Blitzer Hypes: Obama Warns GOP 'to Play the Race Card Against Him'

Barack Obama on Friday pre-smeared the opposition by charging they will “make you afraid” by identifying him as black, but instead of focusing on the basis of such an allegation or decrying Obama's personal insertion of the race-card into the campaign, Wolf Blitzer opened Friday night's CNN Election Center show by hyping Obama's warning:

Tonight here in the Election Center: a highly controversial warning directly from Barack Obama's lips. He bluntly says Republicans will try to make an issue of his race. We have the audio tape, you're going to hear it here.

With “'DID I MENTION HE'S BLACK?' OBAMA PREDICTS GOP SCARE TACTICS” as the on-screen header, Blitzer announced the “Just In” news: “At a fundraiser today in Florida, Senator Barack Obama warned his supporters that the Republicans are going to try to play the race card against him in an effort to simply scare voters.” Viewers then heard audio of Obama, with the words on screen:

We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. They're going to say you know what, "He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black?"

Blitzer's only question about the allegation, to reporter Candy Crowley, suggested Blitzer saw the words as some kind of brave new front: “Have you ever heard him talk out on the campaign trail about race like this?”

This wasn't the first time Blitzer has raised fears of underhanded, race-based attacks on Obama. The Wednesday, February 13 MRC CyberAlert article, “Blitzer Raises Specter of GOP Going 'Willie Horton' Against Obama,” reported:

The Democratic presidential nomination process isn't even over, yet on Tuesday CNN's Wolf Blitzer raised the media's favorite shorthand for vicious Republicans never forgotten from 1988, a name journalists can be counted on to resurrect every election season in order to discredit criticism of a liberal candidate, as he asked a guest how "worried" he was about Republicans energizing "elements of racism" by producing "Willie Horton kind of commercials... potentially against Barack Obama?" This, just a week after possible racism by Democratic voters was suggested by Obama's ten-point loss in California's primary after polls showed him up by 13 points. Columnist Bob Novak observed: "The way Obama lost California raises the specter of the dreaded Bradley Effect."

Blitzer's question came during an interview on The Situation Room with conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder, author of 'Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card -- and Lose,' which Elder explained makes the case for how "white racism is no longer a major problem in America anymore." Blitzer wondered: "Why do Republicans have so much trouble attracting African-American support?" Elder replied by pointing out how "Republicans, as a percentage of the party, more of them voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Democrats. Al Gore's dad voted against it" and "those who founded the Klan were, in fact, Democrats, and one of their goals was to stop the spread of Republicanism." But instead of pursuing that sordid history, Blitzer launched into his questions about Republicans using racism to defeat Obama.
From the top of the 8 PM EDT Friday, June 20 Election Center anchored by Wolf Blitzer, filling in for Campbell Brown:
WOLF BLITZER: Tonight here in the Election Center: a highly controversial warning directly from Barack Obama's lips. He bluntly says Republicans will try to make an issue of his race. We have the audio tape, you're going to hear it here....

We start with two late-breaking developments in the presidential campaign. We have this just in to the Election Center: CNN has confirmed from Obama aides the Senator raised almost $22 million in just the month of May. And get this: For the entire election cycle, counting the primaries, Obama's campaign has raised more than $286 million and it has $43 million in the bank right now.

Now the second developing story that's just coming in to the Election Center -- an it's a little bit more controversial. At a fundraiser today in Florida, Senator Barack Obama warned his supporters that the Republicans are going to try to play the race card against him in an effort to simply scare voters. As always in the Election Center we've got, we're going to give you the facts so you can come to your own independent conclusion. There were no TV cameras at Obama's fundraiser, but we've obtained an audio recording of what he said. It's a little hard to hear, so we're also going to put the words up on your screen. Listen very closely.

AUDIO OF BARACK OBAMA: We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. They're going to say you know what, “He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black?”

BLITZER: Let's discuss this and more with senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She's here. Candy, you've covered Barack Obama for a long time. Have you ever heard him talk out on the campaign trail about race like this?

CANDY CROWLEY: I will tell you that he said something similar last week. But in the primary season, they very much, at least from the candidate, did not want to talk about race. They didn't want to run as the black candidate. And so even when you had criticism as they did all through the campaign, that the Clintons were being racist or one of their surrogates were being racist, it did not come from Barack Obama. Remember Geraldine Ferraro, everyone thought when she said, well Barack wouldn't be where he was if he were a black man [presumably meant to say white] and everyone said, oh that's racist. He was asked directly was it racist? He said no, I don't think so. I just think, you know, the premise is wrong and that kind of thing. So we have moved from primary to general campaign and now it's a different thing so perhaps he is trying to draw the sting of what he thinks is going to come. I'm not totally sure what to make of it at this point.

BLITZER: We'll follow up though. There's another story that's developing...
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center