Glenn Beck misrepresented comments President Obama made during a 1995 interview to claim Obama did not want to meet with BP CEO Tony Hayward because he is a "white CEO" and that those comments were "code language" that "sounds like racism," "stereotyping," and "profiling." However, as Obama's full comments make clear, he was actually discussing personal responsibility on the part of both blacks and whites.
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Beck distorts comments to accuse Obama of engaging in "racism," "profiling," and "stereotyping"
Beck: "[T]here seems to be a little profiling going on here" that "sounds like racism." On his radio show, Beck aired an edited audio clip of Obama saying, "I really want to emphasize the word 'responsibility.' I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children --" Beck then likened the comments to "code language" and said they sounded "like racism." Beck suggested that the reason Obama didn't want to meet with Hayward to talk about the oil spill was because "he's a white CEO that maybe lives out in the suburbs and doesn't want to pay taxes, you know, for any inner-city children."
From the June 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
BECK: What is it exactly in your vast experience in oil? Or is it oil? Is it that these are all oil executives? I'm sorry, we're stereotyping here, and I'm just trying to get my arms around what we can stereotype with no information and what we can't stereotype with information.
BECK: Now, is it oil? Because you don't have any oil experience. Did you work at a gas station? Because maybe you could come out and say, "Hey, all gas station owners are alike" in your experience, if you've worked at a gas station. Or is it the fact that he's a white executive? Maybe -- maybe your problem is, is that he's a white CEO that maybe lives out in the suburbs and doesn't want to pay taxes, you know, for any inner-city children. Yeah, I know that's such an outrageous --
OBAMA [audio clip]: And I really want to emphasize the word "responsibility." I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children --
BECK: Ah, OK. All right, so maybe that's the problem. Maybe the problem that the president has with the BP executive, that he last week didn't want to meet with 'cause he had all the information he needed, he wasn't interested in words, but this week, he's going to meet with him. And I'm trying to figure out what changed. Did he find out that not all white executives that live out in the suburbs don't want to pay their taxes to go to inner-city children, which I believe is code language, isn't it? Is that code language, Mr. President? I thought we weren't supposed to use code language. A white executive that doesn't want their tax dollars to go to inner-city children -- sounds like code language.
It sounds like racism. It sounds like stereotyping. It sounds like profiling, which, I didn't think we were supposed to do. Isn't that your problem in Arizona? Your problem with the Arizona law is you're profiling. They can stop you just for looking Hispanic. That's what you claim.
Mr. President, are you profiling this executive? Just because he looks like a CEO? Because he looks like a white CEO? Because he looks like an oil company CEO? I'm not sure what you're profiling, but there seems to be a little profiling going on here. Were you actually born in Arizona, and not Hawaii? I'm suddenly interested in the birth certificate, because maybe your birth certificate says you were born in Arizona. I've never questioned your birth certificate. Now, I'm kind of curious. Maybe you were born one of those evil Arizonan profilers.
Beck: Obama comment "sounds an awful lot like profiling." On his Fox News show, Beck again cropped Obama's 1995 comments to claim they sounded "an awful lot like profiling" and reiterated his suggestion that the reason Obama did not want to meet with Hayward is because "he's a white CEO" and "white CEOs, they don't like to -- they don't want to pay their tax dollars and have those tax dollars go to inner-city kids."
From the June 14 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: What is it that Barack Obama knows that he won't even bother to meet with the guy to hear him out? Well, until, you know, he changed his mind a couple of days later. What is it that the dictator of Iran, the crazy guy in Iran has in the credibility department that the CEO of BP doesn't have? What is it? Tell me. I'd like to know. Does the fact the BP CEO is a capitalist -- does that -- is that what does it? You know, when I meet with those capitalists -- he's a white CEO. Maybe that's it. He's a white CEO. White CEOs -- I don't know if you know this -- but white CEOs, they don't like to -- they don't want to pay their tax dollars and have those tax dollars go to inner-city kids.
OBAMA [audio clip]: And I really want to emphasize the word responsibility. I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children to -- for them to go to school --
BECK: I know. Man, all those white executives, what racists they are. They're all alike, you know. Oh, they just hate those inner-city kids. Wow. Inner-city kids -- that's not code language, is it? And gee, all those white executives that don't want to pay their taxes, have to go to -- that sounds an awful lot like profiling.
BECK: It's almost like he's generalizing, profiling, and stereotyping.
Obama was speaking to the "responsibility" both whites and blacks must take to get past "divisions"
Obama: Whites and blacks must take responsibility "if we're going to get beyond the kinds of divisions that we face right now." In an August 1995 interview with Bill Thompson, who interviews authors for his online series Eye on Books, Obama discussed what he had learned in writing Dreams from my Father, his 1995 memoir, and he also addressed issues of race in America. When Obama was asked whether the next generation will also have to deal with the same racial issues, he replied that it "depends on what we do and whether we take some mutual responsibility for bridging the divisions that exist right now." Obama continued: "And I really want to emphasize the word 'responsibility.' I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children to -- for them to go to school or you're an inner-city child who doesn't want to take responsibility for keeping your street safe and clean, both of those groups have to take some responsibility if we're going to get beyond the kinds of divisions that we face right now" [emphasis added].
From the interview [with what Beck aired in bold]:
[4:56 of audio] THOMPSON: What was the most difficult part of the book to write?
OBAMA: I think what was toughest was writing honestly and truthfully about the suspicions and hurts and failings of the people closest to me, and writing about those same failings and disappointments and blind spots in myself. I think whenever we talk about race there are all kinds of issues that we'd like to skirt. You know, I tell the story -- just to take one of the clearest examples -- of my grandmother, who loves me dearly and has made all kinds of sacrifices on my behalf, expressing at one point when I was a teenager her fear of black men on the streets. And, you know, to discuss that honestly and to discuss how that felt, to discuss how my grandmother felt, and then to be able to arrive at some sort of peace with that, some greater understanding and some forgiveness, I think was probably the most difficult part of writing it.
THOMPSON: Were there times when you felt like just backing away from the whole thing and saying, "Oh, I don't think I can go through with this"?
OBAMA: Right. Well, certainly, I think there's an impulse among all of us to shy away from these issues. There's a certain race weariness that confronts the country, precisely because the questions are so deeply embedded and the solutions are going to require so much investment of time, energy, and money. And so I share that reluctance sometimes to explore these issues.
I think what kept me going is the recognition that we can't solve these problems by ignoring them or pretending that they don't exist. And one of the things that strikes me and the country right now is our tendency to either pretend that racial conflict does not exist, that racial division and hatred does not exist, and to pretend that we live in a color-blind society -- I think sometimes members of the Supreme Court, the current Supreme Court, take that line -- or to say that race is everything, that there's no possibility of common ground between black and white.
And I think the truth of the matter is that -- and hopefully what people will get out of the book -- is some sense that although the lives of blacks and whites in this country are different, although our historical experiences are different, my family is an example -- and, hopefully, I am an example -- of the possibility of arriving at some common ground and that we do share values and principles around which we can organize and make for a better life.
[11:18 audio] THOMPSON: I'm wondering if the ethnically mixed couple of today, if when their child is 34 years old, if they'll find it any easier to deal with these issues then than you have found it now?
OBAMA: That's an interesting question. I'm not sure. I think in some ways there's less novelty to the idea of mixed couples. They're not seen as lurid or perverse in ways that I think they were 30 years ago. I think that this country is inevitably going to be undergoing changes simply due to demographics. I think that there's been a lot of talk about the "browning of America" --
THOMPSON: I was just going to use that same phrase.
OBAMA: Right. And I think that is going to be happening, and we can't ignore it. I think whether or not my children or your children will have to struggle with these same issues depends on what we do and whether we take some mutual responsibility for bridging the divisions that exist right now. And I really want to emphasize the word "responsibility."
I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children to -- for them to go to school or you are a inner-city child who doesn't want to take responsibility for keeping your street safe and clean, both of those groups have to take some responsibility if we're going to get beyond the kinds of divisions that we face right now.
Beck previously called Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people"
Beck: Obama is a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people." During a July 28, 2009, appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, Beck said that Obama was a "racist" who had "exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."