Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report” and co-director of the upcoming documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy
Dean Obeidallah: A reporter from right-wing site heckled Obama as he talked about immigration
He says heckling from Irish-born reporter part of right's campaign to delegitimize Obama
He says incidents include Wilson's "you lie," Trump seeking Obama's grades
Obeidallah: Expect to see more disrespecting of the president as "the other" during campaign
A reporter from a right-wing media outlet heckled President Obama – not once, but twice – on Friday as he was unveiling a new immigration policy. If this shocks you, you haven’t been paying attention. This is simply the latest page from the right’s playbook to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.
Some may dismiss it as an isolated incident, but it’s not. It goes much deeper. Believe me, I know hecklers – I’m a stand-up comedian. If someone heckles me once, it can be a mistake: too many drinks, overcome by emotion, etc. But when you heckle twice, you have an agenda.
Neil Munro, the Irish born reporter who heckled President Obama, was not just from some random publication. He works for The Daily Caller, a right-wing website whose editor-in-chief is the bow-tie wearing Tucker Carlson. (You may recall Carlson as the guy who famously sparred with — and was taken down by – Jon Stewart on CNN years ago.)
Munro’s first heckle occurred while President Obama was in midsentence, with Munro yelling out: “Why do you favor foreigners over Americans?” Obama responded: “Excuse me, sir, but it’s not time for questions.” Munro countered: “Are you going to take questions?”
To which the president answered: “Not while I’m speaking.”
Later, Munro again interrupted the president in midstatement. Obama kept his cool; he simply finished his statement. If I had been president, I would have deported Munro back to his country of origin.
A quick perusal of Munro’s Twitter feed reveals he does not hide his contempt for President Obama. His tweets range from claims that Obama is using NASCAR and country music to attract “white non-college voters,” to slams of Michelle Obama, to allegations that Obama is racially discriminating against blacks in his White House hiring practices.
But this is all not about Munro – he is just a small cog in the right’s campaign to diminish the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. I’m not talking about people disagreeing with policies. I mean specifically the campaign to paint Barack Obama as less than American – as an “other”–as someone whose presidency is not entitled to the same respect as that of the presidents who came before him.
This crusade began in the days before Barack Obama was even sworn in as president. Back then, Rush Limbaugh, the radio host and self-described “entertainer,” announced on his show that he hoped Obama would fail as president. Obama had not even made his first decision as president.
The campaign has continued with the right’s birther movement contending that Obama was not born in the United States and hence should not be president. Some, like evangelical leader Franklin Graham, have suggested that Obama is a Muslim (he is a Christian), which to many on the right would mean he’s not a “real” American.
We have seen Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yell out at President Obama, “You lie” while Obama addressed a joint session of Congress in 2009. Can anyone remember the last time a U.S. president was called a liar in a joint session of Congress? I can’t.
Then there was Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, who last July called on President Obama to “quit lying” in regards to the debt ceiling debate. Can anyone remember something like this with previous presidents? I can’t either. And, of course, there’s Donald Trump, not only periodically renewing the “birther” fabrication, but also demanding to see President Obama’s college grades, implying he doesn’t think Obama is intellectually qualified to be president.
So you see, Munro is just doing his tiny part. And no doubt some on the right will exalt him for his “courage.” His boss, Tucker Carlson, defended him by saying that no one was upset when then-ABC reporter Sam Donaldson heckled President Reagan. But Fox News’ Chris Wallace recalled today that when he was a White House correspondent with Donaldson during the Reagan administration, no one ever heckled the president.
So, yet another lie. But the truth doesn’t matter to the far right. It’s not about policy or what is good for the United States of America. It’s about delegitimizing President Obama for political gain.
In the coming months, as we get closer to Election Day, you may see many more of these kinds of attacks. While they may disgust you, they should never surprise you. It’s all in the playbook.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.