CNN's Soledad O'Brien flirted with the absurd theory that Mitt Romney intended to be booed by the NAACP, asking on Thursday's Starting Point if it was part of his "strategy."
After playing a clip of House Minority Leader Pelosi saying Romney getting booed was a "calculated move" on his part, O'Brien noted Romney expected to be booed and asked "Is there some kind of strategy in this presentation to the NAACP?" [Video below the break. Audio here.]
"And in fact, the former governor himself said he expected to get booed, meaning he went in knowing he wasn't going to grab the hearts and minds of the audience that he was talking to," O'Brien explained the reasoning behind her question.
While O'Brien popped the question but made no accusations, MSNBC hosts Lawrence O'Donnell and Toure championed this conspiratorial claim, including O'Donnell alleging that Romney wanted to appeal to racists.
Later in the interview, O'Brien sniffed around some Romney post-speech remarks and asked more questions about his underlying motives, suggesting a racial intent.
She targeted this statement by Romney to donors in Montana after his NAACP address:
"When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obama care, they weren't happy. That's OK. I want people to know what I stand for and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like ObamaCare, you remind them of this -- if they want more stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy, more free stuff."
"I don't know what he means by 'free stuff' there," she asked. "What does that mean, 'free stuff' from the government?"
She expounded upon her concerns during her next question, referring to "free stuff" like welfare and food stamps: "I know you know that more white people than black people are on food stamps and more white people than black people are getting welfare," she bizarrely told her guest.
Later on in the show, CNN contributor Roland Martin said Romney's "free stuff" reference was possibly coded language for poor people or African-Americans and welfare.
O'Brien then gave credence to his concerns about coded language, vaguely mentioning her arguments with conservative guest Will Cain about "the dog whistle."
"Will, you and I have had this conversation about the dog whistle. You like to say that there are these conversations that you think I can hear that you can't hear and they go by you and we have had that. I call that actually an out and out fight at times," she said.
Was O'Brien implying that Romney issued a racist "dog whistle" to his supporters? Was she thinking he was simply out of touch with African-Americans?
A brief transcript of the segment, which aired on July 12 on Starting Point at 7:07 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's the booing that followed. That we played that. How does that play into how his overall speech went? How would you – how would you rate it? I know there was some clapping, some booing, but overall how did it go?
Lt. Gov. JENNIFER CARROLL, (R-Fla.): I think overall he was well received. And the booing came from when he expressed about getting rid of ObamaCare, but he also followed on by saying that he will do additional things to reduce the cost of health care. And I think once he explained that afterwards, the audience was a little bit more receptive, oh, you're not just going to get rid of it, you are going to do something and put in place that will be affordable to us.
But you see the thing about it is that individuals say why did he say ObamaCare? If he says that in other speeches, he should not placate and say something differently to this audience. And one thing I appreciated with Governor Romney is his honesty and his candor, and that he did not sway from how he would speak to other audience that he spoke to this audience.
O'BRIEN: Some people have said that that's intentional and calculated. Here is a little bit of Nancy Pelosi talking about Governor Romney's speech. Let's play that.
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) House Minority Leader: I think it was a calculated move on his part to get booed at the NAACP convention.
(End Video Clip)
O'BRIEN: And in fact, the former governor himself said he expected to get booed, meaning he went in knowing he wasn't going to grab the hearts and minds of the audience that he was talking to. Is there some kind of strategy in this presentation to the NAACP?