In one of his last interviews near the end of his historic presidency, President Obama is speaking in a blunt and clear manner about the racism he faced from right wing media outlets like Fox News Channel.
Speaking to Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, Obama notes, “I think I should point out in terms of both my confidence that I could win in ’08 but also the fact that I was lucky and maybe a little bit naive: In 2008 I was never subjected to the kind of concentrated vilification of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the whole conservative-media ecosystem, and so as a consequence, even for my first two years as a senator I was polling at 70 percent.”
But Obama notes that some of the racist attacks Fox and Limbaugh aimed at him gained some traction: “some image of me as trying to take away their stuff and give it to black people, and coddle criminals.”
That resulted in many conservatives responding to a fake version of his character, cooked up by the right: “When people criticize or respond negatively to me, usually they’re responding to this character that they’re seeing on TV called Barack Obama.”
Obama then explained to Coates how that caricature led to the world of Trump voters: “You understand that if people are angry that somehow the government is failing, then they are going to look to the guy who represents government. And that applies, by the way, even to some of the folks who are now Trump supporters. They’re responding to a fictional character named Barack Obama who they see on Fox News or who they hear about through Rush Limbaugh.”
Obama will leave office as one of the most popular presidents, alongside Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The accomplishment is even more notable when the racist attacks he faced are taken into account along with the historic Republican opposition to his agenda. While his successor may be 180 degrees his opposite, his presidency will have been a notable one by any measure.