Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 11:56 UK

Reaction: Obama 'racism' row

Columnists, commentators and bloggers have been debating the row over President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst and "racism" in US politics.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was among the first to assert that Congressman Joe Wilson's heckle revealed an underlying racism:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys... Joe Wilson yelled 'You lie!' at a president who didn't. Fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!... But Wilson's shocking disrespect for the office of the president - no Democrat ever shouted 'liar' at W when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq - convinced me: Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

Her belief racism was at play was echoed by Democrat Representative for Georgia, Henry Johnson, who told media: "I guess we'll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people. That's the logical conclusion if this kind of attitude is not rebuked."

But the White House played down the controversy, with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs telling CNN: "I don't think the president believes that people are upset because of the colour of his skin."

Ben Smith in Politico suggests that Jimmy Carter crying racism will not serve Obama well:

He's succeeded, now, in making that the nation's central conversation. And regardless of its merits, it's hard to overstate what bad politics that is for the White House. There's a reason that candidate Obama virtually never cried racism, and it wasn't because he doesn't believe it exists.

In his Atlantic blog, the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan reflects Jimmy Carter's sentiment whilst suggesting a future race conflict:

The far right is seizing any racial story to fan white fears of black power in order to destroy Obama. And the far right now controls the entire right. Do they understand how irresponsible this is? How recklessly dangerous to a society's cohesion and calm? Or is that what they need and thrive on?

But Janet Daily in the Daily Telegraph says political debate should not be confused with racism:

Jimmy Carter has made an outrageous, unfounded and potentially inflammatory remark about race… Americans have profound fears about central government taking power away from individual citizens and those fears are legitimised by the Constitution. They have every right to express them without being smeared as 'racists'.

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