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Context of 'January 17-18, 2012: Fox News Echoes ‘Food Stamp President’ Characterization of Obama Used by Gingrich'

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Juan Williams (left) and Newt Gingrich during the Republican presidential debate.Juan Williams (left) and Newt Gingrich during the Republican presidential debate. [Source: Texas GOP Vote]Fox News commentator Juan Williams, an African-American, takes umbrage with recent comments by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) that he says had unacceptably racial overtones. Williams, moderating a Republican presidential debate in South Carolina with Gingrich and other candidates for Fox News, asks: “Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012). You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools (see November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011). Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?” Gingrich responds, “No, I don’t see that.” Gingrich reiterates his call for poor students to earn money by doing janitorial work around their schools, saying that they would earn money, “which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.” Williams presses Gingrich, asking him if his comments, including his reference to Obama as a “food stamp president,” don’t belittle the poor and racial minorities: “My Twitter has been inundated with people of all races asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor,” he says. Gingrich retorts: “The fact is more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.… I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.” The debate audience, described by Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser as “largely white [and] Republican,” cheers Gingrich’s remarks and boos Williams. [Fox News, 1/16/2012; Mediaite, 1/16/2012; Think Progress, 1/17/2012] Williams later says that he believes Gingrich is “pandering” to conservative and presumably racist voters in the audience (see January 18, 2012). Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh will accuse Williams, not Gingrich, of appealing to racism in his question. “[T]his line of questioning was all racially tinted from Juan Williams,” Limbaugh will say. “Newt Gingrich did not take the bait and answer in a racial context. He answered within the context that we’re all people and that we, as conservatives, want the best for everybody.… [W]e are for everybody doing well, that we conservatives do not see black and white, male, female, gay, straight when we look at people down the line. We see potential. We want the best for everybody. We know what’s holding ‘em back, and that’s government, government central planners, people like Barack Obama, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, who look at people and see them with contempt and condescension, see them being incapable, and they treat them that way and they devise systems to deal with them that way, and they keep them forever dependent, which destroys their humanity, which makes us sick. It breaks our hearts.” [Rush Limbaugh, 1/17/2012] Limbaugh later claims that Williams would not have a job if not for “the white guy, conservative who runs Fox News.” [Media Matters, 1/31/2012] Millhiser reiterates the facts that “[t]he overwhelming majority of African-Americans are not on food stamps” and “the majority of [Americans] who receive food stamps are white.” He writes: “It’s deeply disturbing that a man who claims he should be president of the United States cannot understand why his remarks are offensive.… Gingrich’s suggestion that food stamps are somehow a preeminent black issue flies in the face of reality. Worse, it lumps all African-Americans together as federal aid recipients when the overwhelming majority of working-age black men and women are self-supporting taxpayers. Thousands of them are professionals such as doctors or lawyers. One of them is the president of the United States.” [Think Progress, 1/17/2012] Gingrich has a history of making racially questionable remarks and characterizations (see May 27, 2009, June 7, 2009, August 16, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After and December 13, 2011). His claim that Obama has presided over more Americans receiving food stamps than ever before is wrong (see January 17, 2012). And a recent study by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found SNAP to be an extraordinarily effective program in helping Americans survive the effects of the recession (see January 9, 2012).

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Ian Millhiser, Newt Gingrich, Juan Williams, Rush Limbaugh

Timeline Tags: 2012 Elections

Fox News begins adopting the characterization of President Obama as “the food stamp president” currently being used by Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich (see November 30 - December 2, 2011, January 5, 2012, and January 16, 2012). On January 17, Fox host Eric Bolling says of Obama: “But he is the food stamp president. There[.] I have no problem with this.… Obama has presided—presided over the biggest expansion in food stamp usage, in numbers: in pure dollar amount, it went from $60 billion to an $83 billion program—the fourth-largest entitlement program in America. Under Obama, it’s exploded. Why can’t he be—and by the way, food stamps, there are more white people on food stamps than black people. So it’s not a racial issue.” [Media Matters, 1/17/2012; Media Matters, 1/31/2012] The same day, Fox pundit Tucker Carlson says on Sean Hannity’s show that Gingrich is doing a “great job” explaining why Obama is “the food stamp president,” adding, “And more people have joined the food stamp program under Obama than any other president.” The day after, Fox pundit Dick Morris says on Hannity’s show: “Newt is totally right. When Obama took office, there were 32 million people on food stamps. Now, there are 46 million. What Obama has done is, under [former President] Clinton, he cut the welfare rolls in half, and now Obama has basically put everybody in the country on welfare.” Another of Hannity’s guests, former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), criticizes the White House for challenging Gingrich’s characterizations, saying “they protest too much because the facts are what they are—and that’s hundreds of thousands of more Americans are now on food stamps than before Barack Obama took over.” Hannity agrees, saying: “He is the food stamp president. Look at the numbers, they speak for themselves—32 million to 46 million, 12 million increase. Obama’s policies have resulted in a lot more people being on food stamps. What’s the problem?” Fox’s “straight news” anchor Monica Crowley reiterates the characterization on Fox News’s America Live, telling viewers: “At this point, what Newt is saying is that this administration took a bad economy and made it so much worse, with polices that have really oppressed job creation, suppressed economic growth, to the point where people cannot find jobs. And also, you know, one thing he didn’t say, which is the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks and so on. You know how the situation in America… where you have record numbers of people not just on food stamps, 46 million, but record numbers of people on at least one or more social welfare programs, and that’s a direct result of the Obama administration’s policies.” [Media Matters, 1/19/2012; Media Matters, 1/31/2012] The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that according to the statistics, the number of food stamp recipients went up far more under President George W. Bush than under Obama, rendering the claims of Gingrich and the Fox News commentators inaccurate (see January 17, 2012). [Media Matters, 1/31/2012]

Entity Tags: Newt Gingrich, Eric Bolling, Dick Morris, Barack Obama, Fox News, Media Matters, Tucker Carlson, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Fox News commentator Juan Williams discusses the recent exchange between himself and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich over what Williams characterizes as racially motivated comments from Gingrich. Hosting a debate between Republican presidential contenders, Williams, an African-American, asked Gingrich whether he understood that his recent comments belittling blacks as food stamp recipients who were unused to working (see November 30 - December 2, 2011, January 5, 2012, November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011) were being received negatively by African-Americans, and Gingrich responded by repeating the claims, to the loud approval of the debate audience (see January 16, 2012). Williams tells Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Gingrich intended to “play racial politics” in responding to Williams. Williams also attacks Gingrich’s premise that the young and poor in America have little interest in landing jobs, telling O’Reilly, “When you see that jobs are offered to young people in this country, you have lines around the block… he was suggesting that somehow these kids don’t want to work.” O’Reilly interprets Gingrich’s remarks as saying that Gingrich wanted the government to fund school jobs to help children learn a work ethic, but Williams says O’Reilly’s interpretation is not what Gingrich meant. O’Reilly asks if Williams believes Gingrich “was pandering to a certain voter in South Carolina,” alluding to conservative and presumably racist white voters, and Williams agrees. [Mediaite, 1/18/2012]

Entity Tags: Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich, Juan Williams

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Fox News commentator and analyst Juan Williams, in a column for the Washington, DC, political publication The Hill, writes of his dismay at what he believes is the racially charged rhetoric that is dominating the Republican presidential primary. Williams got into a heated exchange with Republican candidate Newt Gingrich during a recent debate in South Carolina (see January 16, 2012). But Williams is displeased with the responses of all of the candidates at the debate. “With [ethnic] solidly in the Democratic camp and behind the first black president,” Williams writes, “the scene is set for a bonanza of racial politics. The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message. The code words in this game are ‘entitlement society’—as used by Mitt Romney—and ‘poor work ethic’ and ‘food stamp president’—as used by Newt Gingrich. References to a lack of respect for the ‘Founding Fathers’ and the ‘Constitution’ also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core ‘old-fashioned American values.’ The code also extends to attacks on legal immigrants, always carefully lumped in with illegal immigrants, as people seeking ‘amnesty’ and taking jobs from Americans. But the code sometimes breaks down.” Williams, an African-American, asked each candidate at the debate about some aspect of racially driven politics, from voter identification laws that would keep African-Americans from voting to racial discrimination in drug enforcement policies. Gingrich, he writes, was the most flagrant in appealing to racist whites with his practiced, sophisticated use of “coded appeals”—“dog whistling,” Williams says it is often called—to racist stereotypes against blacks and Hispanics. Gingrich’s rhetoric, he writes, appeals to “certain white audiences by intimating that black people are lazy, happy to live off the government, and lacking any intellect.” Instead of answering Williams’s question (referring to Gingrich’s characterization of food stamp recipients as largely African-American and too lazy to seek gainful employment), Gingrich “threw red meat to Republicans in South Carolina, a state with a long history of racial politics. He used the same rhetorical technique of the segregationist politicians of the past: rejecting the premise of the question, attacking the media, and playing to the American people’s resentment of liberal elites, minorities, and poor people.” Williams says he does not regret asking Gingrich about his characterization of welfare recipients, and writes: “I do not know anyone on food stamps who would prefer them to gainful employment.… The problem is not a lack of work ethic on the part of the poor, who are disproportionately minorities. The problem is there are few good jobs for blue-collar people with the best work ethic. Let’s have an honest debate about why this is the case and what we can do to fix it. But I regret that our political discourse has become so fragmented and combative that the point I was trying to make was obscured by pro-wrestling theatrics and post-debate spin. Poverty, unemployment, and the hopelessness that pervade minority communities are real issues that the GOP nominee, and President Obama for that matter, should address in this campaign.” [The Hill, 1/30/2012] A blogger for the liberal Daily Kos writes of Williams’s column, “You have to wonder how long Juan Williams will last at Fox News” after writing the column. [Daily Kos, 1/30/2012]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Daily Kos, Newt Gingrich, Juan Williams

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

During a state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls Republican legislators “demons.” In response, Fox News talk show host Eric Bolling advises Waters to “step away from the crack pipe,” earning Bolling accusations of employing racist rhetoric against Waters. Waters, an African-American, speaks in support of Democrats retaking the US House of Representatives in November 2012, and says of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): “I saw pictures of Boehner and Cantor on our screens [at the convention]. Don’t ever let me see again, in life, those Republicans in our hall, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons. They are bringing down this country, destroying this country, because they’d rather do whatever they can do destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.” After news of Waters’s remarks becomes publicly known on February 15, Brad Dayspring, a spokesperson for Cantor, calls Waters’s rhetoric “sad and unfortunate.” [Fox News, 2/15/2012] On February 16, Bolling, the host of Fox News’s The Five, appearing as a guest host on Fox News’s morning show Fox and Friends, responds to Waters’s rhetoric: “What is going on in California? How’s this? Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston (see February 12-13, 2012). Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam. Because it’s going to get you in trouble. How else do you explain those kinds of comments?” Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Juliet Huddy laugh uncomfortably at Bolling’s comments; after a commercial break, Bolling modifies his comments by saying he was “kidding about the crack pipe, but obviously the rhetoric, you know.” Doocy immediately responds: “Of course. We knew that.” Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says Bolling’s rhetoric is “racially charged,” particularly with his reference to Waters smoking crack, a drug stereotypically associated with African-American gangsters and street criminals. Politico notes that there is no evidence crack or any other illegal drug was involved in Houston’s recent death. [Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Politico, 2/16/2012] On Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show later in the day, guest host Andrea Tantaros, a Fox News commentator, defends Bolling’s racially inflammatory rhetoric. “How is that a racist remark?” Tantaros asks a caller. She goes on to say that Bolling was just joking, and says that “when you inject race into everything, you legitimize when people are actually really genuinely making racist remarks, which Eric Bolling was absolutely not doing.” [Media Matters, 2/16/2012] Liberal news blog The Grio calls Waters’s rhetoric “incendiary” and Bolling’s comments “racially provocative and insensitive.” [The Grio, 2/16/2012]

Entity Tags: John Boehner, Eric Bolling, Brad Dayspring, Andrea Tantaros, Fox News, Whitney Houston, The Grio, Maxine Waters, Steve Doocy, Juliet Huddy, Eric Cantor, Politico, Media Matters

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Whitney Houston.Whitney Houston. [Source: Sandra Rose (.com)]Fox News posts a story about the sudden and as-yet-unexplained death of African-American singer Whitney Houston. Within minutes, the story receives numerous comments featuring a variety of racial slurs against Houston and African-Americans in general. Conservative blogger Charles Johnson lambasts the commenters and Fox News for the posts. Johnson writes: “I don’t even know what to say about this any more. There’s a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston’s death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism.… There are almost 5,000 comments posted in the thread.” He quotes a number of the comments posted on the first few pages, noting that “the racist b_stards deliberately misspell their slurs or insert random spaces, so they aren’t caught by word filters. And many of the worst comments have numerous ‘likes’ from other commenters.” Calling Houston a “n_gger” is the most common slur used, with the first comment Johnson quotes calling her “just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.” Many inaccurately call Houston a “thug” from the “ghetto” and speculate that she died from a drug overdose, with some labeling her a “crack ho.” Others insult African-Americans’ intelligence, physical type, and work ethic. Some call her a “monkey,” and many reference her “jungle” origins. Many insult her as a woman and make crude sexual references to her. Many celebrate her death as another African-American “off the public social rolls,” while others cheer the loss of another “Obama voter.” One poster writes, “To bad it wasnt the monkey in the White House.” Another poster writes: “I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion. Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!” The commenter deliberately misspells “Muslim,” presumably to avoid having his or her comment filtered. Another poster blames “the black gene pool” for being genetically inferior and thereby unable to “handle fame and fortune whether it’s derived from music, acting, sports or just plain entertainment.” Another poster says African-Americans are not “included in the human race.” Another accuses Houston of smoking crack with President Obama, and of having sexual relations with him, accusations echoed by subsequent posters. One asks why “Afro-Americans” are allowed to “use English names” when they should be named “Kunta Kinti or Moguba Magaba.” After quoting several pages of comments, Johnson writes: “There’s more. A lot more. But I have to stop now because it’s making me physically ill.” [Fox News, 2/12/2012; Charles Johnson, 2/12/2012] The day after, Fox News deletes the entire comments thread and purges all of the comments from public view. Johnson writes: “It was probably easier to just trash the whole thing than try to moderate 5,000 comments full of racial slurs. I’ll bet somebody at Fox News is pretty pissed off at me today.” [Charles Johnson, 2/13/2012] At the far-right blog Free Republic, a poster blames “liberals” for posting the comments as part of what he calls a “COINTELPRO” (or counterintelligence program) operation, and implies Johnson is behind the “scheme.” The Free Republic post features its own racist comments about Houston, with one commenter calling her a “schvatza,” a Yiddish racial slur. [Free Republic (.com), 2/13/2012]

Entity Tags: Charles Johnson, Fox News, Barack Obama, Free Republic, Whitney Houston

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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