The Father’s Day Obama Betrayed Black America

On Father’s Day 2008, candidate Barack Obama made his most honest speech on race, maybe his only halfway honest speech on race. The media barely noticed.

The site was the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. From the pulpit Obama spoke to the gathered voters -- excuse me, congregants -- with uncharacteristic audacity. He reminded his audience that too many black fathers were missing from “too many homes.” He knew something of the phenomenon himself given that his father “left us when I was two years old.” Yes, that con again.

Putting aside for a moment his personal story, however fictitious, Obama made the traditionally conservative argument that fatherless children were five times more likely to grow up poor, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and twenty times more likely to get into serious trouble than children who grow up with both parents.

Those absentee fathers, Obama scolded, “have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.” In that it was Obama who made this argument -- not, say, Dan Quayle -- the mainstream media reported the speech uncritically.

Progressives, however, were uneasy about Obama giving voice to what one wag called his “inner Cosby,” and no progressive more so than Jessie Jackson. Even in a whisper, Jackson made his voice heard.

For all of Obama’s politically conscious life, Jackson’s had been the face of the American civil rights movement. From the moment Jackson descended on Chicago in April 1968 wearing a shirt allegedly drenched in Martin Luther King Jr.’s blood -- Obama was six at the time -- he showed that a movement leader with sufficient charisma and media access need not overly worry about the truth.

Jackson was not to be messed with. Three weeks after Obama’s Father’s Day sermon, Jackson got his message across. As reported by Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, “He specifically took issue with how Mr. Obama had singled out black men in recent speeches for failing to uphold their responsibility as fathers.”

In that Jackson himself had famously sired a love child, he took Obama’s words personally. A hot mic at the Fox News studio caught Jackson whispering to another black guest, “See, Barack been, um, talking down to black people on this faith-based -- I wanna cut his nuts out… Barack -- he’s talking down to black people -- telling n***ers how to behave.” 

On saying “cut his nuts out,” Jackson made a sharp slicing motion with his hands. One hopes he was speaking metaphorically, but he definitely “took issue” with Obama. There was no denying his rage.

Had any network other than Fox News recorded these remarks, they might never have surfaced, but surface they did, at least in part. Fox News edited out the “n-word” sentence. "We don't want to hurt Jesse Jackson,” Bill O’Reilly told Politico’s Jonathan Martin. “We're not in business to do that. So we held it back. And then some weasel got the whole thing and leaked it out to the Internet, and here we are."

Reporting on what O’Reilly left out, Martin began with the amusingly Orwellian lede, “It turns out Jesse Jackson whispered something even worse than his desire to cut off Barack Obama’s manhood.” Most males, I suspect, would think the threat of castration a bit “worse” than a racial slur, but most males have not had their priorities reordered in a major newsroom.

This was a delicate moment for Obama and the MSM. To keep the heat off Obama, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Weisman focused on the conflict between Jackson and his congressman son, Jesse Jr. As Weisman noted, however, “For Obama, still struggling to put the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory sermons behind him, another flare-up in the African American community cannot be welcome.”

The Times led with Jackson’s preemptive apology for what Zeleny daintily called a “vulgar reference.” That was as specific as the Times got. Obama promptly accepted the apology, but his spokesman promised that Obama would continue addressing the issue of fatherhood.

Canadian Suzanne Goldenberg, writing for Britain’s left-leaning Guardian, reported boldly what the American media barely reported at all. The thrust of headline -- “'I want to cut his nuts out' -- Jackson gaffe turns focus on Obama's move to the right” -- had to make one wonder whether Jackson’s “gaffe” was a gaffe at all. Intentionally or not, Jackson raised the question, “What has happened to Obama since he won the Democratic nomination?” According to Goldenberg, Jackson's remarks “were mirrored on the blogosphere in an outpouring of anger against the campaign's moves to the right.”

Jackson’s authenticity intimidated Obama. For all his promises to address the fatherhood issue going forward, Obama never again spoke out nearly as forcefully as he had on Father’s Day in Chicago.

In his faux apology, Jackson laid out the game plan. Yes, it was okay to talk about personal responsibility, Jackson told the Times, but it was equally important “to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy which would be a corrective action for the lack of good choices that often led to [black male] irresponsibility.” Although he obviously needed little prompting, Obama would honor Jackson’s dictate throughout his presidency. The consequences for the black community have been downright lethal.

Jack Cashill’s newest book, Unmasking Obama is available for pre-order at Amazon.)

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