Friday, March 8, 2013

"Lazy" Obama?

     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?


  1. While we do have the freedom to question our government, do we really have the freedom to take what others say out of context to present them in a negative light? Disagreement is fine, but manipulating someones words to an entirely different context is bordering on slander. That being said, I think the stereotyping issue in America is so deeply ingrained in our daily lives that it doesn't necessarily matter what anyone says. One way or another, stereotypes are going to be continuously perpetuated by the media and the citizens of America.In Courtney's post titled #stereotyping she talked about how people on Twitter were using the hash tags #whitepeopleactivites and #blackpeopleactivities to stereotype themselves. Stereotyping is so engrained in our society that we even do it to ourselves. At this point it seems like a difficult trend to break.

  2. I think that in our society particularly in our politics we tend to vilify those that disagree with us even if we are more relatively similar in opinion than we believe. While I don't think Ailes intentionally playe into the racial stereotype I don't think he overstepped or pressed the first amendment in saying what he did. Stereotypes as we all know are prevelant and we must always be careful not to make assumptions about a whole group of people. I don't think that is what Ailes did here.

  3. I don't think that Ailes' intention here was to perpetuate racial stereotypes. Perhaps he did so unintentionally, but I don't believe that that was the point he was trying to make. While I am not opposing or defending his words about Obama one way or another, I will support his right to say them. In my opinion, Ailes did not take the quote out of a context in order to be malicious, but only to further the point he was trying to make that Obama cannot fully understand the plight of the working class because he has not experienced it himself. This could just as easily have been said about a white president (as it has, in fact, in the past), and the effect would have been the same.

    With that being said, though one does not necessarily have to agree with the president and his ideals, one should definitely respect him. Obama is still, whether Ailes likes it or not, the symbol of leadership for our country, and disrespecting him will only lead to further divisions (whether racial, political, cultural, etc.) within the United States.