Carter: Animosity towards Obama based mostly on race

The former president says he's concerned "many white people" believe "African-Americans are not qualified to lead"

Published September 15, 2009 11:30PM (EDT)

On Tuesday, former President Carter gave voice to what a lot of Democrats have been thinking lately, saying a good bit of the opposition to President Obama is due to his race.

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," Carter told NBC News' Brian Williams. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that share the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief of many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

Expect Carter to take a lot of heat from the right for this -- he's not exactly beloved on that side of the political spectrum anyway, and they've been pretty angry about any suggestions that racism is involved in negative reactions to Obama. And the White House isn't likely to jump in on Carter's side. Beginning with the campaign, the president and his team have been very reluctant to get involved in issues of race, much less allegations of racism against Obama, in part as a way of avoiding charges from opponents that he's playing the infamous "race card."

With good reason, too -- as Joan Walsh explained recently, as the GOP has been "raising consciousness about the president's race and associating him with radical identity politics," his support from white voters has been taking a hit.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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