GMA Speculates on Obama and Race: What Do Americans ‘Really Feel Inside?’

On Friday’s "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer, who has previously asked Senator Barack Obama if America is secretly ‘more racist or sexist,’ introduced a story on the issue of the 2008 presidential election and race. The ABC co-host prefaced the issue by mentioning that some African American leaders are not supporting the Illinois politician because they think the U.S. isn’t ready to vote for a black candidate.

According to Sawyer, this is creating a spotlight on questions about race and "what Americans really feel inside." Correspondent Jake Tapper continued this "Is America racist?" theme by citing a vague statistic, which was given no attribution, that 15 percent of white voters say they’d vote for a black person, but, in truth, "never, ever would":

Diane Sawyer: "Well, the 2008 presidential race turns out to be turning a spotlight on questions about race and what Americans really feel inside. Senator Barack Obama is watching black political leaders throw support to Hillary Clinton. And why? They have said publicly, they don't think America is ready to elect a black candidate. ABC's senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has more on this counter-intuitive event. Jake?"

Jake Tapper: "Good morning, Diane. Well, 84 percent of Americans say a candidate being black would not effect their vote one way or the other. But, the dirty little secret, what some experts call the 15 percent lie, the 15 percent of white voters who tell pollsters they'd be willing to vote for a black candidate, but in the privacy of the polling place, never, ever actually would."

As noted earlier, "Good Morning America" has had a fascination with exactly how racist the United States is. On November 13, 2006, Sawyer asked Obama the following loaded question:

Diane Sawyer: "We have seen new polls this morning about you and Senator Hillary Clinton. Here's my question. Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?"

The following day, the GMA host repeated the question, this time to columnist Maureen Dowd:

Sawyer: "...Ninety percent of Americans say race and gender make absolutely no difference in their vote in the polls. I asked Senator Obama yesterday if he believes it, and he thinks it's case by case. Let me ask you, do you think that there is secret sexism, secret, secret genderism in this country?"

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:14am on February 16, follows:

ABC Graphic: "Will Race Affect Obama Run? Who is he Popular With?"

Diane Sawyer: "Well, the 2008 presidential race turns out to be turning a spotlight on questions about race and what Americans really feel inside. Senator Barack Obama is watching black political leaders throw support to Hillary Clinton. And why? They have said publicly, they don't think America is ready to elect a black candidate. ABC's senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has more on this counter-intuitive event. Jake?"

Jake Tapper: "Good morning, Diane. Well, 84 percent of Americans say a candidate being black would not effect their vote one way or the other. But, the dirty little secret, what some experts call the 15 percent lie, the 15 percent of white voters who tell pollsters they'd be willing to vote for a black candidate, but in the privacy of the polling place, never, ever actually would. And with Senator Barack Obama heading down south this weekend, he has already gotten a taste of these tricky racial politics. This weekend, Obama arrives in South Carolina where up to half of the Democratic primary voters are African Americans. But two of the state's most prominent black leaders, state senators Robert Ford and Darrrell Jackson, just endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton."

Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-South Carolina) "I strongly feel that as if she is the best qualified candidate to lead on day one."

Tapper: "Is that really the reason? Ford told the Associated Press that an Obama primary victory would doom Democrats. 'Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose because he's black and he's top of the ticket,' Ford said in comments he later disowned. 'We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything.' Racial politics are tricky. On 'Saturday Night Live,' actors playing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson told Obama to find a good place on the blackness scale."

SNL Jesse Jackson impersonator: "If you're here with the 'Black Eyed Peas,' then you'll be fine. But once you get up into here, you're moving into Allan Iverson territory, and that's unelectable.'

Tapper: "In 2000, Obama lost the House race to Congressman Bobby Rush in a predominantly black district. Some in the community say Obama was not black enough. Rush is supporting Obama today, but has this advice:"

Bobby Rush (D-Illinois): "I think that it would be a mistake for Obama to neglect the black vote. I think that he has to do some intensive work in the black community. And I think he's fully capable of doing that, but he can't take the black vote for granted."

Tapper: "These are not new questions for Obama. In 2003, he addressed race with Jeff Berkowitz of the Chicago show ‘Public Affairs’ while discussing his run for the U.S. Senate." .

Barack Obama: "I'm rooted in the African American community, but I'm not limited to it. And we are going to be competitive in every part of the state among every demographic."

Tapper: "Now, Clinton is polling ahead of Obama among African Americans right now and competition for endorsements from major African American leaders is fierce. In fact, Hillary Clinton is going to get the endorsement of a major business leader who is African American, Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. And the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team is going to endorse Clinton and not Obama. Diane?"

Diane Sawyer: "Oh, that's a big endorsement. So is Senator Obama going to take this head-on again this time around?"

Tapper: "Well, they're doing a lot of outreach. They're obviously competing very, very toughly, trying to get all these endorsements. There is a feeling among the Obama campaign that a lot of African Americans don't even know that he is African American because they don't know much about him yet, so they're hoping things will turn around in time."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org