Barack Obama is taking some heat for not coming out stronger against Don Imus:
WASHINGTON — With the Rev. Al Sharpton leading calls Monday for radio host Don Imus to be fired over racially insensitive remarks, Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign avoided the controversy throughout the day.
Not until Monday evening, five days after Imus’s comments were uttered and hours after CBS Radio and MSNBC announced a two-week suspension for the radio host, did Obama weigh in, saying in a statement: “The comments of Don Imus were divisive, hurtful, and offensive to Americans of all backgrounds.” Obama did not address whether he thought Imus should be taken off the air.
The episode is the first test of how Obama — who is of mixed-race background — is handling the contentious issue of race in his presidential campaign. Even as polls have shown other Democrats attracting a large share of the black vote, Obama has steered clear of the kind of activism symbolized by Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who were both highly visible in the Imus episode but whose aggressiveness on race issues has alienated some white voters in the past.
But with Obama battling other Democrats — most notably Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York — for the support of black voters, the candidate’s reticence on the Imus issue set off alarms yesterday among some black activists who are anxious to see him more forcefully push for racial justice.
“I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus,” Obama told ABC News, “but I would also say that there’s nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude.”
Obama said he appeared once on Imus’ show two years ago, and “I have no intention of returning.”
These are strong words and one has to wonder why he didn’t come to this conclusion much sooner.