Carlson, Limbaugh baselessly accused Obama of justifying and inciting riots

››› ››› ADAM SERWER

On the June 5 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, after playing a short excerpt of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) June 5 speech in which Obama discussed what he called "quiet riots" of despair and hopelessness in poor communities, host Tucker Carlson accused Obama of "giving a political justification to totally unacceptable, never justifiable behavior." He also stated, "[I]t seems to me that when people burn down stores, kill people because they're Korean, or beat people in the head with cinder blocks because of their race, like Reginald Denny [a white man who was injured in the 1992 Los Angeles riots], that's not a political statement." But contrary to Carlson's suggestion, Obama, referring to the 1992 riots, explicitly denounced violence in the speech, including some of the specific acts Carlson listed: "This is not to excuse the violence of bashing in a man's head or destroying someone's store and their life's work. That kind of violence is inexcusable and self-defeating."

Additionally, on the June 6 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of "inciting riots" in the June 5 speech: "He's talking about there's a quiet riot brewing in America today because Bush doesn't care, because Bush isn't doing enough. This guy was inciting, he was inciting riots. ... And to talk about a quiet riot that is brewing out there it is dangerous, it is reckless." Limbaugh later asked, "Can you imagine if a Republican candidate talked about something equivalent to this; there's a quiet riot brewing? It would be all over the place, headlines and so forth, about how this is irresponsible, trying to incite violence in America. What do you think Obama was doing?"

In his speech, Obama used the term "quiet riots" to describe what happens in communities "when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold, and young people all across this country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get any better."

From Obama's June 5 speech:

OBAMA: Many of the folks in this room know just where they were when the riot in Los Angeles started and tragedy struck the corner of Florence and Normandy. And most of the ministers here know that those riots didn't erupt over night; there had been a "quiet riot" building up in Los Angeles and across this country for years.

If you had gone to any street corner in Chicago or Baton Rouge or Hampton -- you would have found the same young men and women without hope, without miracles, and without a sense of destiny other than life on the edge -- the edge of the law, the edge of the economy, the edge of family structures and communities.

Those "quiet riots" that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths. They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold, and young people all across this country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get any better. You tell yourself, "My school will always be second rate." You tell yourself, "There will never be a good job waiting for me to excel at." You tell yourself, " will never be able to afford a place that I can be proud of and call my home." That despair quietly simmers and makes it impossible to build strong communities and neighborhoods. And then one afternoon a jury says, "Not guilty" -- or a hurricane hits New Orleans -- and that despair is revealed for the world to see.

Much of what we saw on our television screens 15 years ago was Los Angeles expressing a lingering, ongoing, pervasive legacy -- a tragic legacy out of the tragic history this country has never fully come to terms with. This is not to excuse the violence of bashing in a man's head or destroying someone's store and their life's work. That kind of violence is inexcusable and self-defeating. It does, however, describe the reality of many communities around this country.

Look at what happened in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit. People ask me whether I thought race was the reason the response was so slow. I said, "No. This administration was colorblind in its incompetence." But everyone here knows the disaster and the poverty happened long before that hurricane hit. All the hurricane did was make bare what we ignore each and every day, which is that there are whole sets of communities that are impoverished, that don't have meaningful opportunity, that don't have hope, and they are forgotten. This disaster was a powerful metaphor for what's gone on for generations.

Of course, the federal response after Katrina was similar to the response after the riots in Los Angeles. People in Washington wake up and are surprised that there's poverty in our midst, and that others were frustrated and angry. Then there are panels and there are hearings. There are commissions. There are reports. Aid dollars are approved but they can't seem to get to the people. And then nothing really changes except the news coverage quiets down.

This isn't to diminish the extraordinary generosity of the American people at the time. Our churches and denominations were particularly generous during this time, sending millions of dollars, thousands of volunteers and countless prayers down to the Gulf Coast.

But despite this extraordinary generosity, here we are 19 months later -- or 15 years later in the case of LA -- and the homes haven't been built, the businesses haven't returned, and those same communities are still drowning and smoldering under the same hopelessness as before the tragedy hit.

From the June 6 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama, Barack Obama, let me give you this quote from a story. They mentioned this yesterday, talked about the quiet riot. Obama noted that during the riots, this is the L.A. riots, the 15 years ago, South Central riots. And he's talking about there's a quiet riot brewing in America today because Bush doesn't care, because Bush isn't doing enough. This guy is inciting, he was inciting riots. He spoke to an audience of, I think I remember it yesterday 8,000 people, and to talk about a quiet riot that is brewing out there is dangerous, it is reckless.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Can you imagine if a Republican candidate talked about something equivalent to this; there's a quiet riot brewing? It would be all over the place, headlines and so forth, about how this is irresponsible, trying to incite violence in America. What do you think Obama was doing? And this is all to establish street cred folks, as being down for the struggle. He has to show that he is down for the civil rights struggle because you know they have all these pieces the libs have written: Is he black enough? is he not black enough? He's the "Magic Negro," said the L.A. Times, all of this.

From the June 5 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

CARLSON: Barack Obama was talking about a quiet riot today, and no, it was not a reference to a 1980s heavy metal band, unfortunately. The senator waded into the controversial waters of race during a speech at Hampton University in Virginia. He said the Bush administration has done little to quell a brewing storm among some black Americans. He compared the current tension to what fueled the L.A. riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict.

OBAMA [video clip]: These quiet riots that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires of destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and death. They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold, and young people all across the country look at the way the world is and they believe that things are never going to get better.

CARLSON: This is not the first time Obama has sounded such an alarm, but will this kind of rhetoric help or hurt his chances to become president? We welcome back MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and senior editor of The New Republic Michael Crowley. Hilary, it seems to me that when people burn down stores, kill people because they're Korean, or beat people in the head with cinder blocks because of their race, like Reginald Denny, that's not a political statement. That's just crime, and Barack Obama seems to me to be giving a political justification to totally unacceptable, never justifiable behavior. And I think it's pretty outrageous.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC, Premiere Radio Networks
Person
Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show, Tucker
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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