At a conservative conference this weekend that drew several GOP presidential hopefuls, one of the speakers told the crowd that Republicans have been too nervous to criticize Obama “because the color of his skin is black.” The comments came just two days after the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.
David Horowitz — a right-wing operative who heads a think tank that works to discredit the Islamic faith — was one of the most passionate speakers at the Koch-backed “Defending the American Dream Summit.” In his address, Horowitz called the president “the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House” and said there’s an “obvious” reason that his opponents are hesitant to attack him.
“No one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black,” Horowitz told the predominantly white crowd on Friday. “It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”
This weekend’s conference was funded by Americans for Prosperity and attracted a number of influential conservative activists. Along with Horowitz, several potential Republican contenders in the 2016 presidential election — including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — also spoke at the event. As the Washington Post reports, the GOP lawmakers considering a presidential run likely hoped to take the opportunity to make their pitches to the Tea Party base.
Although focusing on the color of Obama’s skin may be an effective tactic among Tea Party conservatives, it’s not exactly the strategy that the mainstream Republican Party has been attempting to emphasize recently. After consistently losing the minority vote in the last several election cycles, Republicans have attempted to pursue a better minority outreach strategy to expand their voter base beyond white, male Americans. So far, that hasn’t been going very well for them — partly because of conservatives’ consistent use of racially insensitive language.
Despite what Horowitz claims, Republicans haven’t actually been shy to attack Obama because of his race; in fact, many of the president’s opponents have repeatedly used racist dog whistles when speaking about him. From deriding him as the “welfare president” and the “hip-hop president,” to suggesting he wasn’t actually born in the United States, to claiming he’s “race baiting” when he speaks about his personal experience as a black man, conservatives have had no shortage of criticisms rooted specifically in the color of Obama’s skin.