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Sharpton: Obama blocks talk of race

Al Sharpton on Tuesday said President Obama has encouraged civil rights leaders in closed-door meetings not to push the idea that some Americans don't support him because of his race.

“In the five years he's been in office, in every meeting that I've been in with civil rights leaders ... he has discouraged us who firmly believe a lot of people are against him because he's black, and we still do, and he has said, 'No, I don't agree with you pushing that,’” Sharpton said during an appearance on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”

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“He has never used race as the factor against him, although many of us believe race has been a factor,” Sharpton continued.

The MSNBC host made the comments after Obama said in an interview published in The New Yorker that racial tensions may have hurt his popularity with some white voters.

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” Obama said.

“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” the president continued.

An Economist/YouGov poll released earlier this month found that 32 percent of whites approved of the president, while 65 percent disapproved. By contrast, 85 percent of blacks and 59 percent of Hispanics approved of the president.

Sharpton said in the MSNBC interview that some civil rights leaders had become “frustrated” that the president hadn't discussed race more frequently.

“I think he wrongly is blamed for using a race card, but I think many of us are frustrated he hasn't brought up race as it relates to him more than he has,” Sharpton said.

But in a subsequent interview with The Hill, Sharpton said that “frustration” among leaders wasn't with Obama. Instead, Sharpton said civil rights leaders were merely disappointed with opposition to the president's policies they perceived as rooted in racial animus.

“There's no frustration with him. He just may not agree that [opposition] is just race-based, but rather for genuine ideological reasons,” Sharpton said. “The real point is it's absurd for some to suggest he plays the race card too much.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday — the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday — posted a message on her Facebook page calling on Obama to stop playing the race card.

Sharpton also stressed that the president has always been willing to openly discuss issues of race in meetings with civil rights leaders.

This story was updated at 1:18 p.m.