As many of you may have seen yesterday afternoon, President Obama was involved in a confrontation with a reporter during one of his speeches announcing an executive order to stop deporting young illegal immigrants. At one point, a reporter, Neil Munro interrupts the President, attempting to ask how this policy will affect American workers. Obama responds, visibly upset. Munro later claims that he believed the President had finished with his speech.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it first. Then listen to my analysis of both the original event and the media’s reaction…
In all honesty, I think Munro is completely justified in his first “interruption.” If you look at the video, Obama finishes with the words “patriotic young people” in a conclusive tone. At the same time, he folds over the paper with his notes and looks up. It is at this point that Munro starts shouting his question.
Where I think Munro goes too far is in the corresponding exchange. The first interruption can truly be a mistake. Journalists always shout questions at the president, and this is one case in which Munro began the question (assuming Obama was done), but Obama apparently wanted to say “It is the right thing to do” before taking questions. However, after the first exchange, Munro should not have argued back-and-forth with the President. That’s an issue of respect. The back-and-forth is really not appropriate unless Obama has accepted questions in the first place.
The bottom line? Munro dug himself into a deeper hole. It went from an honest mistake to deliberate disrespect.
That being said, it is equally “outrageous” to assume that his actions somehow represent the entire “right wing”, or, even worse, a racist motive. That’s right, you read that correctly. A correspondent on MSNBC, Julian Epstein, actually said, “This is just so unprecedented and so outrageous, that you have to ask the question, would the right wing be doing this if we had a white President there?”
In my opinion, this MSNBC statement is completely and totally ridiculous in three major ways.
1) Heckling the President is not “unprecedented”.
Obama has been heckled MANY times, here, here, here, here, and here. Past presidents have been heckled over and over in the past. That is not to say it’s less important – it is still disrespectful every time. But claiming it is “unprecedented” is a little much. Perhaps MSNBC meant to say that it’s “unprecedented” in a formal setting to disrespect the President. I would argue that the State of the Union is much more formal than a press conference about an Executive Order, and yet President Bush was booed by the Democrats during the 2005 SOTU.
2) “The right wing” is not doing this.
To assume that one person’s actions somehow signify the thoughts or actions of an entire party is absurd. The correspondents on MSNBC go on to discuss how conservatives always treat others badly unless they’re conservative. To take this incident and use it as some condemning indictment against the 120 million or so Americans who consider themselves conservative is just a little stretch.
3) This has absolutely nothing to do with race.
This should be common sense, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that race would be any sort of influence here. Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes all have very notable heckling incidents, so I don’t get how Epstein can say, “We’ve never had a white president been told by the opposing party to shut up in the middle of a major address to the Congress. We’ve never had a president like this heckled so disrespectfully.”
In the end, was Munro wrong? Yes. Not at first, but the continued arguing was disrespectful. Because Obama had concluded a sentence and folded up his notes, I think it was an honest mistake that they both started talking at the same time. I think he crossed the line when he went back and forth with the President.
However, we should also consider again some of the criticisms of this statement. We can still hold someone accountable for their actions without judging an entire political group or calling them racists.