Story at a glance

  • Former President Obama was asked whether he felt he told the story of race in America well enough during his time as the nation’s first Black president.
  • The former president said when he tried to describe “why it is that we are still not fully reconciled with our history,” his political opponents would try to exploit it for their own benefit.
  • “I also think that there are certain right-wing media venues, for example, that monetize and capitalize on stoking the fear and resentment of white population that is witnessing a changing America and seeing demographic changes,” he said.

Former President Obama says that “certain right-wing media venues” are capitalizing on stoking the fears of white Americans over the nation’s changing demographics. 

During a wide-ranging interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Obama was asked whether he felt he told the story of race in America well enough during his time as the nation’s first Black president. 


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Obama said that when he tried to describe “why it is that we are still not fully reconciled with our history,” his political opponents would try to exploit it for their own benefit. 

“It’s hard for the majority in this country of white Americans to recognize that, look, you can be proud of this country and its traditions and its history and our forefathers. And yet, it’s also true that this terrible stuff happened. And that, you know, the vestiges of that linger and continue,” Obama said. 

“And the truth is when I tried to tell that story, oftentimes my political opponents would deliberately not only block that story, but try to exploit it for their own political gain,” he said. 

Obama referred to a 2009 incident when he commented on Massachusetts police officers detaining Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who is Black, while he was trying to enter his own home. Obama at the time said Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting someone when there was proof they were in their own home. The comments prompted backlash from conservative media, including accusations that Obama was racist.

The former president went on to criticize some right-wing media outlets for their role in stirring up outrage among white Americans. 

“I also think that there are certain right-wing media venues, for example, that monetize and capitalize on stoking the fear and resentment of white population that is witnessing a changing America and seeing demographic changes,” he said. 

“And do everything they can to give people a sense that their way of life is threatened and that people are trying to take advantage of them,” he added. 

Obama pointed to the current battle over critical race theory in schools. 

“You would think with all the public policy debates that are taking place right now, the Republican party would be engaged in a significant debate about how are we going to deal with the economy, what are we going to do about climate change, what are we going to do about — lo and behold, the biggest single most important issue to them apparently right now is critical race theory,” he said, adding, “Who knew that was the threat to our republic?”


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Published on Jun 08, 2021