Streams

Congressman Joe Wilson and Race

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne(D-10) discusses the formal congressional rebuke of Representative Joe Wilson for his outburst during President Obama's address before Congress last week. Plus, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, discusses how the conversation about that outburst has turned into a conversation about race in America.

Guests:

Melissa Harris-Perry and Donald Payne

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Comments [113]

Phoebe from Manhattan

I was struck by Mr. Lehrer's surprise that Representative Wilson's outburst occurred after President Obama's comment about illegal immigrants. Many town meeting participants this summer shouted "we want our country back" in audiences described in the press as overwhelmingly white. This suggests that some white Americans are concerned about demographic trends indicating they will soon be in the minority. Non-European immigration and the growth of the black and Hispanic people already in the US are threatening a vision of the country that is fast disappearing. It is very possible that black racism and xenophobia are conflated.

Second, where is Mr. Lehrer's "ear-to-the ground" about the anxiety among black American's for Mr. Obama's personal safety and how his ascension to the presidency might promote racial disharmony? I have heard comments to this effect since the primary. My non-white students and colleagues have expressed these concerns openly for months.

In other words, I do not think Mr. Lehrer was at the top of his game during today's discussion. I am curious why that might be.

Finally, although the Congressional black caucus and President Carter's comments focus on Mr. Wilson as a southerner, I heard New Yorkers during the primary making crude and disparaging remarks about Mr. Obama based on his race. In one instance, this occurred at my polling place on the Upper East Side of Manhattan: "If you think it's a mess here now, just wait until there is a black man running this country." I also overheard one of my neighbors say to our doorman he was not going to vote for that "darkie" because he would fill the White House with "darkies just like him." I was surprised to hear a man I know was born in New York use the word "darkie." I grew up in the South, and I believe the last time I heard the word used was in a song by Stephen Foster.

Sep. 16 2009 02:20 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

hjs,

I agree with you about the 1950s – they are over. America elected an African American president. And this president, President Obama, is lying. America is ready to judge Obama on his own merits, not your fixation with race.

I haven't heard of birthers. I listen to public radio. Maybe you spend too much time at Fox News or Mother Jones.

Sep. 16 2009 12:26 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

Obama is president, dems run the house and senatre, and Obama can't get his own party to support health care reform. Maybe the race card is the only move left for the dems.

Sep. 16 2009 12:23 PM
hjs from 11211

peter
u don't know what a birther is an u say i'm scared to read the news? any way i can't get a straight answer from u so i'm going to move on, else feel the censor's rath. take care.

PS the 1950's are over and not going to come back.

Sep. 16 2009 12:22 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

Hey,

Wait, whatever happened to passing an abortions rights law as his first act as President? Obama lied.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Obama lied.

Releasing torture pictures. Obama lied.

Wiretapping. Obama lied.

Paying for health care reform. Obama lied.

And on, and on, and on….

Please play the race card some more. Please tell me that I am racist for calling Obama on his lies. Poor Planned Parenthood can’t remind Obama of his lies, you might call them a racist.

Wilson was rude and stupid. Obama lies, and lies, and lies. Get use to it.

How big is your deck? With all of Obama's lies, you will need several decks of race cards sweety.

Sep. 16 2009 12:21 PM
dan from brooklyn

I posted the following comment last year during a discussion about race and the 2008 election:

"... An honest discussion of race in this society would really have to be an honest discussion of white identity, white privilege and white supremacy. I think we're clearly seeing, in this election, the power of white identity to convince people to vote against their best interests. I like to imagine how the attitude of race played itself out in the segregated south: a poor white person might have been oppressed financially, limited educationally, exploited economically by those in power. Yet that person could still feel and assert a sense of superiority towards a black lawyer, doctor, teacher or minister, just because of white identity. That identity was probably one of the few things that person had going for him/her. I believe that attitude persists in many sectors of the white community today and is the driving force that would prevent people with that mindset from helping to elect a person of color to the office of president, even if doing so would be to their benefit."

Joe Wilson served in the military; he clearly understands the concept of respecting authority, proper decorum, etc. Obama could been seen as his Commander-in-Chief. I believe his response was intentional and racist, and deliberately meant to appeal to those who did not help to elect Obama,and are determined to never accept him as their president.

Sep. 16 2009 12:17 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

hjs,

poor hjs, scared to read the news huh? Try starting with the Associate Press article saying that Wilosn was rude, but correct. Or is the Associated Press racist too? Have fun sweety.

Sep. 16 2009 12:16 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

hjs,

I don't even know what a birther is, I do know that Democrats should have more self respect then yelling race card every time someone disagrees with Obama. When African Americans disagreed with Bush or Clinton, did you yell "racist." Probably not.

Always the race card. I suggest that if you really respected Obama you would discuss his issues on their merits, or lack there of. It seems to me that you really don’ respect Obama at all. His ideas don’t stand well on their own huh. That seems to be the issue that so many libs are avoiding.

President Obama has a mandate, the senate and the house and can't even sell his own "plan" to his own party. That is the story libs love to ignore.

Sep. 16 2009 12:14 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Kartemi et al on what Wilson “felt”… the fact is that all proposed bills go out of their way to exclude illegal immigrants and they do so to appease the Republicans, so his assertion that the president’s comment was a lie was a lie. Ahmadinejad shouts out that the Holocaust was a lie… that doesn’t make it so and nations across the world admonish him for it while a fringe few support him for it and treat him like a rock star. The point isn’t really what Wilson said, but what he did. Actions do speak louder than words and he show a level of disrespect on the floor of the House that no other president has been shown and he did it breaking House rules on decorum.
In his first nine months the president has had: his place of birth, the legitimacy of birth certificate, nationality, and religion challenged (unprecedented); his oath of office was criticized as illegitimate (unprecedented); his nominees are criticized as racists; protesters bring loaded weapons to rallies (unprecedented); an escaped gorilla was called the first lady’s ancestor; and the president was shouted down on the floor of the House, another unprecedented event. Do you not see a common thread?

Sep. 16 2009 12:11 PM
hjs from 11211

peter
wrong about what? what did wilson say obama was lieing about?

Sep. 16 2009 12:10 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

hjs,

you are just wrong. Obama lied, national press has reported on it, end of story.

Wilson being rude was just that, Wilson being rude.

Sep. 16 2009 12:04 PM
Paulette from NYC

BTW (sorry I'm on a roll Brian, lol) It is easy for Tom and others to comment that this is a distraction, but I challange you to do what my Hispanic husband and I did this summer! Take a road trip to Alabama with NJ tags! And you may have a change of heart! We need to address this issue now! My husband made a comment to me, "why do so many Southerners hate Spanish people?" We were actually followed and tailgated by a few white good ole boys having fun!!! We could have been victims of a hate crime. We high tailed it out of there, hoping the police would stop we for speeding! Thank goodness that there are good people everywhere who came to our aid. I will say it again, we must finish what the 60s began, American needs to shine as the country where race is never an issue!

Sep. 16 2009 11:59 AM
Paulette from NYC

I’m from B’ham Bama, borne in ’64, I watched great change, I also observed that some Southerners sent their kids to all white “Christian” schools, not because they wanted their children to grow up with a Christian belief system but to self segregate,their kids from African Americans. My estranged Uncle, did this, not only are his kids racist but are poorly educated. The school they attended was fundamentalists and only taught Creationalism. I believe we have a huge group of ignorant Americans taught to fear anyone of a different race or religion, not only African Americans, Hispanics, and other citizens of other ethnicity. I believe this is the same contingent that opposes immigration reform and is responsible for recent hate crimes against illegal Hispanics. I hope Obama’s Presidency will help define hidden racist emotion and put it to rest, finish what the 60s began.I also believe that W.’s administration fed racist views and is responsible setting the tone for many in America to harbor (maybe unknowingly) racist views of Muslim Arabs. I actually think that our occupations have been turned into Manifest Destiny by many. I agree with your guest that Joe Wilson was raveling in his 15 minutes and it was disgusting for him to sign autographs, just like Sarah Palin at her rallies not correcting people shouting racist remarks about Obama! I actually don’t think people should be allowed to run for office if they encourage racial hate and disharmony. Brian keep the good work up!

Sep. 16 2009 11:48 AM
hjs from 11211

96] Peter
AGAIN this was not about "telling the truth on how health care reform will be payed for."
the lie claim is about illegal immigrants getting healthcare
stop rewriting history

Sep. 16 2009 11:46 AM
Jerome from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

While there's no way to know whether racism was part of what motivated Rep. Wilson's outburst (perhaps the future will bring some kind of scanning technology that could prove such mental/emotional inner workings, but I doubt it ;->), the incident is certainly congruent with one key aspect of the history of American black/white relations: the showing of respect. I think that this area of personal interaction often has an large unconscious component. I've observed variation in my own emotional inclination to "show respect" to individuals, based on their dress, size, age, gender, social manner, and--yes--race (I'm not exactly proud of this, and I generally act on my beliefs about universal human value rather than these biases, but sometimes it takes effort). Even just being a member of a long-disempowered group can lean some members of higher-status groups towards acting disrespectfully to them, separate from actual beliefs about inferiority, etc. It would not be surprising to me if this type of bias played a role in Wilson's behavior, along with other factors (ego, political/ideological beliefs, lack of identification with Congressional traditions, etc.).

BTW, Brian's insightful point about the particular issue in the President's speech that caused Wilson to "lose it"--whether illegal immigrants could receive benefits under the proposed health-care reform--suggests that Wilson might have some emotional biases against some additional groups.

Sep. 16 2009 11:44 AM
hjs from 11211

peter

saying mexican illegal immigrants are coming to take jobs, and healthcare from americans wasn't that the start of the race card? what about those birthers saying obama was not an american, was that playing the race card?

ps. i guess wnyc does "moderate liberals":( another lie put down.

Sep. 16 2009 11:39 AM
Judy from NJ

Maybe WNYC can look into the outlash against Obama or this divide more deeply. It is not just Wilson's comment. Sadly, I believe some of this is due to racism - the Republicans oppose Obama on most of his initiatives - it is "opposition for opposition's sake". The Republicans are trying to distract the public from important issues by throwing out red meat for their "people".

I also beleive the mainstream media feeds into this insanity.

Sep. 16 2009 11:33 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

HJS,

The Assoicated Press (and others) immediately came out with an article stating that Wilson was correct, Obama is not telling the truth on how health care reform will be payed for. I am sure you can find these articles.

Sep. 16 2009 11:32 AM
the truth from bkny

Peter there is no card sugar...

Sep. 16 2009 11:29 AM
hjs from 11211

Peter 88
sorry i thought your posts sounded like someone i know.

as BL said wilson called BHO a liar referring to illegal immigrants getting healthcare. you may know that was excluded by the bills up for consideration and always was. so where is the lie?

Sep. 16 2009 11:23 AM
TJ from NYC

Charlie Rangel must love this and probably hasn't stopped laughing...

Sep. 16 2009 11:20 AM
BL Show from WNYC Studios

[[BL Moderator Writes: We've removed and edited a few comments. Please remember to keep your posts productive and relevant to the discussion. Please avoid direct taunts.
Thanks,
-BL Show-]]

Sep. 16 2009 11:19 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Truth,

I see you are still wrong on the facts. Wilson was rude, but playing the race card shows no respect for Obama or the American people.

Have a nice day sweety.

Sep. 16 2009 11:17 AM
the truth from bkny

The real issue is getting lost in all of this conversation...as planned!

Sep. 16 2009 11:16 AM
Nick Lento from NJ

Bryan is bending over backwards to minimize/DENY that race was/is a major factor in the "criticism" of Obama!

Bryan's crack that "Maureen Dowd started all of this" is sheer BS!!!

Very simply, what's happening here is WORSE than racism.

Interests that stand to lode lots of money if a progressive agenda is enacted are USING/EXPLOITING existing racial rifts to weaken and intimidate Obama and to distract the body politic form real issues/facts/realities.

That's WORSE than racism!!! That's the same kind of political terrorism that was employed in the former Yugoslavia in order to serve the political ends of Slobodan Milosevic!

That's the point that I called in to make today within 20 seconds of Brian's asking for calls.

Shame shame shame on Bryan for telling the screener to dump my call while I was on hold.

The point I'm making here is more than cogent. It's the truth.

It's a shame that Bryan is so afraid to air anything that may be deeply controversial. Or that might upset the corporate sponsorship that underwrites so much of "public" radio.

Sep. 16 2009 11:14 AM
the truth from bkny

@44 KC - Me too, I am also afraid for just regular citizens, some whites at the tea party gatherings and town hall gatherings have come undone, the hate in their eyes is insane. They have posters of the President dressed as a witchdoctor, the joker and these thugs have their children out there with them too, they are doing this out in the open without sheets no less.

Sep. 16 2009 11:13 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

hjs,

I have no idea what you are talking about. I know that Wilson was rude, but correct on the facts. Harldy racist. Keep changing the subject though. WNYC tends not moderate liberals, so you probably have nothing to worry about.

Sep. 16 2009 11:11 AM
hjs from 11211

rob 84
i guess they never forgave the left for watergate....

Sep. 16 2009 11:09 AM
hjs from 11211

Eileen 79
right on.
this is yet another distraction. we should be talking about shareholder blood money that leads to the deaths of americans

where is the culture of life when u need it?

Sep. 16 2009 11:07 AM
Rob from Cranford NJ

Probably not racist - I think most Republicans under 50 from South Carolina are, in a sense, above that. I'm sure the average liberal, black or white, will disagree.

The Republicans are simply in a self destructive race to the bottom in (bad) behavior, and they are at their worst when they are out of power and have no attractive leader of their own. They started with Clinton; they are just farther along now.

Sep. 16 2009 11:05 AM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

Anyone who can't see the racial elements of these protests is blind. I can't believe people are making excuses for these racists!

Sep. 16 2009 11:05 AM
Kevin Mac from NYC

Amazing how liberals have always put their arms around "Question Authority" unless of course it is their authority that is being questioned.I do not agree with Rep. Wilson's comment and it was out of line. I also don't believe that the country should be forced fed a health care pill that those who are forcing it down our throats refuse to swallow it as well. It has taken many years to get where we are with this mess, how about some due diligence, debate, refinement etc.... and set aside the never ending instant gratification that seems to permeate every aspect of our lives these days. I don't understand why we must accept this bill without question or debate.

Sep. 16 2009 11:01 AM
ann hennessey from United States

I definitely believe that the outburst was racially motivated. The whole focus of the Conservative Right has been an attempt to return the country to a pre Civil Rights style of American Democracy. The rampant ratchetting up of antagonism towards "the other" whether by race, sexual orientation or imigration from predominantly non-white countries is more than obvious.

Sep. 16 2009 11:00 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Truth,

I think you are not being truthful. If Wilson is racist, so is Obama. Obama called a black man a "jackass." As bas as calling someone a liar.

Take care sweet pea.

Sep. 16 2009 10:59 AM
Eileen Kelly from Glen Ridge, NJ

Who cares? Who cares if Wilson is a racist? He probably is and none of us are going to change him. He's elected by people that agree with his views and none of us are going to change those people either. I don't think making this a race issue helps the President. President Obama's strength comes from his ability to see beyond people's ignorance and deal with the matters that affect us all. He doesn't allow himself to get mired in the manure people shovel at him, and debating this for days and weeks is futile. It's below the President. Let's put our energies into plowing forward, right over the people that stand up and scream out like spoiled children toward the important progress we need to make.

Sep. 16 2009 10:58 AM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

These protestors say "I want my country back," but I think they just want their Jim Crow laws back. Confederate flag, anyone?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/42448313@N03/sets/72157622224474669/

p.s. - I adore Professor Harris-Lacewell! Thanks for having her on!

Sep. 16 2009 10:58 AM
joanne from Manhattan

New Republican Trick: call the "race card" whenever someone tries to have a serious discussion about the deeply troubling issue of racism that is so clearly alive and well in this country.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

I agree, racist without a doubt. Look at the people that support him!

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Mireille Liong from Brooklyn,NY

Why does he refuse to apologize appropriately.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
david from ditmas park

since we are talking about the call to war in iraq, we should remember to look at the mouthpiece of that evidence...Colin Powell, who delivered the lie to the american people...

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Karen from NYC

Yes, it was racist; no one on the Democratic side would have shouted at Bush during a joint address to Congress. A few years ago, Wilson wanted to fly the Confederate flag in S.C. The disrespect with which Obama is being treated is symptomatic of the contempt that some white Americans feel for blacks. Remember that Obama also represents diversity -- that was his coalition. It's this "new" America that terrifies and angers far-right white America.

With Clinton -- and nobody yelled at him on the floors of Congress -- the issue was not race, but there was an issue, and that was class; he was an outsider, a "bubba" from Arkansas, not an aristocrat like Gore or Bush. Classism and raceism are the two original sins of American society.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

There’s been a general suspicion of racism with the vitriolic opposition to the short Obama presidency, but only a suspicion. The push from the Right has been to show Obama as the “other” at every turn and to show no respect, whatsoever, for the Office of The President of the United States of America. There are seated members of Congress that still refuse to refute the changes of the Birthers and that the oath of office was legitimate. Members of Congress feel they have free license to do or say whatever they want and it is “ok” because he is illegitimate in their eyes… maybe only 3/5th a president? Even if the President was spitting lies from the bully pulpit (which he was not), what happened was against the rules of the House.
The other point I’d make is, it is hard to understand racism unless you have been the direct victim of racism and understand how subtle it can be. Some charges of racism are true, some are false, but just because YOU can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Matthew from Brooklyn

Let’s put Wilson’s outburst in context. It boils down to his claim that the President was lying about an unconscionable provision that would deny people health care because they happen to be illegal immigrants. He evinced a deeply ugly nativist and know-nothing strain there. Can we add racist to this litany of anti-progressive, unchristian, illiberal, reactionary characteristics? He is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which prominent historians have called neo-confederate; he is the representative of a gerrymandered South Carolina district; he is a member of a party whose modern power is fundamentally based on Nixon’s Southern Strategy, the successful capturing of Jim Crow Southern whites from the Democrats. Whether or not he personally hangs a hood in his closet is pretty irrelevant. It’s what he represents.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
Mike

This racism thing is a sideshow. The fact is he lied when he called him a liar - that's what Republicans don't want you to talk about.

The bill clearly states that no illegal immigrants are going to fall in the plan. Obama reiterated that. Wilson prolonged the lie that Republicans made up, which is that the bill helps illegal immigrants. Wilson lied. If he truly believes what he's saying, he's delusional.

Sep. 16 2009 10:57 AM
TJ from NYC

I knew when Obama was elected, this is right where we were headed. If you disagree with him it's because you're a racist. (Same of course with Rangel and Patterson as well) It's so sad that this is the card we're permanently going to have to live with now during the remainder of this administration. The ridiculous assertion that Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would be getting better treatment advocating the same policies is a joke. Hey Dems, you have the votes!! Stop with the smoke screens and distractions, dazzle us all with your amazing legislative powers.

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
Mark Zimmermann from Brooklyn

I don't think there can be any doubt of white backlash fuelling the opposition to all the initiatives of the Obama administrations, thus far, from Sarah Palin & "he's not like us" to the birth certificate nonsense to Sonya S-M's nomination. Racism as a white cultural value is too well entranched to simply evaporate just because a black man is voted in.

Brian, when you focus of whether Joe Wilson's tirade was only based on racism, you miss the point. Republicans will oppose anything Democratic--that's a well-established strategy since the Clinton administration. But the racist element is what brings all this to the level of semi-violent.

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
Corey from Brooklyn

The question of whether a Republican congressman from the South shouting down an African-American president is racist is as much of a question as whether an election 9 years ago being ulitimately decided in the state where the winner's brother was the governor was fair or flawed.

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
Stephanie from Manhattan

Regarding the 1st caller, it's not a matter of being critical of the President, but rather a disrespectful breach of protocol and utter lack of decorum - wrong place, time, and manner of voicing it. Of course race was a factor. Race is always a factor, even for the most unprejudiced Americans, regardless of color. I can't be convinced that an adult Congressman (and from the south as wel) like Wilson sees just the President standing there, rather than a black President. And on some level, whether or not he even realizes it, I firmly believe he was moved to shout out so uncivilly based upon emotions and entitlement that are race related.

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
antonio from park slope

isn't this sort of like when Hilary Clinton and Rick Lazio debated in 00' and Lazio came across the stage and kind of harassed the first lady with some piece of paper?? And everyone thought that was overboard?

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
Jeffrey Goodman from Manhattan

One can speculate about Mr. Wilson's motive, but it is symptomatic of chronic disrespect for the office of the President, fairly won by by Barack Obama.

The democrat majority needs to show some strength and call Mr. Wilson to testify publicly about his motives. President Obama is not receiving the support he deserves from the Democratic party. All he has left is the people. I think he knows that.

The congress should insist that Mr. Wilson present his motivation to the American people, just as the President has tirelessly done the same.

By the way, I am white.

Sep. 16 2009 10:56 AM
the truth from bkny

That's a lie and you lie are two different things!

Sep. 16 2009 10:55 AM
Cesar from Manhattan

I find it ironic and telling how Serena Williams and Kanye West make rude, inappropriate comments in their public workplaces, then make multiple public apologies yet an elected member of congress from South Carolina chooses to ignore the responsibility of instigating racial upset by making a small mea culpa after a giant insult.

Sep. 16 2009 10:55 AM
the truth from bkny

@Chriss - who is we?

Sep. 16 2009 10:55 AM
Jenn from New Brunswick

Dowd and Carter are right, but what may be most disturbing is that the issue is so pervasive that it is subconscious - and likely many of the perpetrators justify their feelings to themselves with other excuses.

Sep. 16 2009 10:54 AM
Cynthia Crane from Greenwich Village

There is zero doubt that Wilson's shout out was racially inspired. Just look at his record. I am not tired of this story. This racism must be pointed out whenever and wherever it occurs. Wilson was rude, childish and a disgrace to the country

Sep. 16 2009 10:54 AM
the truth from bkny

@KARTEMI if that is the case then he should have said "that" is a lie! He did not.

Sep. 16 2009 10:54 AM
Fred Bachmann from Bloomfield, NJ

The greater point is not that Wilson objected to the President's speech, BUT that he broke with the Congress's protocol to heckle the President. Literally unprecedented. Would he have dared to do that with a white President? That is the real question here.

Sep. 16 2009 10:53 AM
superf88

One thing for dowd to bring it up.

But I suspect Carter secretly works for the Republicans. Finally, some traction for the GOP.

Sep. 16 2009 10:53 AM
Jemal from Jamaica

As an African American and an Obama supporter, I have no problem criticizing the policies of any elected official including the President -I take pride in being an American and having that right. That said, for a US Congressman to call the President a liar in the halls of Congress on national TV is simply unacceptable-plain as that.

Sep. 16 2009 10:53 AM
Brittany from Brooklyn

I'm truly offended that prominent, moderate Republicans aren't speaking out again Wilson's outburst or the right-wing fringe protesters and their horrific signs. By not saying anything, they are condoning all of this behavior, the same way McCain condoned the racism and lies that permeated many of his rallies.

Sep. 16 2009 10:53 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

The United States is a racist country and was built on structural racism. Some people think that just because racism is not overt and cloaked in other fears (economic, health care, etc.), they can explain it away as something else.

Dowd and Bill Maher (he, for a while) have been publicly stating this underlying racism towards Obama and they are correct.

By the way, the caller is wrong because no one ever shouted at Bush when he was speaking to Congress. The Republicans really pushed the Congressional decorum rules in the 1980s with Robert Walker (see below).

(GOP paved way for Wilson reprimand: http://www.politico.com/news/stories)/0909/27184.html

Sep. 16 2009 10:53 AM
Dana Rosen-Perez from Westfield, NJ

I think that the most unfortunate result of Wilson's comment, racist or not, is that it has distracted the country from further discussion of the content of President Obama's intelligent discourse on his health plan proposal, and his call to collaboration.

Sep. 16 2009 10:52 AM
joanne from Manhattan

did I just hear Brian call our president a liar?

Sep. 16 2009 10:52 AM
Mireille Liong from Brooklyn,NY

You don't say you lie, you say I disagree. Bush was a lier, no one ever said that because of the decorum. There are rules. He yelled at the President as if he was a little boy with no respect.
I am happy the dems finally speak up. This is about decorum, history, tradition. This is what makes America. This is what people are proud of.

Sep. 16 2009 10:52 AM
Erik from nyc

The racism was inherent. Wilson is a yahoo who accurately represents a significant minority of southern republicans.

This is the way the Republican Party has been trending for years. Angry white males are their base. In the end I think it will not carry the country.

Sep. 16 2009 10:52 AM
Jason from NJ

The main reason for all the outbursts and the rallies is the fact he's a Democrat. Plain and simple.
But I know for a fact that race also places a part on the ground level because I've heard it from a few of my friends, who are racist and hate Obama and put it all together in one sentence.

Sep. 16 2009 10:52 AM
Bill from New York

I would have applauded a democrat standing up to say "you lie!" to Bush. Decorum? Apparently it extended to your duty to check a rogue Executive. Ridiculous.

Wilson's is different because, in point of fact, he was wrong. Obama wasn't lying. If you call him a liar and he's not you're an idiot and/or an opportunist. If you call him a liar when no one else will and it really matters, I think that's kind of heroic.

Sep. 16 2009 10:51 AM
Dan from queens

I don't think Joe Wilson's comment was racist, but the increasing partisan rancor. Every conservative commentator on radio and cable news yells at everyone. They have ushered in an era where anyone is free to yell out any ridiculous charge and moderate conservatives are not giving us those stinging soundbites.

Sep. 16 2009 10:51 AM
Cynthia Crane from Greenwich Village

There is zero doubt that Wilson's shout-out was racially based, All you have to do is look at his record. This was a call to all his fellow racists. Intolerable, childish, dreadful behavior. We went to war on Bush's lies and never called him on it.

Sep. 16 2009 10:51 AM
KC from Upper West Side

As a black man, I said to my white partner -- just last night -- that I grow increasingly afraid for the life of my president. If Republicans of conscience do not rise up and speak forcefully against crossing the lines of common decency, and insist upon respect for Barack Obama and the office he holds, I think they will be the first be silent and turn their heads if something horrific happens. Shame on all of us.

Sep. 16 2009 10:51 AM
Evan from New York, NY

Sorry, but I think people are connecting dots that aren't necessarily there. Wilson is no more responsible for the signs at his rallies than Obama was for Jeremiah Wright and Rev. Michael Pfleger's comments.

Sep. 16 2009 10:51 AM
Bill from NY

Wilson was wrong. If Carter this everything is black and white, why did so may people for for Obama. Also I thought Obama was raised by his WHITE grandmother. Isn't he just as white as black? The real issue is that he does not have worldly skills especially in Economics.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
the truth from bkny

Brian, what is your deal? You cannot shout out on the floor of the house!!! More less to call the President of the United State a Liar!!

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
john from office

Of Course it involed race, but Obama is above all this nonsense. Time to move on.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
Robert from NYC

Why don't you stop the "what if" questions. It didn't happen that's the point. What if nothing.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Wow Brian,

good questions, I think this politician is lying considering the party line vote we just saw on censure.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
Zina from NJ

Whether or not his comments were racist, I think we should make every effort to keep political dialogue a bit civil. If one side of the isle decides to act in such a disturbing way, at least the other side should avoid falling to that level.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
Cesar from Manhattan

The first caller made a false equivalence between outbursts by congress against Obama, Bush, and Clinton.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
the truth from bkny

Here we go again - deny if you will his white heritage but President Obama has a 100% white mother. To behave as if this has no bearing on his existence is ridiculous but that is also how we deal with race in the US.

Sep. 16 2009 10:50 AM
hjs from 11211

this is not wilson first racist display he's a member of the racist organization Sons of Confederate Veterans, also his criticism of strom thurmond's daughter's coming out. but he also doesn't understand truth either http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Wilson_(US_politician)#Controversy_over_.22hatred_of_America.22_remark

race is part of the great debate of the day the birthers and the lies that brown mexicans are coming to steal our healthcare (as if it's worth stealing) for example

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
Zach from UWS

Yes. This is about race and the fear amongst certain older white Americans that this will no longer be a majority-white country soon. I rarely think this, but Maureen Dowd is completely right.

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
danny iselin from woodbridge, nj

I think the lid on implicit racism toward President Obama blew around Labor Day, even before the Joe Wilson incident when the white right parents pressured their schools not to air the President's speech.

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Some time back, there was an email going around that claimed that Obama was "not culturally an American" - now what do you suppose that meant? Hmmmm . . .

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
JG from NYC

The accusation that Obama is a liar is more complex than simply racist. Yes, racism in its classic American sense still exists and no doubt is being aroused by the Obama presidency. But an interesting dimension of the current strain of right wing vitriol is being overlooked. If you look at the rhetoric of the teabaggers you see certain types of fears expressed: Obama is a foreigner, an alien, he has secret plans, he's a socialist...and the protesters' signs show even further extremities: bloodsucking, lying, etc. It is uncannily reminiscent of antisemitic rhetoric of the 1930s. The Jews were attacked as being all of the above: the receptacle and embodiment of all rightwing fears. When you accept this paranoid view of Obama, then of course any reasonable utterance or statement of fact he makes is perceived as a lie -- concealing his "true" secret identity and nefarious plans. This seems to represent the convergence of two major strains of racism that have marked the modern era, and that is a frightening prospect indeed.

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
Ken from Brooklyn

"Mainstream" Republican leaders have a serious responsibility to denounce Wilson and denounce the extremist statements being made about the President. By not doing so they are tacitly encouraging the right-wing wackos to continue and become even more extreme in their words and even actions.

They must do something before this gets worse and very scary.

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
Carol from Summit, NJ

Racist? without question.

Sep. 16 2009 10:49 AM
kartemi from brooklyn

Could it be he felt what was being said was an outright lie? why does this have anything to do with racism? would it be racism if the races of the individuals were reversed - I can tell you no. Also, why does WNYC and you Brian, feed into this story?

Sep. 16 2009 10:48 AM
Christopher Deignan from Middle Village

Was Wilson reprimanded by the Republican Party for his disrespectful behaviour and if so what was the substance of that rebuke?

Sep. 16 2009 10:48 AM
the truth from bkny

Peter - Not a rlevant comparison. Kanye is not even close to being the President of the United States of America!

Sep. 16 2009 10:47 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Maureen Dowd didn't start connecting Wilson to racism. That correct (imho) assertion was ALL OVER the web immediately after the president's speech. Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, et al have been throwing around racist comments for months. I'm amazed, Brian, that you don't know it.

Sep. 16 2009 10:47 AM
barbara from Westchester county New York

As a middle-aged, white suburban housewife (and Hilary supporter), there is no doubt that a white congressman from South Carolina would never have called the President of the United States a liar if that President were white. I think the racism is so ingrained that Mr. Wilson himself may not recognize where his disrespect stems from. Racism is at the heart of the depictions of the President as Hitler and the desire on the part of the right wing (is there any other at this point?) of the Republican Party to have Mr. Obama fail. For the first time in years we have a President who is willing to work hard to reach goals and there is a seedy side of American society that wants him to fail, and I believe this is due to racism.

Sep. 16 2009 10:47 AM
Chriss from NJ

So we weren't racist when we elected Obama.

We weren't racist when Obama had a 70% approval rating.

But NOW as folks disagree with his policies VOCALLY (and his approval rating is below 50%), we're racist?

This is sad. Is ANY criticism going to be seen as racist?

I'm afraid it is....

(Funny when Bush was pilloried, that was fine: dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Now, dissent is racism.)

Me thinks Obama needs to have another great race speech!

Sep. 16 2009 10:47 AM
Bill from New York

Racism might play into the general right wing animus against Obama, which Wilson was probably drawing on for "authority," but that animus is rooted in just as irrational and hysterical a hatred of all things liberal that Beck and Co. are cynically trading in. Let's not let race eclipse a pretty broad base of ignorance and bigotry.

Sep. 16 2009 10:46 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh my previous comment was wrong I didn't read this in full. I'm not tired of this story but the censure part I agree with the Jimmy Carter on the racism factor. This is all due to the racism that still pervades our society and culture.

Sep. 16 2009 10:46 AM
JR

I think that it's important to note that President Carter was not just, or even directly, referencing Joe Wilson -- the problem and Carter's remarks about it, are both much broader.

It's always easy to defend a specific example, it's the pervasive disrespect and outrageous lies (Muslim, birthers..) that are only intended to undermine the authority of the President, not really to attack his policies, that are encoded or pretty direct forms of racism.

Again, the Republican lie machine at work.

Sep. 16 2009 10:46 AM
the truth from bkny

I will say given the history of South Carolina politician...yes. He used it to his political advantage, it was premeditated to win the approval of other SC Republican Radicals.

I will also ask the question? Why has nor any other member of congress been "moved" to shout out during sesssion before? Against the constitution mind you.

Sep. 16 2009 10:46 AM
L from Brooklyn

Maureen Dowd didn't "start" this. She just said what many of us were thinking. This needs to be said.

Sep. 16 2009 10:46 AM
seth

I think Joe Wilson and many of his constituents would like to turn the clock back to the bad old days before the Civil Rights Act.

Wilson is a disgrace to the Congress and a disgrace to South Carolina.

Sep. 16 2009 10:45 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

President Obama called Kayne West a "jackass." Kayne West is black. Does this mean that President Obama is racist because he has a strong opinion about a person who happens to be African American.

Always the race card.

Wilson was rude, but what he said was true. President Obama is lying about health care reform will be paid for.

Sep. 16 2009 10:44 AM
Tom from Westfield

When you don't have a substantive response to real issues race is a good trump card to play to change the conversation.
Tom

Sep. 16 2009 10:44 AM
Matt from Brooklyn

Fine, racist. No doubt on my part. But the butt end of the situation is the disregard of an "illegal alien" who needs to go the hospital.

Sep. 16 2009 10:44 AM
uos from queens

Yep, the Wilson dude is totally racist. I wouldn't be surprised if he sent Obama a bucket of fried chicken and watermelon to smooth over his apology...because the dude is totally racist.

Sep. 16 2009 10:44 AM
antonio from park slope

I mean where were all these tea-party types when it was found that there were NO WMDS, that the war would cost 700 billion dollars (does that include the flats of money that was handed out etc??), not to mention all the LIVES that were lost based on lies!!!

Of course its about race look at those signs that there carrying, they have nothing to do with the issues !!!

Sep. 16 2009 10:43 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

I would like to know if it is true that Wilson said that the report that Strom Thurmond fathered a child with a black woman was a lie. Since this incident was a proven fact, if Wilson denied it, Wilson is a racist, period.

Sep. 16 2009 10:43 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

How much of Wilson's comment was racially motivated? 100% of course.

And how is it that a camera (a c-span camera) just "happened" to be on Wilson when he shot off his mouth?

Sep. 16 2009 10:42 AM
simpsonsmovieblew

Worst president:
Carter or Bush?

Sep. 16 2009 10:42 AM
seth

I think Jimmy Carter is 100% correct that racism plays a major role in the opposition to Obama. The intensity of hatred directed towards Obama goes well beyond any rational disagreement over his healthcare policy. The Republican is using racial resentment as a wedge issue to win support among white voters and it's disgraceful.

Sep. 16 2009 10:42 AM
chris from brooklyn

This is the same phenomenon as schools refusing to let students watch the President's education speech... a fundamental refusal to admit that Obama is legitimate.

Sep. 16 2009 10:41 AM
Judy from nyc

Racist-absolutely

Sep. 16 2009 10:41 AM
brian

The republicans are shocked - shocked - at President Carter's comments, but republican leaders were labeling Sonia Sotomayor a racist with wild abandon, and Glenn Beck's appending that label to President Obama didn't seem to bother them in the least; they brushed it off as insignificant.

It's interesting also that those republicans in the House of Representatives who consider the resolution against Joe Wilson's behavior an unnecessary waste of time, despite the fact that he acted out on the house floor against the commander in chief, are the same ones who insisted on taking up valuable congressional time to pass resolutions condemning a private organization who criticized General Petraeus.

Sep. 16 2009 10:40 AM
Robert from NYC

Do you really have to go there yet again? I'm tired of this story.

Sep. 16 2009 10:40 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn

As an aide and long time supporter of Strom Thurmond, I think it's pretty easy to draw a conclusion as to what Wilson would have called Obama 30-40 years ago.

If these dinosaurs finally die off we will be a better country. If they spawn more, we will always be divided.

Sep. 16 2009 10:39 AM
seth

Rep Joe Wilson's outburst was vile and disgraceful. I seriously doubt that he would have shown such flagrant disrepect to President Hillary Clinton or President John Edwards. I can't prove it, but I think Wilson's outburst has the ugly tinge of racism.

I think Wilson and many of his collegaues don't respect Obama as a person the way they would respect Hillary Clinton if she were President.

Sep. 16 2009 10:38 AM

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