We have discussed black stereotypes in class and how they are still present in today’s society. I saw evidence of this stereotype still being present in the headline of a recent news segment on CNN: “Media Mogul Calls Obama “Lazy” in book.” After doing some research, I discovered said media mogul was Fox News chief Roger Ailes. His use of "lazy" raises questions about freedom of speech and its relationship to black stereotypes.
Vanity Fair (via CNN) published an excerpt from his book: "Obama's the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn't public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He's lazy, but the media won't report that... I didn't come up with that. Obama said that, to Barbara Walters."
In the conversation between President Obama and Walters, the President said he thinks “there’s a laziness in me," adding, "It’s probably from, you know, growing up in Hawaii, and it’s sunny outside and sitting on the beach” (NBC). The laziness that he is referring to is more of an appreciation to stop and enjoy life rather than rush through it. Ailes, however, takes this quote out of context and uses it to discredit President Obama’s work ethic. His comment should be taken with a grain of salt as it is well known that Fox News, and therefore Ailes, has strong Republican bias. Despite that, this comment of the President being lazy has received a lot of attention. Americans pride themselves on their right to freedom of speech, but was this comment taken too far? As we have read and discussed in class, black people have often been stereotyped as lazy or uppity. Although these stereotypes are contradicting, they cultivate negativity towards black people. Even though we live in 2012, Ailes’ use of this word continues to perpetuate the negative stereotype towards black people and our President. Fans of Ailes and Fox News will read this book or at least pay attention to news reports concerning this comment. This will lead to the comment being repeated and further used to describe President Obama.
The beauty of living in America is that we have the right to publicly disagree with our government and that is what Ailes is doing. The rest of America has the right to question Ailes’ motives as well because he did use an age-old stereotype to describe our black President. Being on the opposite end of the political spectrum, Ailes most likely does not agree with President Obama’s political beliefs and tactics, but I do not believe that makes the President “lazy.”
Although we enjoy freedom of speech in America, does that entitle others to perpetuate stereotypes by taking quotes out of context? Should freedom of speech be used with discretion when talking about a President?