In discussing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, radio hosts Scott James of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL and Amy Oliver of 1310 KFKA echoed a pattern of racist conservative commentary. They parroted baseless and racially charged comments regarding Obama's church, his heritage, and his racial identity -- or alleged lack thereof.
During the April 10 and April 11 broadcasts of their shows, respectively, Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Scott James and 1310 KFKA's Amy Oliver repeated false and racist commentary about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (IL). James restated the charge leveled by conservative columnist Erik Rush that Obama's church -- Trinity United Church of Christ -- is "about a black separatist movement more than it is Jesus Christ." Oliver stated that because of his parentage, Obama "is not 100 percent black. He is half-black, half-white." The hosts discussed Obama in the context of the controversy over radio personality Don Imus' racist comments of April 4, which Oliver defended on her April 6 broadcast.
From the April 10 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang:
JAMES: Now Kristin, see if you can -- hunt down Erik Rush. See if -- we don't have any other guests today. See if we can get Erik on. Local columnist, good guy. His column is, at least in the New Media Journal this week, is about just that. Now, it's on a different issue, but it's about why only one side can express their opinion and the other side can't because they'll be shut up and called racist. Looks like he's appeared on Paula Zahn on CNN now. Erik, jeez, you're going to get too big for us, here. Pretty soon. But it's interesting the fact that what he did, is he said, "Now wait a minute. Let's take a look at Obama and take a look at the Trinity United Church of Christ that he belongs to. Because more or less what it's about is a separatist movement, about a black separatist movement more than it is Jesus Christ." At least that's the research that Erik has done. And, of course, that's outraged a lot of people. The title of Erik's article this week is "Obamapalooza." Which kind of cracks me up. [Laughs] But he talks about this. And he makes -- it, it, it's a -- it's a long article. Well worth the read. But he makes something just -- he makes -- the very last sentence, the very last sentence of the article is, is just perfect. "I occasionally wonder when people will finally catch on that civil rights activism isn't a social cause anymore; it's an industry." And that's why Imus is being slaughtered. Because civil rights is no longer a, a cause. It's no longer for activists. It's for profiteers. It's an industry.
As Colorado Media Matters noted, Rush -- who is a regular columnist for the Fort Collins Coloradoan -- had attacked Trinity United Church of Christ on the February 28 broadcast of Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. However, contrary to the suggestion that the church is part of "a black separatist movement," Trinity refers to itself as "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." It states that it espouses a "Black Value System" that encourages parishioners to be "soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankind."
As Media Matters for America has noted, a February 6 Chicago Tribune article stated that the church's "value system" was adopted in 1981 to hold "black Christians accountable for taking care of their own and for continuing to fight oppression." In an interview, Obama reportedly told the Tribune, "If I say to anybody in Iowa -- white, black, Hispanic or Asian -- that my church believes in the African-American community strengthening families or adhering to the black work ethic or being committed to self-discipline and self-respect and not forgetting where you came from, I don't think that's something anybody would object to. ... I think I'd get a few amens."
Addressing conservative criticism of the value system, Obama also reportedly told the Tribune, "Commitment to God, black community, commitment to the black family, the black work ethic, self-discipline and self-respect. ...Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement." He added, "So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help."
On her April 11 broadcast, 1310 KFKA's Oliver, who also is director of operations for the conservative Independence Institute, referenced controversial remarks about Obama that Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) made to The New York Observer: The February 5 article quoted Biden as saying of Obama, "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
From the April 11 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:
OLIVER: I left off with the fact that -- remember what Joseph Biden, Senator Biden, called, or had the nerve to call, Barack Obama -- who is, by the way, half-black, half-white. He is not 100 percent black. He is half-black, half-white. To call him African-American completely -- if, if, if you mean black -- completely disregards 50 percent of his heritage, which is his mother, who, by the way, raised him. Anyways, Joseph Biden, Democrat from Den -- Delaware, Senator Joseph Biden had the nerve to call Barack Obama articulate and bright and clean. Meaning, he is ethically free of baggage. What are the guidelines? If you can't say that, what is -- in particular, what is a white male supposed to call somebody? How are you supposed to describe somebody, or is it totally off-limits if they value their careers?
In focusing on Obama's racial identity, Oliver echoed a pattern of racist conservative commentary that Media Matters has noted.
In 1990, Obama became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and on November 2, 2004, Obama became the fifth black senator in U.S. history. But as his intentions of running for national office became clear, some media figures started to question Obama's racial identity. For instance, on the February 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, as the weblog Think Progress noted, Rush Limbaugh, after noting that Obama had said in an interview that "[i]f you look African-American in this society, you're treated as an African-American," added that "[i]f it's not something you want to be, if you didn't decide it, renounce it, become white!"
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck took it a step further, claiming that Obama "is colorless," adding that "as a white guy ... [y]ou don't notice that he is black. So he might as well be white." Limbaugh also joined other conservative radio hosts in referring to Obama as a "Halfrican" and a "half-minority" because of his white mother. On the March 2 broadcast of his show, Limbaugh referred to a Chicago Tribune article that reported that two of Obama's ancestors on his mother's side owned slaves and stated that "since Obama has -- on his mother's side -- forebears of his mother had slaves, could we not say that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination and then wins the presidency, he will own [Rev.] Al Sharpton?"
Similarly, as Media Matters noted, columnist and film critic Steve Sailer, whose columns appear on the racist website VDARE.com, wrote on January 2: "The brutal truth: Obama is a 'wigger'. He's a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless." Sailer's column linked to a Wikipedia entry on the word "wigger," which, at the time (as well as currently) read: "Wigger (alternatively spelled wigga or whigger or whigga) is a slang term that refers to a white person who emulates mannerisms, slangs and fashions stereotypically associated with urban African Americans; especially in relation to hip hop culture."