A tape has emerged on the eve of the presidential debate of President Barack Obama making controversial “race” remarks about the government’s response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Speaking to an audience of predominantly black ministers at Hampton University in 2007, Barack Obama said that the response to Katrina was lacklustre because “the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about them as much”.
Critics say the tape is an example of the President trying to whip up “fear and hatred” but supporters of Barack Obama said the speech has already been widely reported and dismissed the release as an attempt to deflect attention away from Mitt Romney ahead of tonight’s crucial debate in Denver, Colorado.
The speech had previously been aired but only an edited video was released and a transcript that did not include the ad-lib remarks about New Orleans.
Barack Obama said: “Down in New Orleans, where they still have not rebuilt 20 months later. There’s a law, federal law – when you get reconstruction money from the federal government – called the Stafford Act.
“And basically it says, when you get federal money, you have to give a 10 per cent match. The local government has to come up with ten per cent. Every $10 the federal government comes up with, local government has to give a dollar.”
He continued: “Now here’s the thing. When 9/11 happened in New York City, they waived the Stafford Act – said: <<This is too serious a problem. We can’t expect New York City to rebuild on its own. Forget that dollar you have to put in. Well, here’s $10.>>
“And that was the right thing to do. When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said: <<Look at this devastation. We don’t expect you to come up with your own money here. Here’s the money to rebuild. We’re not going to wait for you to scratch it together, because you’re part of the American family>>.
“What’s happening down in New Orleans? – <<Where’s your dollar? Where’s your Stafford Act money?>>
“It tells me that somehow the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much.”
The recording of Barack Obama also reveals him giving a “special shout out” to controversial pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright who was in the audience.
In the footage, Barack Obama introduces Reverend Jeremiah Wright as “my pastor, the guy who puts up with me, counsels me, listens to my wife complain about me”.
“He’s a friend and a great leader. Not just in Chicago, but all across the country.”
Barack Obama’s speech in June 2007 came a year before Jeremiah Wright’s infamous “God damn America” remarks surfaced in 2008.
Referring to treatment of African-Americans in the U.S, Rev. Jeremiah Wright said in a sermon in 2003: “No, no, no, not God Bless America.
“God damn America….God damn America, for treating our citizens as less than human.”
The retired pastor also came under fire after he said the September 11 terrorist attacks were “America’s chickens coming home to roost”. He was kept at a distance by Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign.
Right and left-wing media were divided over the impact of the tape. The Daily Caller, which broke the story, erupted over Barack Obama’s remarks, describing them as “racially-charged”.
The conservative blog added that the “at times angry speech undermines Obama’s carefully-crafted image as a leader eager to build bridges between ethnic groups”.
It also compared the President with radical civil rights activist Al Sharpton. The site’s editor Tucker Carlson told Fox that the clips were Barack Obama “whipping up race hatred and fear. Period”.
The liberal media played down the Obama tape as old news.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow heaped sarcasm on the clip, saying: “This is how he snuck into the White House, right? People didn’t actually know he was this black, and if they had known, they never would have elected him.”
Sam Feist, Washington Bureau Chief at CNN, tweeted: “Re: Secret tape of the Obama event: CNN covered it in 2007. It was open press.”
Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have stepped back from the campaign trail in recent days as they prepare ahead of their first head-to-head meeting on stage on Wednesday night.
The Republican National Committee has stayed quiet over the release of the tape while Mitt Romney’s camp has denied involvement.
The Obama campaign said the release of the clips were a “transparent attempt” by Mitt Romney’s allies to divert from a secretly-recorded tape where the Republican nominee told a fundraiser that “there are 47% who are with him [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims”.
Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said: “The only thing shocking about this is that they apparently think it’s wrong to suggest that we should help returning veterans, children leaving foster care and other members of Mitt Romney’s 47% get training that will allow them to find the best available jobs.
“If the Romney campaign believes that Americans will accept these desperate attacks tomorrow night in place of specific plans for the middle-class, it’s they who are in for a surprise.”