Obama Once Again ‘Thrust Into the Role of America's Racial Referee,’ Proclaims ABC’s Dan Harris

Good Morning America reporter Dan Harris on Tuesday lamented the fact that Barack Obama has "repeatedly been thrust into the role of America's racial referee," this time over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s controversial "Negro" remark. Harris even spun previous racial issues involving the President, saying Obama has, "once again, [been] dragged into a race-based scandal."

Harris hyperbolically announced, "Republicans are still howling for [Reid’s] head over that newly-revealed comment from 2008 that then-Senator Obama could become President because he's ‘light-skinned’ and doesn't ‘speak in a Negro dialect.’" The ABC correspondent did point out inconsistencies in the way the President has dealt with the issue.

However, although Harris never specifically mentioned other Obama race controversies, such as his 20 year attendance at the church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, he did, generally, portray Obama as somehow the victim of circumstances. The journalist concluded, "As that columnist, Clarence Page has said, Obama may be seen as a post-racial president. But he's definitely not post-racism. Given our country's still-open racial wounds, this is probably not the last Obama will be called upon to play ref."

Harris should be given credit for citing examples of possible hypocrisy: "But this morning, some critics are saying that Obama plays favorites when it comes to charges of racism. Quickly forgiving allies like Harry Reid, and then-Senator Joe Biden, who in 2007, said this about Obama." He then played a clip of Biden talking about the "bright" and "clean" Illinois politician.

Harris also allowed conservative Armstrong Williams to harshly attack Obama: "It's a very sad day that the President, because of political expediency, has given a pass to bigotry, racism and just unadulterated ignorance." And, unlike Tuesday’s Early Show on CBS, Harris didn’t long for the Reid story to quickly go away.

A transcript of the January 12 segment, which aired at 7:06am EST, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, for the first time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has apologized publicly for his controversial comments about President Obama's race. The President accepted the apology, leading some Republicans to accuse him of playing favorites. And Dan Harris is here this morning with more on that. Morning on that, Dan.

DAN HARRIS: Good morning, Robin. You know, we've seen it time and time again, Barack Obama has repeatedly been thrust into the role of America's racial referee. But, now, some Republicans are asking whether he is a fair one. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is desperately trying to put it behind him.

HARRY REID: I'm not going to dwell on this anymore.

HARRIS: Republicans are still howling for his head over that newly-revealed comment from 2008 that then-Senator Obama could become President because he's "light-skinned" and doesn't "speak in a Negro dialect." As the President is, once again, dragged into a race-based scandal.

BARACK OBAMA: This is a good man who has always been on the right side of history. For him to have used some inartful language in trying to praise me, and for people to try to make hay out of that, makes absolutely no sense.

HARRIS: But this morning, some critics are saying that Obama plays favorites when it comes to charges of racism. Quickly forgiving allies like Harry Reid, and then-Senator Joe Biden, who in 2007, said this about Obama.

JOE BIDEN [2007]: You've got the first, sort of, mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean.

HARRIS: By contrast, Mr. Obama was harshly critical of radio host Don Imus' demeaning comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team and then- Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's lavish praise for Strom Thurmond, the segregationist.

TRENT LOTT: If the rest of the country would follow our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: It's a very sad day that the President, because of political expediency, has given a pass to bigotry, racism and just unadulterated ignorance.

HARRIS: Others say Obama is doing well at the very sensitive job of racial arbitration.

CLARENCE PAGE: So, I think Obama takes these statements one at a time and looks at the substance of them. And decides whether or not it's worth getting involved.

HARRIS: As that columnist, Clarence Page has said, Obama may be seen as a post-racial president. But he's definitely not post-racism. Given our country’s still-open racial wounds, this is probably not the last Obama will be called upon to play ref.

ROBERTS: Yeah. Racial referee. But, Clarence is right there. You know, he looks at it case by case. What is being said each time? Not just one, you know, blanket response to everything dealing with race.

HARRIS: Critics say he's looking at it by political gain.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you get the sense, that, really, whenever the topic of race comes up, the President wants it to go away. He wants to talk about other things. But, you know, this one story may not be going away. Last night, Senator Russ Feingold a Democrat of Wisconsin, said he found Reid's comments insensitive. And he’s considering on whether to call on Reid to resign. A Democrat.

ROBERTS: It’s not going to go away anytime soon.

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