Gibbs contradicts Carter about racism against Obama

The White House remains cautious about allegations that racism is behind some criticism of the president

Published September 16, 2009 10:25PM (EDT)

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

The Obama team has always been wary of suggestions that race plays a role in the opposition to the president, for fear that he'll be accused of playing the "race card" or tagged as a new Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. That caution extends to public disagreement with former President Carter, who said Tuesday that "an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man."

Asked at his daily press briefing about Carter's remarks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "The president does not believe that the criticism comes based on the color of his skin. We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we've made ... I don't -- I don't think that, you know, the president does not believe that it's based on the color of his skin."

Gibbs then got into a bit of a back-and-forth with Helen Thomas:

THOMAS: Are you saying that the president is not concerned about the climate of hate in this country today?

GIBBS: No, I don't think that was -- I think that was neither... Jake's question nor my answer.

QUESTION: You don't think it's race-based?

GIBBS: No, I simply said I didn't think -- and I don't think the president believes -- that the majority of those that are upset at actions that have to be taken are based...

QUESTION: Why are they so upset when people get health care?

GIBBS: I -- that's a -- a question for somebody that has that view. I'm somewhat in a bad situation to interpret that for them.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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