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Opinion

Opinion

Birther debate has racist undercurrent

March 31, 2011

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Donald Trump doesn’t like “birthers.” He calls the word “unfair” to people who don’t believe President Obama was born in the USA.

Very well, then. If not birthers, how about if we call them “morons”? How about “jackasses,” “imbeciles,” “idiots” or “doofuses?” How about “pinheads” — or would that require a royalty to Bill O’Reilly?

I’m sorry, dear reader. Forgive me. Generally speaking, I am not much for name-calling.

It lowers the level of discourse, it forestalls thoughtful response and it does not suggest an excess of class. Where the birthers are concerned, however, the level of discourse is already lower than Neptune’s basement, a thoughtful response is about as likely as Miami snow on the Fourth of July, and I will just have to chance the loss of class.

As mama used to say, enough is enough and too much stinks.

A 2010 CBS News/New York Times poll found that 20 percent of all Americans and 30 PERCENT of tea partiers believe the president was not born here. In recent days, Trump, the reality show impresario and human punch line who’s been threatening to run for president, has added himself to their number. For that, he drew a sharp rebuke from Whoopi Goldberg on “The View.” When, she demanded, has any white president ever been asked to show his birth certificate?

Let the church say amen. So it is time to call this birther nonsense what it is — not just claptrap, but profoundly racist claptrap.

And, with apologies to the late James Brown, please, please, PLEASE, anyone who is so inclined: spare me the emails where you soliloquize like Hamlet, the back of your hand pressed to your forehead, eyes turned heavenward, as you moan how it is impossible to criticize this president without being accused of racism.

Criticize him to your heart’s content. Give him hell over Libya. Blast him about Guantanamo. Knock him silly on health-care reform. He is the president; taking abuse is part of his job description.

But this ongoing birther garbage, like the ongoing controversy about his supposed secret Muslim identity — is not about criticism. It is not about what he has done but, rather, what he is.

Like “state’s rights,” these controversies are a code, a dog whistle for those with ears to hear. They provide euphemistic cover for those who want to express alarm over the raw newness of him, the sweeping demographic changes he represents (“He’s black! Oh, my God, they’ve got the presidency now!”) without appearing uncouth enough to do so.

Memo to the morons: It doesn’t work, folks. Nobody is fooled. You are about as subtle as Lady Gaga.

It is telling that the white candidate who was, in fact, NOT born in the USA (Sen. John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, if anyone is interested) did not face these questions, while the black one who was born in Hawaii has been unable to escape them.

This, even though Obama provided his birth certificate and its authenticity has repeatedly been vouched for by Hawaiian officials.

This, even though, if there were the slightest chance he was ineligible for the presidency, opposition researchers working for his opponents would have shredded him like an old bank statement.

This, even though his Aug. 4, 1961, birth was noted by contemporaneous (memo to the morons: that means it happened at the time) birth announcements in not one, but two Hawaii newspapers. What’d he do? Jump in a time machine, zip back to the ’60s and plant the notices?

Sorry. There I go getting snappish again. But it gets tiresome, you know?

Frankly, I wish Trump and his fellow birthers would just go ahead and call Obama an N-word. Yes, it would be reprehensible and offensive.

But it would be a damn sight more honest, too.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. His email is lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Comments

tange 3 years ago

"Donald Trump doesn’t like 'birthers.' He calls the word 'unfair' to people who don’t believe President Obama was born in the USA."

What a remarkably derivative, hackneyed stance to be taken by a man who would be a free world leader. (More would be expected of even a business leader.)

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Gregory Newman 3 years ago

Yaw need to quit being so stupid no one can work for the federal government without showing a birth certificate with that STATE SEAL that you can feel. The same with the military. The whole problem with you folks is that you expected a savior instead of a president.

If a republican was the current president he or she wouldn't be doing crap either. That repel of that Garn-St. Germaine Act by Reagan gave power to the bankers. The federal reserve is killin us plus the REpugs in congress the "official law makers" taking bribes from bankers. I had to remind folks of that because it is apparent that not one of you had taken American government in high school.

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seeker_of_truth 3 years ago

Difference being, we had a totally worthless clown as president for eight for long miserable years

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seeker_of_truth 3 years ago

Seems the only ones denying the birthers racism are the self identified birthers. And at same time they are attacking any and everything Obama has attempted.

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TomJoad23 3 years ago

I think if you are a birther, you are in a very old minority that has its time running out against a more progressive younger generation. There is no place for Racism and birthers in the 21st century.

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Brent Garner 3 years ago

First, in 2008, the Demoncrats did make an issue of John McCain's being born in the Panama Canal zone where his Navy officer father was stationed. There was a concerted effort to have John McCain declared inelgible because of where he was born. This effort ignored US law as it pertains to member of our military and other US government employees who are posted abroad at the behest of the US. This effort was also dispicable because of that ignorance. Yet, the Demoncrats object to anyone questioning the qualification of Obama. A true double standard.

Second, this controversy about Obama has become amplified because of his stonewalling on the subject. Not only has he hidden his birth certificate, but he has also sealed virtually any record regarding himself: academic papers, school documents, etc. This all creates the impression that he has something to hide. Frankly, he could embarrass his opponents and score some pretty big points by releasing his original birth certificate and showing these people that they are wrong. His refusal to do so when his own party demanded the same of McCain, speaks of hypocrisy and makes people wonder if and what he may be hidding.

Not that I am a Trump fan, but Mr. Trump is right. Release the document and end the controversy! BTW, it is not racist to oppose someone's ideas! That is simply another red herring the left likes to use.

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BigPrune 3 years ago

Wouldn't there be some sort of evidence in church records when he was Baptized and where he was born would be listed in the church records? Don't most churches require something "for the record?"

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

Full steam ahead for the utterly corrupt Obama administration....

"Barack Obama is a president who won a peace prize and took the nation into a new war. It ought not to be a surprise, then, that he would accept an award for his administration’s transparency last week as his third-largest agency was raked over the coals by Congress for obstructionism. The House Oversight and Government Reform committee alleged in a report released Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has politicized the way it responds to requests for information from the public and the press.

Under the law, a government agency must release a document created with taxpayer dollars to any citizen who asks for it unless it meets a number of well-defined exceptions. Documents related to such things as national security, ongoing law-enforcement investigations, medical records and other sensitive, personal records are exempt for obvious reasons. The committee found that Obama political appointees misused these statutory exemptions and manipulated the process to ensure that embarrassing information would be withheld from the public eye."

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/1/the-administrations-honesty-deficit/

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

Intellectuals and their Hoodwinking of America? Yup. Even a guy like The Donald can now be seen as a viable candidate to unseat this frigging disaster of a prez. I liked the 3-series interview with O'Reilly----gives ya' a little---just a little-----hope we can turn this disgusting far-left progressive spigot off.

God Bless.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

Perhaps the location of the birth isn't the issue the current regime is trying to keep a secret. http://www.cashill.com/intellect_fraud/further_inquiry.htm

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

The left who went ga-ga over The One couldn't really care less where he was born. These America haters probably in fact wish secretly that he in fact is not a US citizen; this would make them very, very happy.

God Bless.

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hrh1961 3 years ago

I was born in 1961 also, but October, my dad was in the army and my parents moved to Hawaii three months after my birth in January 1962. The Hawaiians were so friendly , and crazy about babies my birth was announced in several newspapers, and I was considered a Hawaiian.

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Roland Gunslinger 3 years ago

I love how the birthers keep begging for websites showing proof... and when supplied they totally ignore it. Never comment on it. No thank you. Nothing.

Guess we'll see 'em all again next time this topic comes up spewing that same BS they have spewed over and over again since 2008.

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jhawkinsf 3 years ago

Just for the record, I'm a conservative and I have no doubt that President Obama was born in Hawaii and that he was rightfully elected President of The United States. Next subject.

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ochocinco 3 years ago

The important point here is missed. Obama has been unable to shake this thing for about 3 years, and now Donald Trump is seizing an opportunity to make the President look bad. Many on the left truly fear losing power back to Republicans, and the fact a growing number of Americans disprove of the president can be seen by this "controversy."

I for one don't believe Obama was born in Kenya or anywhere other than Hawaii, but do have a creeping bit of schadenfreude toward the situation. Obama has failed to defend the interests of the United States, overstepped his Constitutional Authority (in areas as diverse from "health care reform" to Libya), and repeatedly said/done things to make conservative patriotic Americans believe he doesn't care about America. Why should sensible conservatives spend time defending Obama from the conspiracy conservatives when Obama has given traditional Americans nothing to be proud of?

Sure, the dull, stereotypical white redneck probably believes Obama was born in Kenya, but he doesn't make up the majority of conservative America. Unlike George Will or Cal Thomas, he doesn't have the intellectual capabilities of making truthful arguments against Obama's post-American big-government beliefs, so he clings to an inane argument that deflects from Obama's true flaws--big government liberalism.

But this isn't unique to the right. Bush supposedly orchestrated 9/11 in order to attack the Mid East according to his political opponents of both the wacky libertarian and radical left-wing persuasion. Kanye West famously quipped "George Bush doesn't care about black people" after the Katrina mess. Of course, Kanye failed to consult Condeeleza Rice or Collin Powell, and judging from the amount of looting, raping, robbing, and murdering going on in N'Awlins post-Katrina; I would argue black people don't care about black people.

But the fact liberals still feel like defending Obama in the "birther controversy" tells me a lot more about scared liberals than paranoid conservatives.

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yourworstnightmare 3 years ago

The longer this "birther" nonsense continues, the more the birthers alienate themselves from mainstream, moderate society. So, keep it up!

I would liken the birthers to those who espoused and believed conspiracy theories about GWB, such as the nefarious cooperations between the Bush and Suad houses.

There a distinct racist element, but this is far overshadowed by a distinct idiocy element.

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jayhawklawrence 3 years ago

This argument just emphasizes how superficial Trump's mind really is.

Here we are talking about his most important political contribution to date and it is a total dud.

He will get about as many voters as his monopoly game got sales.

Probably all of them from very naive people watching his TV show and a few greedy bankers who believed his BS until he declared bankruptcy or simply ripped them off.

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Bob_Keeshan 3 years ago

ivalueamerica nails it.

Where is the birther outrage over Bob Dole?

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ivalueamerica 3 years ago

  1. Bob Dole can only produce the exact same record Obama can produce as proof of live birth.

Let us, therefore, start questioning Bob Dole´s citizenship based on the very same arguments.

  1. The headline should read....

Birther debate has IGNORANT undercurrent

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

Race-baiters like Lenny have to keep the base outraged so they don't think about the fact that one half of the Mope In Chief's ancestors were like totally Caucasian.

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xtronics 3 years ago

"Birther debate has racist undercurrent"

By not putting the issue to rest by releasing the long form seems to be a clever way of playing the race card - which is racist in itself.

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Jim Phillips 3 years ago

What many of you fail to recall is that Hillary Clinton's lawyer was the first to bring up this birth certificate issue during the primaries. Now I wonder why the libs forget that and I wonder why it came up in the first place. As far as the "racist" remark goes, well, I once had a lawyer tell me he has three strategies when defending his clients. If the defense has a strong case, he attacks the evidence. If the evidence is solid the defense weakens and he attacks the testimony. If the testimony is solid the defense hasn't uch of a case so he attacks the witness. Seems to me like the left is grasping at straws by pulling the race card. You think I'm racist? Prove it.

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Stuart Evans 3 years ago

racist undercurrent has intolerant backing in some mighty high places...

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jaywalker 3 years ago

I saw the headline in the 'discussed' section and as I clicked the link I said to myself, "gotta be Pitts." Bingo! And - shocker!

I didn't bother reading the whole thing 'cuz.....well, why bother? I've read this from him before, right? I do like how he starts off with the name calling, does a mea culpa and pretends to be above such thins as "name-calling"............ when the headline of the article screams "RACISTS!!!!" Too funny.

There's no way the Prez ain't a citizen, the Right would have cut this off at the pass before he even started running. But quoting Whoopi is never a solid path to making a point. I do find it amazing that so many are still on this bandwagon so I have to ask myself what's missing to put this to rest? Surely a document can be produced that would end all this, right? But while I believe the Prez is wholly American, why can't he and his get this crappola out of the way once and for all? Pretty please??!! The comments here can't be worth delving into, lest someone cares to prove me wrong.

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PaladKik 3 years ago

The Oracle surmises Mahdi will not be the chosen one in 2012.. The cabal will decide that he must go. His fair tecument and dialect will not carry. Location of origin will be revealed and Hillary Clinton will be the next President

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

*Reader Warning*

Conservatives, you may suffer moderate to severe stomach discomfort; proceed at your own risk.

http://dailycaller.com/2010/07/21/obama-wins-and-journolisters-rejoice/

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

Obama was selected, not elected. It likely will not happen again.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

But yes, there is something strange about The One's past.....all the way back to where he ended up "on the hoof". Everything about this buy is surreal. It just is not right.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

It's like being pulled over by the cops....the more you talk, you just open yourself up for more questions. Obama proudly trotted out his bizarre past so his looney tune far-left base would feel they had kinship with him......well it blew up in his face and he should've not been such a fraud with a shady past. But those like C Matthews in the crooked lib media nearly climaxed at the thought of him as president....so the rest is history

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PaladKik 3 years ago

Everybody in Shia knows Mahdi was to emerge out of occulsion on an island in the pacific.

It has been written and it is so.

The brand new island state, barely new enough to build surf boards, was the perfect place for Mahdi to emerge.

It has been written and it is so.

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Gene Wallace 3 years ago

On the View last week, Donald Trump Lifted his "wave" and tugged on his hair, next to the scalp, and asked Barbara Walters to tug on it. He proved that his strange hair is real. This was in "view" of Barbara, Whoppi, and the American public. (In close up and personal.) Why won't the President go close up and personal with a "view" of his Birth Certificate on one of his frequent Prime Time telecasts? That would end the discussion. As Trump asks, "What is on the real Birth Certificate that President Obama doesn't want the American public to see?"

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ferrislives 3 years ago

Have any of you so-called "birthers" seen this? http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthcertificate.asp

Or how about the fact that Mr. Trump himself released an unofficial birth certificate after all of his hoopla?

It's getting tired, and your spots are showing.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

I'd be more interested in seeing the college transcripts of the Mope in Chief.

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tomatogrower 3 years ago

Pace said: "I am worried that I will have to hear more about Trump's hair. I actually have a fear of accidentally reading comments or seeing pictures of "the' hair."

You have to get a copy of the printed paper. The political cartoon on the op ed page was about Trump's hair maybe being from another country. Really funny.

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pace 3 years ago

Obama is a citizen, born in Hawaii, and is the legally elected President of the United States.

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justanotherface 3 years ago

If there is nothing to hide by releasing that birth certificate, why has obama spent millions of dollars in court costs to keep the certificate hidden?! Also, back in 2008, Michelle Obama was giving a speech and mentioned their vacation to "barack's home country" Kenya. So, there, his wife said it herself, he wasn't born in America! You can youtube and see for yourself. Nice freudian slip from michelle there!

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Richard Payton 3 years ago

Explicit requirements set forth in the United States Constitution to be President. Must be 35 years old. Only native born U.S. citizens (or those born abroad, but only to parents who were both citizens of the U.S.). Most live in the United States for 14 years to be President. John McCain was born abroad but meets the requirements since both parents were citizens of the U.S. Obama meets the requirements since he was born in Hawaii. Only if the birth certificate was altered or a fake then the birther issue might be valid.

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beatrice 3 years ago

Without getting into the race issue, isn't it possible that 30% of people who identify with the tea party just don't realize that Hawaii is a state?

I've seen this same race argument raised in the past by others, without sinking to the level of ridiculous name-calling. This is a poor column by Pitts.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years ago

This is all a lot of midia hype and ink distribution. Trump has dug up this issue again to highlight his still=born and "ain't never gonna happen" candidacy for the tea-pot crowd. It is just another pander to the klan, nazi party, tea-bag crowd and republicans to try to horn in on a national issue, and is nothing but nonsense and drivel. He might have better luck going on the Limbaugh "network" to tout his stupidity.

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verity 3 years ago

Now Trump is saying that Obama's birth certificate might say that he is Muslim. This is just getting better and better. Thanks for the entertainment everybody.

I don't really have an opinion on whether birthers are necessarily racist, but I can say with total assurance that they are completely stupid. And Trump, considering what he has said in the past, is shamelessly pandering. I for one am glad he is showing himself for what he is. Sure as the sun rises in the morning, I don't want him anywhere near the Oval Office.

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Eybea Opiner 3 years ago

Pitts playing the racist card. Who would have guessed?

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Paul R Getto 3 years ago

Some day we'll know we're making progress when a short, fat, balding guy with bad teeth and an avowed athiest is elected president. For now, no matter the race or racial mixture of the candidate, the qualifications are: Six feet or so, hair, teeth and lots of money, either the candidate's money or that put forth by a collection of sugar daddies. Television ruined presidential politics in about 1952. It's never been the same.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

Get some new material, ag. Your business of copy/pasting my bits is tiresome.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

In other current regime news: "President Obama finally and quietly accepted his “transparency” award from the open government community this week — in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House on Monday. The secret presentation happened almost two weeks after the White House inexplicably postponed the ceremony, which was expected to be open to the press pool. This time, Obama met quietly in the Oval Office with Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org, without disclosing the meeting on his public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room..." http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0311/not_a_secret_anymore_a00ccd98-0d9e-4822-8936-168f3a51b959.html

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Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

How many wives has Donald Trump had now? I can't recall. This ranks up there with Newt saying that his multiple marriages and affairs make him qualified to comment on the DOMA. The irony of these people never escapes me. At least they're good for amusement.

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panzermike007 3 years ago

An interesting article on racism, written by a racist?

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jhawkinsf 3 years ago

I'm sure that at the very least, we can all agree that Donald Trump is a buffoon.

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TheYetiSpeaks 3 years ago

Mr. Trump, For the last half century or so it has been the media that has done the real vetting of candidates. There is so much information out there on past candidates. Even now, a little digging online will net you Bill Clinton, Al Gore and every other candidate's transcripts from the last election. So birthers, be mad at the media. A sitting President should not acquiesce to frivolous requests to see his birth certificate. It is unnecessary and to do so would damage his authority. Let it go, it no longer matters. Sour grapes. As for Mr. Pitts.....shame on you. The broad generalization to label all tea partiers or birthers as racists is no different than being racist yourself. The thinking process is exactly the same.

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ignati5 3 years ago

“Birther” accusations may have more to do with Obama’s exoticism than with his race per se. As a black man whose father was a foreign national and who spent some of his childhood abroad, Obama’s biography fits no pattern of people we would expect to be elected president. The only other “exotic” president we have had, in terms of coming to power from a completely different social and cultural milieu than his predecessors, was Andrew Jackson. Jackson was asked not for his birth certificate but his marriage license, or, more specifically, proof of his wife’s divorce from her earlier marriage. As these were frontier documents and could not be submitted to the satisfaction of his detractors, Jackson went through his presidency, and his poor wife to an early grave, under a cloud of suspected bigamy. There is also an element of the “do you beat your wife” libel at work here. On landing at the Sydney airport after a successful tour abroad with his wife, soprano Joan Sutherland, the conductor Richard Bonynge was asked by a reporter from an Australian scandal sheet, “Maestro, is it true you beat your wife?” Bonynge, whose marital behavior had never been questioned by his wife or anyone else, replied indignantly,”Of course not,” and moved on to the next question. Next day, the tabloids screamed with the headline “Conductor denies beating wife.”

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DeaconBlue 3 years ago

What race is Obama?...He is not black. He is not white. He must be a hawaiian as far as I can tell.

Another thing. Why would an african like Pitts call birthers racist when Obama is neither like Pitts or Trump?

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Liberty_One 3 years ago

For everyone who thinks this is purely about race, please point to the same birther arguments being made against Jesse Jackson in 1988.

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RoeDapple 3 years ago

I'll show you mine if you show me yours . . .

8-[

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BigPrune 3 years ago

If Obama was baptized when he was an infant, there would be a record of his birth.

The only racism is Pitts. He should stop beating around the bush and call all white people crackers.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

This comment pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to describe the progressive movement.

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grammaddy 3 years ago

Tell 'em Leonard! at least be honest.

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Liberty_One 3 years ago

The birther nonsense is just that--nonsense. And while I'm sure many of them are racists, I don't particularly see the connection Pitts is trying to make showing them all to be racists.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years ago

Seems the left wishes to keep this birther thing alive and kicking more than the right does. Of course, the left desperately needs to keep a long list of ongoing distractions.

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seeker_of_truth 3 years ago

This will be a hot spot today. All the teabaggers and die hard conservatives wildly claiming they aren't racist. Along with proclaiming how many black "friends" they have.

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