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Racism behind anger toward Obama: Carter

Racism is driving the recent anger-charged criticism of President Barack Obama, ex-president Jimmy Carter said.

"Former US president Jimmy Carter pictured during a press conferance following his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on June. Racism is driving the recent anger-charged criticism of President Barack Obama, Carter has said."

"I think that an overwhelming proportion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, he's African-American," Carter, 84, told NBC television.

"I live in the South, and I have seen the South come a long way," Carter added.

"But that racism inclination still exists, and I think it has bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but across the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country."

"It is an abominable circumstance, and grieves me and concerns me deeply," added Carter.

Carter's remarks come after a week in which a Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" at the US president during a speech, and thousands protested against Obama administration policies in Washington.

A series of Democratic lawmakers and political columnists have pointed to the trends -- the heckling, the gun-toting, the preachers leading congregations in prayers that Obama will die -- and warned of the danger therein.

"There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, that takes the breath away," wrote columnist Colbert King in The Washington Post.

To New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the South Carolina Republican's cry of "You lie!" showed that Obama is "at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension," she wrote.

"US President Barack Obama speaks with workers at the Lordstown Complex General Motors Plant in Warren, Ohio, September 15. Racism is driving the recent anger-charged criticism of Obama, ex-president Jimmy Carter said."

"This president is the ultimate civil rights figure -- a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe."

Searching for the root of angry outbursts by white, middle-aged to elderly Americans at lawmakers' town hall meetings on health care reform over the summer, Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel also pointed to racism.

"Some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, 'How did this happen?'" said Rangel earlier this month. Other black Democratic lawmakers have concurred.

But to Obama opponents, whenever a Democrat cries "racist," it is nothing more than a political ploy to muffle dissent.

"It is an intimidation tactic. When you make that attack and call someone racist or homophobic it is a way to kind of silence them," said Brendan Steinhauser, grassroots coordinator for FreedomWorks which organized the first large-scale protest against Obama in Washington over the weekend.

"This movement is made up of people who oppose big government," said Steinhauser, describing the tens of thousands of protesters who converged on Washington.

"The idea that people are trying to bring race into this is absolutely ridiculous."

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