Page last updated at 22:07 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 23:07 UK

White House rejects racism claim

Barack Obama at the White House on 16 September
Barack Obama has been met with angry protests in recent weeks

US President Barack Obama does not believe current criticism of his policies is based on the colour of his skin, the White House has said.

It was responding to comments by former President Jimmy Carter that much of the vitriol against Mr Obama's health and spending plans was "based on racism".

Mr Carter said many thought an African-American should not be president.

Congress has also witnessed an outburst against Mr Obama that led to the rebuke of Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson.

Mr Wilson's son has denied any suggestion of racism in the outburst and some conservatives have accused the president's supporters of playing the race card.


BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington
It does not really matter whether Joe Wilson is really a racist or not.

Whatever his motives, his words are a brutal reminder that the election of Barack Obama did not usher in a new age of post-racial politics in the US if anyone was naive enough to think that it might.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr Obama "does not believe that the criticism comes based on the colour of his skin".

"We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we've made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by this administration," Mr Gibbs said.

Mr Obama has been met with angry protests in recent weeks. Some people have not only protested against the president's policies but have accused him of tyranny and have promised to "reclaim America".

"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on healthcare," Mr Carter said at a public meeting at his Carter Center in Atlanta.

Mark Mardell
Many African-Americans may feel as though a subterranean stream has burst above ground, even if the president would rather not get caught in the spray
Mark Mardell
BBC North America editor

"It's deeper than that."

Responding to a question specifically on the Congress outburst by Mr Wilson, he said Mr Obama was the head of state as well as the head of government and - like heads of state elsewhere - he should be "treated with respect".

Mr Wilson was rebuked on Tuesday in a House vote, which said he had breached decorum.

He had shouted "You lie!" while Mr Obama was delivering an address on healthcare to Congress last Wednesday.

Mr Wilson's eldest son, Alan, denied racism was a factor in his father's outburst.

"There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," he said.

Mr Wilson himself maintained that his personal apology to Mr Obama should have been enough to resolve the matter.

Mr Obama "graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over", he said.

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