's Faux-Scandalous Obama Video Actually From 2008 PBS Show

Right-wingers seem to be perpetually shocked, shocked!, that certain African American intellectual leaders think institutionalized racism in the United States points to a moral failing of the nation. And their definition of a scoop seems to include news broken by others four years ago. Take, for example, the folks at 

At his last major public appearance -- at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. -- before his sudden death last week, Andrew Breitbart promised a scandal to beat all scandals regarding the president of the United States. 

“I have videos, this election we’re going to vet him,” Breitbart said of Barack Obama. “We are going to vet him from his college days to show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008.”

Breitbart's hype is all part of a grand conspiracy theory he drummed up (and, at the time of his death was packaging into a movie) that the Obama presidency represents the takeover of the U.S. government by the "far left." Obama's rise to power, he contended, was hatched by anti-war radicals William Ayers and Bernadine Dorn, and that Obama himself is a race-war radical.  (Stop laughing, you progressive freaks!) 

"Don't tell me, ABC, CBS and NBC -- I don't have the, that I can't posit that theory," Breibart said to thousands of CPAC attendees, "because it's a self-evident truth." In other words, Breitbart didn't need facts to back up what appeared to be true to him.

An integral part of the grand Breitbart conspiracy theory is the notion that the journalists of the mainstream media are themselves radicals who were made to "cut off their silver ponytails." 

Last night, the supposedly damning video was unveiled on the Fox Newschannel program, "Hannity." The big scandal? Barack Obama not only endorsed a protest by Prof. Derrick Bell at Harvard Law School in the 1990s; he gave the professor a hug after introducing him to the protesting students. Bell's protest focused on the absence of African American women from the tenured Harvard Law faculty; Bell himself was the first black professor to receive tenure at the law school. 

This is hardly a scoop. The PBS program, "Frontline", ran the very same video in its post-election program, "The Choice 2008". (Video appears at the bottom of this post.) From Mediaite

Summarizing the controversy as it stands, writer Andrew Golis notes that the video might’ve looked a little familiar to PBS viewers, and with reason:

But there’s nothing new about the clip or Obama’s role in the controversy at Harvard Law School. In 2008, as a part of our quadrennial election special The Choice 2008, FRONTLINE ran the same footage of the speech as a part of an exploration of Obama’s time at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1991. It’s been online at our site and on YouTube since then.

What the folks at are trying to spin into a scandal, as they described it last night on "Hannity", is the absence of Obama's physical embrace of Bell in the PBS footage, and the fact that Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, also African American, says that "we" hid that bit of footage during the presidential campaign. If so, that was simply a strategically smart campaign move: an image of the future president embracing a controversial figure would likely have been fodder for those famously misleading negative ads that both sides in election campaigns crank out, but that Republicans have a particular knack for. (Strategically dumb: Ogletree announcing that during a law school lecture.) Breitbart, after all, was doing his film project with Citizens United, whose co-founder, Floyd Brown, was the consultant behind the infamous Willie Horton ad, a race-baiting piece of propaganda that sent the Michael Dukakis for President campaign reeling in 1988.

Derrick Bell's contribution to American intellectual though is what he called "critical race theory," a line of inquiry that examines institutionalized racism. One need only look at the racial make-up of prison populations or the rosters of death-row inmates to surmise that something is amiss. Yet at the right-wing Pajamas Media, blogger Michelle Horstman seems to find this idea something just short of treasonous: 

This obituary, written upon his death, had some interesting points to make: 

Bell was credited with developing “critical race theory,” which suggested that the U.S. legal system was inherently biased against African Americans and other minorities because it was built on an ingrained white point of view. He argued in his many books and lectures that the life experiences of black people and other minorities should be considered in hiring decisions and in applying the law.

Bell maintained that the standards for promotion and tenure at law schools – and Harvard, in particular – were inherently discriminatory and excluded a broad group of minorities. By hiring only graduates of top-tier law schools who had clerked at the Supreme Court, he argued, academia was populated by a uniform group of standard-issue professors, most of them white men.

While there's more controversial elements to Bell's legacy, including his appreciation of the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, the thing that really seems to get the right-wing goat is the notion that America has a stain on its soul for its mistreatment of African Americans. 

Back in the 1970s, right-wing hawks had a slogan, "My country, right or wrong," taken out of context from a famous toast by Stephen Decatur. Nowadays, that slogan appears to have been changed to "America: always right, whatever it does." Anything else, it seems, is treason.

Here's the video from PBS's "Frontline":

Watch Obama Speaks at Harvard Law in '90 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.


AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at March 8, 2012, 4:45am

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