The New York Times reported the assertion by Cokie Roberts that Sen. Barack Obama's trip to his birthplace of Hawaii "has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place" without also reporting that the comment provoked a backlash, including denunciations from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).
In an August 15 New York Times article, Michael Falcone reported the assertion by ABC News political analyst and NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts that Sen. Barack Obama's trip to his birthplace of Hawaii "has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place," but Falcone gave no suggestion that the comment was in any way controversial; in fact, the comment provoked a sharp backlash, including denunciations from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).
Akaka issued a statement on August 12:
"Saying our 50th state is somehow 'foreign,' does a great disservice to the hardworking, patriotic Americans who call Hawai'i home," Akaka said. "For months, people have been asking me, 'When is Sen. Obama going to come home?' I'm so glad he found time to visit his sister and his grandmother, and for him and his family to bond and recharge in his home state. Hawai'i is a great U.S. destination; just ask the 5.5 million Americans who visited last year for business and pleasure."
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) was reportedly "shocked and saddened by the remarks" and was quoted saying: "I would resent anyone suggesting that my roots are not American."
According to the August 13 Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Abercrombie said: "If he [Obama] had gone someplace else, people would be asking, 'Why didn't he go home to Hawaii, why didn't he go see his grandma?' " The Star-Bulletin further quoted Abercrombie saying, "Her home is a couple of blocks from the hospital he was born in, from the school he went to. Honolulu is a little town. It's not some sort of exotic locality." The Star-Bulletin also reported:
"We're confused by her sense of geography," said John Monahan, president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. "Aside from the fact that Sen. Obama was born and raised here, he really is just one of the millions of Americans who choose to vacation in the islands and know that it's part of the United States. That's one of the advantages. No passport is required and a dollar is dollar here. ... Sen. Obama or anyone else can do business worldwide, 24/7, while in Honolulu."
Abercrombie also reportedly said: "She's a bit of a fool. That's the only thing you can say."
NPR listeners also reportedly objected after Roberts made similar comments during the August 11 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, when she said Obama's vacation to Hawaii "makes him seem a little bit more exotic" and characterized Hawaii as "a somewhat odd place to be doing it." During the August 14 edition of Morning Edition, co-host Renee Montagne said NPR had received "lots" of responses "after NPR's Cokie Roberts suggested Hawaii was an odd choice for Barack Obama's vacation," adding: "Donald Barella writes to say, 'Last I looked, Hawaii is one of the 50 states, not a foreign place.' " Montagne also said to co-host Steve Inskeep: "And how exotic could it be, Steve? I was raised there."
From the August 15 New York Times article:
Mr. Obama's week has been low-key, a sharp contrast to his high-voltage campaign events. On Thursday, he toured a nature preserve and went body surfing. Beyond that, Mr. Obama has played golf, taken walks on the beach with his daughters, eaten dinner at a few Honolulu restaurants with his wife and friends, and visited almost daily with his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whom Mr. Obama calls "tutu," a Hawaiian term.
He has held only two campaign events, a fund-raiser and a welcoming rally that was quickly added to his schedule. "It would have been devastating to everyone here if he had not done that," said Kallie Keith-Agaran, an Obama supporter who lives in Maui.
Minimizing public appearances may have provided less fodder for those detractors who have portrayed his vacation spot as elitist or exotic. Last weekend, Cokie Roberts, an ABC News analyst, said, "I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii, and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place." Ms. Roberts added, "He should be in Myrtle Beach if he's going to take a vacation at this time."
A few months ago, some campaign aides had reportedly discussed a splashier homecoming, including a major speech at the Punchbowl National Cemetery, where Mr. Obama's maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, a World War II veteran, is buried. Instead, Mr. Obama stopped at the grave briefly on Wednesday, carrying a lei.
Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, defended the trip, saying, "I don't think anyone can credibly criticize Senator Obama for going back to the place where he was born to visit his grandmother where she happens to live."