Chuck Todd Defends Obama’s ‘Bitter Americans’ ‘Cling To Guns Or Religion’ Comments

Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and moderator of Meet the Press, appeared on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show on Tuesday November 11, to promote his new book "The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House."

During his appearance, the NBC host defended Obama’s 2008 speech in which then-candidate Obama claimed “bitter Americans” “cling to guns or religion.” Todd argued that Obama’s “just observing the way an anthropologist would observe a society.” 

Todd’s defense of Obama came in response to a caller to the show who argued: 

One asks why Obama is so aloof, so cool, so withdrawn, so controlled. He's been raised that from a tiny child. If he was going to make it as a black man in a white world and become somebody really great, he had to have control all the time. He cannot let loose. And it has cost. It has cost him in his presidency because I think we play games when we don't talk about his blackness because that's why he is hated by the Republican Party.

Both Rehm and Todd endorsed the caller’s statement but Todd went into great lengths to defend Obama: 

I think, look, we're all defined by who we are and how we were brought up. And one -- so there's a few things that I think boy, she is really perceptive about President Obama and his upbringing. The son of an anthropologist, his mother, so he was taught these keen observation skills, by the way, that I think have served him incredibly well at understanding other politicians. 

And sometimes when he says things like the people in rural Pennsylvania cling to their guns and Bibles, it'll come across as an attack when he's just observing the way an anthropologist would observe a society.        

Despite Todd’s insistence that President Obama was merely making the same type of anthropological observation that his mother would, he did not make his comments at an academic conference but during an April 2008 Democratic Party fundraiser.

In fact, many in the liberal media have since defended the controversial remarks In April of 2008, CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin also defended the comments as being “factually accurate.” CNN contributor Jack Cafferty expressed similar sentiments: 

Look, Jeff's right. They call it the 'Rust Belt' for a reason....The people are frustrated. The people have no economic opportunity. What happens to folks like that in the Middle East, you ask? Well, take a look. They go to places like al Qaeda training camps. I mean there's nothing new here.

See relevant transcript below.     

The Diane Rehm Show

November 11, 2014 

BETH: Okay. I don't have a question. I think instead I have a statement. One asks why Obama is so aloof, so cool, so withdrawn, so controlled. He's been raised that from a tiny child. If he was going to make it as a black man in a white world and become somebody really great, he had to have control all the time. He cannot let loose. And it has cost. It has cost him in his presidency because I think we play games when we don't talk about his blackness because that's why he is hated by the Republican Party.

DIANE REHM: Good point.

CHUCK TODD: I have to -- it is a wonderful point and I want to say I would like to think that Beth may have read my introduction, at least, to the book. I get to this a lot. I think, look, we're all defined by who we are and how we were brought up. And one -- so there's a few things that I think boy, she is really perceptive about President Obama and his upbringing. 

The son of an anthropologist, his mother, so he was taught these keen observation skills, by the way, that I think have served him incredibly well at understanding other politicians. And sometimes when he says things like the people in rural Pennsylvania cling to their guns and Bibles, it'll come across as an attack when he's just observing the way an anthropologist would observe a society. 

And then it is important, he was brought up by his white grandparents, by the way, in a multicultural city, an unusual -- you don't have that upbringing in any other American city than Honolulu. So he had -- and yes, I think there's -- absolutely that he was basically brought up to say, you're going to be judged by the color of your skin. And you always have to realize that. I think you can't discount that.

Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential NPR Diane Rehm Chuck Todd