By Alexandra Jaffe - 10/03/12 02:50 AM EDT
The Obama campaign called a video touted by conservative news aggregator Drudge Report as a potentially explosive development in the election a "transparent attempt to change the subject" from Mitt Romney's comments, made by his "allies."
The video was teased on conservative aggregator Matt Drudge's website for much of Tuesday afternoon, but various other news outlets unearthed it prior to the 9 p.m. time Drudge had promised it would go live.
The video in question was a speech President Obama made in 2007 to a primarily black crowd at Hampton University in Virginia. In the speech, then-Illinois Sen. Obama addressed what he called a "quiet riot" among blacks that was bubbling after the Bush administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, much the same as it had in Los Angeles 15 years before. A number of news outlets — including the Daily Caller's Tucker Carlson, who broke the story Tuesday night — reported on it in 2007.
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But Carlson said on Fox News's "Sean Hannity Show" that in 2007, most reporters were working off prepared remarks. He cited Obama's numerous diversions from the transcript as evidence that he had unearthed a new story.
“This is not a dog whistle, this is a dog siren. These are appeals to racial solidarity,” Carlson said. “He is making a very clear case on, again, on the basis of his racial solidarity to this audience that they are getting shafted by a racist federal government."
Though the video was released on the eve of the first, and likely pivotal, presidential debate, LaBolt indicated the video wouldn't derail the conversation on Wednesday night.
"If the Romney campaign believes that Americans will accept these desperate attacks tomorrow night in place of specific plans for the middle class, it’s they who are in for a surprise," he said.
Race became enough of an issue during the 2008 campaign — after controversial comments by Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — that candidate Obama addressed racial tensions and inequality in America with an address in March of 2008, during the Democratic primaries. The moment was widely regarded as a boost to his candidacy. But the Obama campaign seemed to believe that the resurfacing of the video was evidence of another effort to make Wright and race an issue in the race.
Former GOP presidential nominee Newt Gingrich weighed in on the speech on Fox's "On the Record," saying that he does believe it will have some impact because of what it indicates about Obama's party.
"It's a reminder of the depth of dishonesty, the appeals to racism, the factual falsehoods that are at the heart of the modern Left," he said.
He said that the speech was "clearly divisive."
"There is no way you can listen to the speech and not hear it as a deliberately divisive speech that pits Americans against each other, and does so largely with racial innuendos that are very, very clear when you hear the speech," he said.
But Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who is black, dismissed the speech, saying that not much politically will come of it because there are much more pressing issues on the national agenda.
“The only thing that comes out of this is, I believe, what everyone knows, is when the president gets off of script, gets off of his teleprompter, you see a different type of president,” he said. “We saw that just recently in Virginia when he got off script ... and started talking about small business owners ‘didn’t build that’ and he had to retract that and make better hay of it."
—Mario Trujillo contributed to this report.