CNN, Sept. 17, 2009
Former President Jimmy Carter reiterated Wednesday that he believes racism is an issue for President Obama in trying to lead the country.
“When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds,” the Democrat who served from 1977-1981 told students at Emory University.
“I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American.
“It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States,” Carter said.
Carter’s comments came a day after he said racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during Obama’s speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.
Michael Steele, the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee, denied Wednesday that race is fueling protests.
“President Carter is flat-out wrong,” Steele said in a statement. “This isn’t about race. It is about policy.”
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who is black, said Wednesday in a written statement that he agrees with Carter.
“During President Obama’s speech on the status of health care reform, some members of Congress engaged in a public display of disrespect,” he said.
“While one representative hurled the now infamous ‘you lie’ insult at the president, others made their lack of interest known by exhibiting rude behavior such as deliberately yawning and sending text messages.”
Carter’s comments on racism came during his 28th annual town hall meeting at Emory, where he has been a professor since 1982. He spoke an a variety of issues.