Media Blog

Bob Herbert: The “Celeb” Ad is Racist

From his column today:

Now, from the hapless but increasingly venomous McCain campaign, comes the slimy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ad. The two highly sexualized women (both notorious for displaying themselves to the paparazzi while not wearing underwear) are shown briefly and incongruously at the beginning of a commercial critical of Mr. Obama.
The Republican National Committee targeted Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, “Harold, call me.”
Both ads were foul, poisonous and emanated from the upper reaches of the Republican Party. (What a surprise.) Both were designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women.

Barack Obama, however, says McCain is cynical, but not racist:

But Obama also admitted that, despite what Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs told reporters, there was a racial dimension to his Missouri remarks in which he said McCain and the Republicans would make an issue of the fact that he doesn’t look like presidents who have been on the dollar bills.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to say that my comments have nothing to do with race,” Obama said. “Here’s what I was saying and I think this should be undisputed: That I don’t come out of central casting, when it comes to presidential races. For a whole range of reasons. I’m young, I’m new to the national scene, my name is Barack Obama, I am African American, I was born in Hawaii, I spent time in Indonesia. I do not have the typical biography of a presidential candidate. What that means is that I’m sort of unfamiliar and people are still trying to get a fix on who I am, where I come from, what my values are and so forth in a way that might not be true if I seemed more familiar.”
“And so what I think has been an approach [of] the McCain campaign is to say, ‘He’s risky,’” Obama continued. “To try to divert focus from the fact that they don’t have any new ideas when it comes to fixing the economy or dealing with health care or dealing with education. … Let me be clear: In no way do I think that John McCain’s campaign was being racist; I think they’re cynical. And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues. And so it’s of a piece with the Britney/Paris ad or the most recent Web site, or the allegation that somehow I wouldn’t go visit the troops unless I had reporters with me, which every reporter who was on the trip knows is absolutely not true.”

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