New Orleans, that the Bush administration considered them not part of America. You know, as a Louisianan, first of all, I'm a little bit offended with that given what happened with Hurricane Katrina, and then to conflate it with 9/11 as well. I've got a real problem with the media saying, oh, this is old news when -- ask Trent Lott.

SAMBOLIN: But it is old news. We covered it at the time. All of the other outlets covered it as well.

(Crosstalk)

ERICKSON: You didn't cover that. You didn't cover Barack Obama telling a large black audience that the Bush administration didn't think black people were part of the United States.

SAMBOLIN: And, that's – first of all, that's not what he said, but –

ERICKSON: Yes it was absolutely what he said. He told a large black audience that Bush administration considered New Yorkers part of the American community and Floridians part of the American community, but he didn't consider them in New Orleans part of the American community. That's telling a black audience who clearly understood what he was saying, by the way, with the entire analogy of the bullet in the baby's arm, that somehow they weren't part of the American community.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Gentlemen, unfortunately, I'm going to have to leave it there. Richard Socarides, Democratic analyst, and Erick Erickson, CNN contributor, I thank you both for being with us this morning. Although, Erick, I wish you would have been in studio.

(...)

CNN
STARTING POINT
10/03/12
8:10 a.m. EDT

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: In this final seconds that I have, Fox News ran a clip of the President's speech from 2007 where the President was talking about racial discontent and hopelessness because of poverty. Sean Hannity said these are controversial things that the media never reported on. That's a quote. And, of course, we and other media covered that speech and Brit Hume at Fox did, too.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Right.

O'BRIEN: The Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul put out a statement and she said, they, quote, "didn't have any involvement" in disseminating that 2007 video, very old story coming back. Who do you think is responsible for that?
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014