Senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden refused to dismiss the race bating tactics of the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Daily Caller, during an appearance on CBS This Morning on Wednesday, saying that voters should decide if a racially charged 2007 video of then-Senator Barack Obama discussing Hurricane Katrina is “relevant” to the election.
In the speech from June 2007 at Hampton University, Obama said the federal government should do more to rebuild New Orleans, including waiving some requirements of the Stafford Act, as the federal government did after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew.
The Drudge Report, which had been touting the “bombshell” speech all Tuesday afternoon, described the address as the “other” race speech, noted his “accent” and the presence of Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the audience. Drudge, along with Fox News’ Sean Hannity and the Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson, argued that in linking the rebuilding of Katrina to a history of racial discrimination, Obama was brewing African American resentment against white people.
But given the opportunity to distance the campaign for this sentiment, Madden demurred, and said that voters should decide if the discussion is “relevant” to the national conversation:
NORA O’DONNELL (HOST): I want to ask you about that video that Jan just showed in her piece. A speech Obama made in 2007, which was covered by all of the networks who had reporters there at the time. Do you think that video is relevant?
MADDEN: Well, I think a lot of people — voters have make that up, they have to look at that video and have to make up their mind on that individually. I think what’s much horse important to this debate right now are the president’s policies. [...]
O’DONNELL: Kevin, Sean Hannity said last night he thinks this video is a bombshell. Do you think it is a bombshell and will the Romney campaign will use it in television ads as the Obama team has used that 47 percent video in television ads?
MADDEN: Well, I think that it was covered in 2007. I think a number of folks will continue to cover it today. How they cover it in that context I think a lot of that is up to individual voters and whether they think it’s relevant to the conversation that we’re having today. We believe as a campaign I think Governor Romney believes what’s most relevant are the president’s policies.
With just 34 days before the election, and polls showing the Romney campaign losing ground to Obama, the GOP presidential candidate is far more willing to employ racially charged attacks. Back in May, the Romney campaign shut down the attempts of one Super PAC to revive the Wright narrative, with Romney himself saying, “I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort,” Romney told reporters after a campaign stop in Florida. “I think it’s the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectively about the future and about issues and about vision for America.”
Linking Hurricane Katrina to America’s troubled racial past is far from controversial. President George W. Bush himself noted that “poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America…So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday and let us rise above the legacy of inequality. When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets.” Condoleezza Rice expressed a similar sentiment immediately after the storm. “Mr. President, I’m coming back. I don’t know how much I can do, but we clearly have a race problem,” she said.