Former President Barack Obama blamed Fox News and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday for losing the “connection” he claims he had with conservatives before he was president.
During a virtual gala for the nonprofit organization PEN America in which he accepted an award, Obama said, “I ended up getting enormous support in these pretty conservative, rural, largely white communities when I was a senator, and that success was repeated when I ran for president in the first race in Iowa.”
“By my second year in office, I’m not sure if I could make that same connection, because now those same people are filtering me through Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and an entire right-wing or conservative media infrastructure that was characterizing me in a way that suggested I looked down on those folks or had nothing in common with them,” Obama continued.
Obama, who took flak during the 2008 campaign for claiming embittered blue-collar voters “cling to guns or religion,” went on to suggest that conservative media upended the “journalistic norms” by which he used to be presented to the public in a sympathetic light:
Part of what changed is that, back then, if I went into a small town in southern Illinois, I could probably visit the local editor of the newspaper, who might be a conservative guy with a bow tie and a crew cut, probably doesn’t have much use for Democrats, generally, but was somebody who adhered to journalistic norms, was curious, was interested, believed in facts. I could sit down with that guy, and he might write an editorial saying, he’s a young liberal kid from Chicago, but seems sensible, had some good ideas. And so, that’s how people were receiving me — with a different set of assumptions than they would today. It’s yet one more example of how the connections that I may see, because I experienced them in my own life, may get harder to make if we’re only understanding people through our phones and our screens, and we’re not having the face-to-face conversations where, by virtue of that conversation and experience, we can recognize ourselves in each other.
During a recent interview on “The Breakfast Club,” Obama also blamed Limbaugh and Fox News for perpetuating a sense of victimhood among white males. “What’s always interesting to me is the degree to which you’ve seen created in Republican politics the sense that white males are victims. They are the ones who are under attack, which obviously doesn’t jive with both history and data and economics. But that’s a sincere belief that’s been internalized. That’s a story that’s being told. And how you unwind that is going to be not something that is done right away.”
“It’s going to take some time. And the story that they’re hearing from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and, in some cases, inside their churches, is that Democrats don’t believe in Christmas, only care about minorities and black folks, and are trying to take your stuff and trying to take your guns away,” Obama added.
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